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Cover: Red Beach, Camp Pendleton 

(Photo by CWO2 Charles Crow, 
1 st Marine Division/Combat Camera) 



To Professor Samuel Van Valkenburg 
and Swift: 

He stimulated my interest in military geography way back in 1 950; 

she was his private secretary, 
who abandoned civilian life to become my Army bride. 




John M. Collins 


National Defense University Press 
Washington, DC 

The Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) is a major component of the National Defense University 
(NDU), which operates under the supervision of the President of NDU. It conducts strategic studies for the 
Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, and unified commanders in chief; supports national 
strategic components of NDU academic programs; and provides outreach to other governmental agencies and 
the broader national security community. 

The Publication Directorate of INSS publishes books, monographs, reports, and occasional papers on 
national security strategy, defense policy, and national military strategy through NDU Press that reflect the 
output of NDU research and academic programs. In addition, it produces the INSS Strategic Assessment and 
other work approved by the President of NDU, as well as Joint Force Quarterly, a professional military journal 
published for the Chairman. 

Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the 
authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Defense University, the Department 
of Defense, or any other U.S. Government agency. Cleared for public release; distribution unlimited. 

Portions of this book may be quoted or reprinted without permission, provided that a standard source 
credit line is included. NDU Press would appreciate a courtesy copy of reprints or reviews. 

NDU Press publications are sold by the U.S. Government Printing Office. For ordering information, 
call (202) 512-1 800 or write to the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402. 

Library of Congress Cataloging- in- Publication Data 

Collins, John M., 1921- 

Military Geography for Professionals and the Public / John M. Collins 

p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 1-57906-002-1 
1 . Military geography. I. Title. 
UA990.C554 1997 

355.47 dc21 - 97-34721 


First Printing, March 1998 




PREFACE by John W. Vessey, Jr XIX 




Military Considerations 3 

Regional Quirks 5 

Avoidable Abuses 7 

Analytical Techniques 8 



Location 11 

Size 17 

Shape 18 


Land Forms 27 

Rivers and Reservoirs 32 

Geology and Soils 36 

Vegetation 39 


Sea Water Attributes 47 

Sea Surface Behavior 49 

Marine Topography 55 

Representative Naval Ramifications 59 


Atmospheric Phenomena 69 

Climatology for Military Strategists 79 

Meteorology for Military Operators 80 


Frigid Flatlands 93 

Frigid Seas 98 

Mountainous Regions 1 02 

Arid Regions 1 09 

Tropical Rain Forests 115 

Wetlands 121 

Coastlands and Small Seas 126 


Space Compared with Land and Sea 137 

Region I: Aerospace Interfaces 139 

Region II: Circumterrestrial Space 1 43 

Region III: Moon and Environs 1 44 

Region IV: Outer Envelope 1 46 

Tips for Military Space Planners 1 46 


Sources and Shortages 153 

Compensatory Programs 158 

Resource Deprivation 159 



Demography 1 78 

Physical Attributes 1 80 

Cultural Characteristics 1 82 

Current Attitudes 1 87 

National Personalities 1 88 

Cross-Cultural Skills 1 89 


Sites and Structures 1 96 

Urban Sprawl 1 98 

Conventional Urban Combat 1 99 

Unconventional Urban Combat 204 

Conventional Urban Bombardment 206 

Urban Centers and Nuclear Strategy 208 

Overall Urban Vulnerabilities 209 


Roads 215 

Railroads 223 

Military Airports 228 

Seaports and Harbors 232 

Spaceports and Flight Paths 236 

Inland Waterways '. 238 

Pipelines 240 


U.S. Home Bases 245 

U.S. Cold War Bases Abroad 246 

Post-Cold War Retrenchment . . 261 


Precedents and Prognoses 267 

Fortified Points 268 

Fortified Lines 270 

Offensive Fortifications 271 

Fortifications in the Nuclear Age 272 

Citadels Versus CW and BW Weapons 273 



Diversified Viewpoints 277 

Integrated and Updated Views 283 


Territorial Limits 285 

Strategic Friction 287 

Economic Friction 291 

Cultural Friction 293 

Environmental Friction 297 


Global Subdivisions 307 

Regional Areas of Responsibility 311 

Useful Insights 318 

Theater and Tactical AORs 318 



Geographical Data Bases 339 

Military Missions 341 

Military Implications 341 

Effects on Courses of Action 344 


Selection of the Lodgment Area 347 

Description of the Lodgment Area 349 

Assessments of the Lodgment Area 355 

Effects on Allied Courses of Action 361 

Wrap-Up 364 


The Ho Chi Minh Trail 367 

Mission Planning 377 

Logistical Limitations Within Vietnam 380 

Logistical Shortcomings Inside Laos 382 

Wrap-Up 383 


APPENDIX A: Acronyms and Abbreviations 389 

APPENDIX B: Glossary of Geographical Terms 391 

APPENDIX C: A Basic Geographic Library 407 

INDEX 41 7 



1 . Land Forms Displayed Schematically 28 

2. Elevation and Local Relief 29 

3. Slopes and Gradients 30 

4. Line-of-Sight and High-Angle Trajectories 31 

5. Selected Stream Characteristics 33 

6. Water Tables, Aquifers, and Wells 36 

7. Sea Water Stratification 49 

8. Lunar and Solar Influences on Tides 52 

9. Ocean Wave Motions and Measurements 53 

1 0. Conditions Conducive to Surf 53 

11. A Typical Beach Profile 56 

1 2. Plimsoll Line Markings 60 

13. Effects of Wave Action on Ship Stability 61 

1 4. Land and Sea Breeze Regimes 72 

1 5. Cloud Types Depicted 76 

1 6. Cloud Ceilings Related to Terrain 77 

1 7. Anatomy of a Thunderstorm 78 

1 8. Nuclear Fallout Related to Wind 86 

1 9. Conditions Conducive to Avalanches 1 08 

20. Typical Coastal Topography 127 

21 . Shallow Water Antisubmarine Warfare Suites 130 

22. Aerospace Interfaces ,1 40 

23. Gravity Versus Space Vehicle Velocity 1 42 

24. Earthly and Lunar Gravity Wells 1 45 

25. Electromagnetic Pulse Propagation 1 48 

26. U.S. and Soviet Mineral and Metal Imports 156 

27. Oil Fields and Facilities 1 64 

28. Present and Projected World Populations 1 79 

29. Assorted Street Systems 1 98 

30. Three Layers of Urban Obstacles 202 

31. Highway and Byway Attributes 217 

32. Bridge Types Depicted 219 

33. Bridge Superstructures and Substructures 220 

34. Traditional Rail Yard Facilities 227 

35. Airfield Construction Stages 231 

36. Typical Naval Port Facilities 233 

37. Wharf and Pier Configurations 234 

38. Offensive Force Boundaries 320 

39. Exits Inland from Omaha Beach 359 

40. Monsoonal Regimes at Tchepone, Khe Sanh, and Da Nang 375 



1 . Selected Russian Naval Bases 12 

2. Bottlenecks That Inhibit the Russian Navy 13 

3. Mao's Long March 19 

4. The Battle of the Bulge 21 

5. Operation Market Garden 22 

6. Beleaguered Berlin 23 

7. Regional Vegetation 40 

8. Ocean Currents 51 

9. Crucial Naval Choke Points During the Cold War 58 

1 0. Beaches and Approaches at Inchon 63 

1 1 . Regional Climates Depicted 81 

1 2. Frigid Flatlands 94 

13. Iceberg Routes to the North Atlantic 101 

1 4. The "Murmansk Run" 1 02 

1 5. The Arctic Ocean and Peripheral Seas 1 03 

1 6. Major Mountainous Regions 1 04 

1 7. The Himalayan Hump 1 07 

1 8. Arid Regions 110 

19. Tropical Rain Forests 117 

20. The Kokoda Trail and Shaggy Ridge 119 

21 . The Pripet Swamp and Its Offshoots 1 23 

22. The Mekong Delta and Rung Sat Special Zone 1 24 

23. The Earth-Moon System 138 

24. Cislunar Space 1 45 

25. Japanese Territorial Holdings in 1 942 1 60 

26. Saudi Arabian Oil Fields and Facilities 1 63 

27. Profile of the Burma Road 222 

28. The Trans-Siberian Railroad and Baikal-Amur Magistral 228 

29. U.S. and Soviet Space Launch Sites and Control Centers 237 

30. Earth Support Satellite Orbits 239 

31 . Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) 249 

32. U.S. Cold War Arctic Outposts (1 960s) 250 

33. U.S. Cold War Bases in Great Britain (1 979) 251 

34. U.S. Cold War Bases in France (1 966) 255 

35. U.S. Cold War Bases in West Germany (1 979) 256 

36. U.S. Cold War Bases in Iberia (1 979) 257 

37. U.S. Cold War Bases in Italy (1 979) 258 

38. U.S. Cold War Bases in Greece and Turkey (1 979) 259 

39. U.S. Cold War Bases in the Philippines (1 979) 262 

40. U.S. Cold War Bases in Japan and Korea (1 979) 263 

41 . The World According to Mackinder (1 904 and 1 91 9) 279 

42. U.S. and Allied Encirclement of the Soviet Union 281 

43. De Seversky's View of the Globe 282 

44. Soviet Buffers in Central Europe 289 

45. Chinese Border Disputes 290 

46. The Spratly Islands 292 

47. Territorial Claims in Antarctica 294 

48. The Horn of Africa 295 

49. Boundary Disputes in Jammu and Kashmir 297 


50. U.S. Cold War Areas of Responsibility 310 

51 . NATO's Basic Areas of Responsibility 312 

52. AFCENT Areas of Responsibility 314 

53. Pacific Ocean Area and Southwest Pacific Area 316 

54. Amphibious Boundaries at Tarawa 322 

55. Route Packages in North Vietnam 324 

56. Soviet Core Areas 342 

57. Potential Lodgments in Western Europe 348 

58. Natural Regions in Northwestern Normandy 350 

59. Drainage Patterns in Northwestern Normandy 351 

60. Utah, Omaha, Cold, Juno, and Sword Beaches 352 

61 . Cross-Channel Routes from England to Normandy 358 

62. U.S. Expeditionary Airfields in Manche and Calvados 363 

63. The Ho Chi Minh Trail 369 

64. The Laotian Panhandle at Midpoint 370 

65. Monsoonal Regimes in South Vietnam and Laos 376 

66. OPLAN El Paso's Tactical Area of Responsibility 379 

67. Supply Requirements Associated with OPLAN El Paso 380 


1 . Geographic Factors 4 

2. Land Forms Listed 28 

3. Selected Soil Characteristics 37 

4. Beaufort Wind Scale Related to Sea States 54 

5. Beaufort Scale Related to Surface Winds Ashore 71 

6. Militarily Important Temperature Statistics 72 

7. Wind Chill Factors 73 

8. Fog Linked to Visibility 74 

9. Cloud Classifications 75 

1 0. Regional Climates Described '82 

1 1 . One Dozen Militarily Useful Minerals and Metals 1 54 

1 2. Crude Oil Producers and Proven Reserves 157 

13. Military Dead and Missing, World Wars I and II 1 78 

1 4. Causes of U.S. Wartime Casualties 181 

1 5. Representative Racial, Ethnic, and Tribal Relationships 1 83 

1 6. Ten Leading Languages (1 990s) 1 85 

1 7. Linguistic Clutter in the Caucasus 1 85 

1 8. Principal Religions and Selected Denominations . . . 1 86 

1 9. Variable Town and City Components 1 97 

20. Present and Projected Megalopoli 1 99 

21 . U.S. Military Aircraft Runway Length Calculations 229 

22. Advantages Available from the Panama Canal 241 

23. U.S. Cold War Collective Security Pacts 248 

24. Typical Trouble Spots, Mid-1 990s 288 

25. Area Analysis Format 340 

26. Selected Climatic Statistics for Manche and Calvados 354 

27. Populated Places in Manche and Calvados 355 

28. U.S. Expeditionary Airfields in Manche and Calvados 363 

29. Transportation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail 368 


30. OPLAN El Paso Airfields 373 

31 . OPLAN El Paso Road Opening Schedules 382 

32. Schedules for Dual-Laning Route 9 in Laos 383 


Amphibious Troops Cross a Coral Reef 1 68 

A Typical Tidewater Swamp 1 68 

Vehicle Mired in Mud 1 69 

Elephant Grass 1 69 

Monastery Atop Monte Cassino 1 70 

Switchback Curves on the Burma Road 171 

Mobility in Mountains 1 72 

Rhine River Bridge at Remagen 1 72 

Perfume River Bridge at Hue 1 73 

Wicked Weather at Changjin Reservoir 1 73 

Warm Weather Aids Medics 1 73 

Clouds West of Khe Sanh 1 74 

Rough Weather vs. Resupply at Sea 1 74 

Submarine Surfaces Through Arctic Ice 1 75 

"Follow the Leader" Through Antarctic Ice 1 75 

Frozen Salt Spray on an Icebreaker 1 76 

Water Distribution in the Desert 1 76 

Oil Fires in the Kuwaiti Desert 329 

Transferring Supplies over Perilous Routes 329 

The Berlin Airlift 330 

Rock Quarries Facilitate Military Construction 330 

An Expeditionary Airstrip 330 

A Typical Jungle Helipad 331 

The Consequences of Urban Combat 332 

Industrial Bomb Damage 333 

Siegfried Line Fortifications 334 

Cobblestones on Utah Beach 334 

Hedgerows Hamper Tanks 334 

The Banghiang River at Tchepone 335 

Mulberry "A" Before and After Demolishment 336 

A Typical Bypass and Ford in Laos 337 

Refurbishing Route 9 337 

The Abandoned Airfield at Ban Houei Sane . 338 


This book will arguably become the most comprehensive treatment of military geography in 
print. The author presents a sweeping, sophisticated interpretation of the term "geography/' 
covering not just the lay of the land, but the human beings who live on the land, change it, 
and are shaped by it. He relates virtually every aspect oT the physical world we live in to 
every imaginable endeavor in the military realm, from reading a tactical map to conducting 
a major campaign in some far-flung corner of the Earth. He considers military operations in 
every geographical environment, while taking into account ever-changing strategies, tactics, 
and technologies on all levels. He enriches his text with many practical examples that span 
recorded history. Finally, he writes in plain, direct language to reach the widest possible 

The dearth of consolidated studies on the discipline of military geography came to John 
Collins' attention early in his long and distinguished career as a soldier and scholar. Thus he 
began and kept up an interest in the subject for more than 40 years, amassing voluminous 
files on the subject. Finally afforded the opportunity to research and write on his avocation 
at the National Defense University, he spent 2 years as a Visiting Fellow, tapping not only his 
own wealth of data and experience but a wide variety of well-informed opinions on every 
facet of military geography. 

The resultant volume, the culmination of a life-long career, fills a gap in the professional 
and technical literature. The National Defense University is pleased to have hosted John 
Collins and to publish his work. No other book, to our knowledge, marries military art with 
that of the geographer so deftly and completely. The volume seems destined to meet its 
stated purposes for years to come, namely, to provide a textbook for students, a handbook 
for military professionals, and an enlightening survey for any appreciative lay reader. 

Lieutenant General, U.S. Army 
President, National Defense University 



A major American news magazine in the spring of 1 997 included an article about the effects 
of new technology on national defense. It observed that "In future wars, knowledge may be 
more important than terrain/' but geography still exerts enormous influence on military 
operations, war, and security as it has throughout history. Great commanders, past and 
present, understand that topography, weather, and climate not only affect strategies but battle 
and support plans. History in fact is replete with enormous penalties incurred by those who 
paid too little attention to geographic factors. 

Military commanders in the "Information Age" will surely receive data more rapidly and 
consequently know more than their predecessors about battlefield situations. Information 
technologies may help military planners and operators better understand geographic factors 
they may even disprove Clausewitz's contention that "most intelligence is false" but other 
words he wrote on that subject are likely to endure: "geography and the character of the 
ground bear a close and ever-present relation to warfare. They have a decisive influence on 
the engagement, both as to its course and to its planning and execution." 

Geographic influences were omnipresent during my service as an enlisted soldier in the 
Tunisian desert fighting of 1 942-43, as a junior officer in the Italian mountains 1 943-45, and 
many years later (1 966-67) as a battalion commander in the totally different terrain of the 
War Zone C jungles in Vietnam. Those experiences, which were very personal, had a great 
deal to do with the health and comfort of my comrades and myself; they affected our casualty 
rates and often posed more formidable challenges than the enemies we faced. I often 
wondered if we were "victims" of geography or "victims" of the higher command's 
appreciation for geography. 

Those early lessons from geography's "school of hard knocks" were helpful later, when 
I held positions of greater authority for planning and directing military operations in widely 
varied geographic circumstances, first as a new brigadier in Laos in 1972-73, then as 
Commander of the United Nations Command in Korea, 1 976-79, and finally as Chairman 
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A lot of work and study nevertheless was required by me and my 
staff officers before we could satisfactorily integrate geography's influence on land, sea, and 
air operations. Despite our efforts, I suspect that many of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, 
Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who implemented our plans sometimes felt "victimized" by 
geography or our lack of appreciation for it, just as I felt so many years earlier. 

The Armed Forces of the United States have been, and will continue to be, committed to 
every conceivable type of military operation in every conceivable geographic environment. 
Whether for war-fighting, war-preventing, or peacekeeping operations, they must prepare to 
excel wherever they are sent all too commonly on short notice. Military Geography for 
Professionals and the Public, a textbook and handbook written in simple, straightforward 


terms that tie relevant factors together in a fashion understandable to lay readers as well as 
the uniformed professionals of all military services, is a rare, if not unique, survey of 
relationships between geography and military affairs. It ought to be required reading for 
policymakers, military planners, commanders, and staff officers at all levels. It also will be 
a very useful reference for political leaders, educators, members of the news media, and 
concerned citizens in the 'Information age." I wish it had been in my knapsack for the past 
55 years. 


General, U.S. Army (Ret.) 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1 982-1 985 


This book is my legacy to the U.S. military education system that has done so much for me 
since 1942, from basic courses through the Army Command and General Staff College, the 
Armed Forces Staff College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and the National War 
College. It helped me expand my professional horizons for 55 years and has kept me 
gainfully employed since retirement on January 3, 1 996. 

General John M. Shalikashvili, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arranged a perch 
for me at National Defense University (NDU), the perfect place to research and write a book 
about military geography or any other subject related to the profession of arms. "Hard core" 
contacts with extensive practical experience and assorted persuasions thereafter answered 
countless spot requests for information, helped me overcome mental blocks, and rigorously 
reviewed the first draft chapter-by-chapter during the gestation period. 

Two retired Army four-star generals merit special mention in that regard: General 
Frederick J. Kroesen identified the need for "Key Points" at the end of each chapter; General 
Robert C. Kingston, the first Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, became the 
world's highest ranking research assistant. Lieutenant General William H. Ginn, Jr., U.S. Air 
Force (Ret), scrubbed bits about military air operations. 

Army Colonel James H. Kurtz and Navy Captain John W. McGillvray, both former 
division chiefs in the Joint Staffs Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), furnished a 
landslide of facts, opinions, anecdotes, and source materials on almost every subject. 
Colonel Bill Allen represented the U.S. Army War College. Retired Army Major General John 
Murray, a life-long transportation specialist, and Herb Longhelt, Deputy Chief Engineer for 
AMTRAC, sharpened my views about lines of communication. Dr. Ed Whitman, who works 
for the Oceanographer of the Navy, helped a whole lot within his field. Colonel "Westy" 
Westenhoff, then assigned to the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, 
Scot Crerar at Betac Corporation, retired Army Colonel Chester B. McCoid (my boss long ago 
in the 82 nd Airborne Division), and Patrick O'Sullivan, a professor who emphasizes military 
geography, likewise made me think. So did my son Sean Kevin, whose doctorate in 
aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
underpinned much of Chapter 7 (Inner and Outer Space). 

Ed Bruner, Steve Bowman, Bob Goldich, Clyde Mark, and George Siehl, all former 
colleagues from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), brought broad, in-depth 
knowledge to bear from start to finish. Other former CRS colleagues with specialized 
expertise included Bob Bamberger (petroleum); Marjorie Browne (law of the sea); Ray 
Copson (Africa); Rich Cronin and Barbara LePoer (India and Pakistan); Ida Eustis (legal 
matters); Susan Fletcher (environmental problems); Rick Greenwood (minerals and metals); 
Dick Grimmett (U.S. overseas bases); Dianne Rennack and Barbara Hennix (finders of the 


unfindable); Shirley Kan (China); Julie Kim (former Warsaw Pact countries and former 
Yugoslavia); Jon Medalia (strategic nuclear capabilities); Al Prados (Middle East); Rinn-Sup 
Shinn (Korea); Stan Sloan (NATO); Marsha Smith (space); Bob Sutter and Kerry Dumbaugh 
(East Asia). 

Nine members of the Campaign Planning Group, U.S. Army Vietnam in 1967-1968 
painstakingly pieced together input for Chapter 1 9 (Operation Plan El Paso): Army Lieutenant 
Colonels Dominic Canestra, the Deputy Chief; Robert Duvall (Army aviation), Robert 
Rufsvold, who was wounded in action on an aerial reconnaissance mission during December 
1 967 (engineering); David Hutchison, his replacement; and Reed Schultz (operations); Army 
Majors Bert Esworthy (intelligence) and George Pitts (land transportation); Air Force Majors 
John Pohle (weather) and Edward Reed (tactical airlift). 

The National Defense University library reference staff provided peerless support. None 
could have been more knowledgeable; all repeatedly stopped whatever they were doing to 
help. I therefore owe great gratitude to Sarah Mikel, the Director, Ann Parham, Chief of the 
Research and Information Services Division, Robert Adamshick, Bonnie Dziedzic (who 
helped a lot with maps), Jeanmarie Faison, Howard Hume (who met me many weekday 
mornings before 0600), Jane Johnson, Benard Strong, Bruce Thornlow (who assisted on many 
Saturday mornings), and Carolyn Turner. 

Colonel James V. Dugar, ANG, President of the NDU Foundation, and Colonel Thomas 
E. Gallagher, USA (Ret.), his Executive Director, admirably administered funds that the Smith 
Richardson Foundation donated to convert draft maps and figures into professional products 
at Art Services, Inc., where Andy Hemstreet skillfully responded to all requests. Jim Peters, 
who is Production Coordinator for Joint Force Quarterly, helped me assemble suitable 
photographs. So did Fred Rainbow at the U.S. Naval Institute and Colonel Tom Vossler, who 
oversees the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Fred Kiley ensured that Military Geography 
for Professionals and the Public enjoyed a high priority at the onset; and Robert A. Silano, his 
successor as Director of Publications, brought the project to completion and planned the 
book's launch. George Maerz and the staff of NDU Press contributed at various stages to the 
editorial process. 

Swift, my versatile bride, performed every administrative, logistical, and fiscal task for the 
Collins household while I struggled to finish this project, which never would have reached 
fruition without her help. Finally, I recognize the index finger of my right hand, the nail of 
which was driven into my wrist before it finished hunt-and-peck typing the entire draft, 
because I was quite unfamiliar with any computer. 

Alexandria, Virginia 
March 1998 


When a Chief of the Imperial General Staff wrote that he had ''never had time to study the 
details of military [geography]" . . . it was as if the President of the Royal College of Surgeons 
said he never had time to study anatomy, or do any dissection. 

B. H. Liddell Hart 
Thoughts on War 


Xerxes, who assembled the world's first sprawling empire that by 480 B. C. stretched from 
the Indus River to the Aegean Sea. Teenage Alexander learned a lot at Aristotle's knee before 
he conquered even larger territories 1 50 years later, but military geography was not one of 
his tutor's strong points. Ghenghis Khan, whose Golden Horde rode roughshod across 
Eurasia in the 13th century A. D., established the record for seizing real estate by force of 
arms without resort to any book about military geography in his saddlebags. 

Modern warfare, however, is so complex that commanders at every level must 
consistently manipulate geographic influences advantageously to gain a decisive edge. Most 
soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines unfortunately learn painful lessons mainly from the 
school of hard knocks, because few schools and colleges conduct courses in military 
geography, none confers a degree, instructional materials seldom emphasize fundamentals, 
and most service manuals have tunnel vision. The four-volume bibliography compiled at 
West Point, which is 4 inches thick and totals several thousand citations on 1,059 pages, 
addresses an admirable scope but is minimally useful to most uniformed practitioners of 
military art, their civilian supervisors, concerned citizens, and members of the news media, 
because many of them lack easy access to the sources cited while others are too busy to 

My contacts in the Pentagon and Congress were bemused when I began to write this 
book, because they had never heard of a discipline called "military geography." That reaction 
came as no surprise; after all, members of the Association of American Geographers at their 
92 nd annual meeting in April 1 996 debated heatedly before they finally decided to establish 
a military geography specialty group. This consolidated guide, designed to fill undesirable 
gaps, has a threefold purpose: 

To provide a textbook for academic use 

To provide a handbook for use by political-military professionals 

To enhance public appreciation for the impact of geography on military affairs. 


Parts One and Two, both of which are primers, view physical and cultural geography 
from military perspectives. Part Three probes the influence of political-military geography 
on service roles and missions, geographic causes of conflict, and complex factors that affect 
military areas of responsibility. Part Four describes analytical techniques that relate 
geography to sensible courses of military action, then puts principles into practice with two 
dissimilar case studies one emphasizes geographic influences on combat operations, while 
the other stresses logistics. Each chapter terminates with key points, which final reflections 
reinforce and relate to time-tested Principles of War. 

The text at no time tells readers what to think. It simply tells them how, in jargon-free 
terms that disregard technical details (neither British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig nor 
corporals who led his squads through Flanders fields in 1917 cared a whit whether 
Passchendaele Ridge was a product of tectonic upheaval or glacial depositions). Concise 
historical examples and the probable influence of technological trends help illuminate past, 
present, and future relationships between geography and military affairs. Notes at the end 
of each chapter encourage students of the subject to pursue topics of particular interest in 
greater breadth and depth. Maps and figures are plentiful throughout, but readers 
nevertheless should keep a world atlas handy. 

Military Geography for Professionals and the Public, which considers every form of 
warfare and every military service at strategic, operational, and tactical levels, is intended for 
audiences abroad as well as in the United States, and therefore is generally couched in 
generic terms. Consequently, its contents should be almost as sound at the end of the 21 st 
century as at the beginning, regardless of political, military, economic, social, scientific, 
technological, and other changes in this volatile world that inevitably will occur during the 
next ten decades. 




When I took a decision, or adopted an alternative, it was after studying every relevant . . . 
factor. Geography, tribal structure, religion, social customs, language, appetites, 
standards all were at my finger-ends. 

T. E. Lawrence 
Letter to B.H. Liddell Hart, June 1 933 


the Earth and its life; especially the description of land, sea, air, and the distribution of plant 
and animal life including man and his industries with reference to the mutual relations of 
these diverse elements." The next edition likely will add space to the list. Geography 
consequently embraces a spectrum of physical and social sciences from agronomy to 
zoology. In simple terms, it describes what the environment is like at any given place and 


Military geography, one of several subsets within those broad confines, concentrates on the 
influence of physical and cultural environments over political-military policies, plans, 
programs, and combat/support operations of all types in global, regional, and local contexts. 
Key factors displayed in table 1 directly (sometimes decisively) affect the full range of military 
activities: strategies, tactics, and doctrines; command, control, and organizational structures; 
the optimum mix of land, sea, air, and space forces; intelligence collection; targeting; 
research and development; the procurement and allocation of weapons, equipment, and 
clothing; plus supply, maintenance, construction, medical support, education, and training. 1 


Spatial relationships, arguably the most fundamental of all geographic factors, concern the 
location, size, and shape of land areas, together with the presence and configuration of 
intervening waters. Relative positions and modes of transportation determine transit times 
between any two sites. Total length, width, and area determine the amount of maneuver 
room available and the relative security or vulnerability of key points within any piece of 
militarily important property. 

Land forms constitute the stage whereon military pageants play ashore. Relief, drainage 
patterns, geology, and soils are pertinent topics. High-level strategists, airmen, and 
astronauts see mountains and valleys, plateaus and lowland plains. Frontline soldiers, who 

deal with details instead of big pictures, have vastly different viewpoints hummocks, gullies, 
river banks and bottoms loom large from their foreshortened perspectives. Bill Mauldin put 
it best in his book Up Front when dogface Willie sitting in a shell crater said to Joe, "Th' hell 
this ain't the most important hole in th' world. I'm in it." 2 

Table 1 . Geographic Factors 

Physical Factors 

Spatial Relationships 
Topography and Drainage 
Geology and Soils 

Oceans and Seashores 
Weather and Climate 
Daylight and Darkness 
Gravity and Magnetism 

Cultural Factors 

Racial and Ethnic Roots 
Population Patterns 
Social Structures 
Languages and Religions 
Industries and Land Use 
Transportation Networks 
Military Installations 

Natural vegetation varies from lush to nearly nonexistent. Treeless tundra, the coniferous 
taiga that blankets much of Siberia, tropical rain forests, elephant grass, scrub, and cacti 
create drastically different military environments. Bonneville's salt encrusted flats and 
Okefenokee Swamp both are basically horizontal, but the former is bare while the latter is 
luxuriant. The Sahara Desert, sere except for widely scattered oases, bears scant resemblance 
to the densely wooded Arakan Range in Burma, where the height and spacing of trees, trunk 
diameters, stem densities, foliage, and duff (rotting materials on the floor) are cogent military 

Mariners properly contend that the importance of oceans is almost impossible to 
overstate, since water covers almost three-fourths of the Earth's surface the Pacific Ocean 
alone exceeds the area of all continents and islands combined. Seas and large lakes, typified 
by the Caribbean, Caspian, and Mediterranean, separate or subdivide major land masses. 
Waves, tides, currents, water temperatures, and salinity everywhere limit options open to 
surface ships and submarines. Straits, channels, reefs, and other topographical features do 
likewise along littorals. 

Earth's atmosphere envelops armed forces everywhere aloft, ashore, and afloat. 
Temperatures, precipitation in the form of rain, hail, ice, sleet, or snow, winds, and relative 
humidity, along with daylight and darkness, command close attention because they strongly 
affect the timing, conduct, and support of peacetime and combat operations. Stiff penalties 
accompany failure to heed their implications. History has repeatedly witnessed armies mired 
in mud axle-deep to a ferris wheel, fleets blown off course like the ill-fated Spanish Armada, 
and bombers as flightless as goonie birds, grounded by gales or fog. 

Inner and outer space constitutes a fourth distinctive geographic medium, along with 
land, sea, and air. Only a tiny fraction thus far has been exploited for military purposes, but 
operations farther afield for many imaginative purposes are conceivable within a relatively 
short time frame. 



People top the list of cultural considerations that deserve close attention for political-military 
reasons. Census statistics reveal population size, distribution, age groups, the percentage of 
males compared with females, and urban versus rural densities. Other militarily important 
characteristics include native intelligence, languages, dialects, literacy, customs, beliefs, 
patriotism, attitudes toward "outsiders" (indifference, respect, resentment, hostility), 
discipline, morale, temperament (passive or aggressive), and the prevalence of endemic 
diseases. Virgil singled out the will to win with these words in his Eclogues VII 2,000 years 
ago: "It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be." 

Relations among racial, ethnic, tribal, and religious groups merit special attention, 
because alienation often leads to armed conflict. Immense psychological significance attends 
some cultural icons, such as shrines, national cemeteries, other hallowed ground, even entire 
cities. A former Commanding General of NATO's Central Army Group repeatedly told his 
subordinates, "If we go to war against the Warsaw Pact tomorrow we can't allow the first 
day's headline to read 'Nurnberg Falls/ because the blow to allied morale would be 

Natural resources, land use, and industries, which underpin combat capabilities and the 
staying power of friends as well as foes, contribute essentially to national security. Food is 
the irreducible foundation, followed by raw materials and facilities for converting them to 
usable goods. Basic ingredients feature, but by no means are confined to, agriculture, animal 
husbandry, and fisheries; minerals and metals; petroleum, electrical, and nuclear power; 
water supplies; manufacturing plants; stone, brick, concrete, lumber, and other construction 
staples. Only a few nations now possess the economic potential for great military power. 
None is wholly self-sufficient, thus external sources of sustenance and degrees of control over 
them are geographically consequential. 

Transportation networks expedite or impede abilities of statesmen and military 
commanders to employ armed forces intercontinentally, regionally, or locally. Roads, 
railways, inland waterways, airfields, and seaports, conveniently located in proper 
combinations, enable formations of requisite size and type to reach objective areas promptly 
from distant staging bases, then maneuver effectively. Land, sea, and air lanes that hamper 
abilities to do so raise the cost of mission accomplishment in terms of time, lives, and money 
expended. Severe deficiencies may even render requisite military actions infeasible because, 
as wags are wont to say, "You can't get there from here." 

Telecommunication systems (radio, television, telephone, telegraph, space 
communication satellites, the internet, and submarine cables) facilitate integrated action by 
uniservice, joint, and multinational armed forces. The type, attributes, and geographic 
distribution of military and civilian fixed-plant facilities in foreign countries accordingly 
interest commanders and staffs who hope to use those assets and deny them to enemies. 
Central offices, substations, transmission lines, repeaters, transfer points, alternative routings, 
redundant capabilities, power sources, and maintenance installations are prime concerns. 


Geographic regions on Earth and in space are reasonably homogeneous areas containing 
distinctive topography, climate, vegetation, and cultural features (or lack thereof) that exert 


relatively uniform effects on military policies, plans, programs, and operations. Several 
classification systems are in competition. One accentuates surface configurations that may 
be hilly or horizontal, smooth or serrated, on land or under the sea. Others attach climatic 
labels: arctic, subarctic, temperate, and tropical or cold-wet, cold-dry, hot-wet, hot-dry, each 
accompanied by distinctive fauna and flora. 3 

Geographic regions suitable for military operations sometimes are stacked vertically. 
Hannibal's army and elephant train traversed cultivated fields at low elevations before they 
climbed through deciduous forests, a band of evergreens, meadows above the tree line, and 
expanses of bare rock when they navigated the Alps en route from Gaul to Italia as winter 
approached in 218 B.C. Temperature gradients were as steep as the slopes, mild near the 
base but frigid in the Col de la Traversette Pass at 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), where winds 
were wild and snow already lay deep. The entire entourage, being unacclimated, must have 
gasped for breath from exertions in thin air near the top. 4 Spacecraft crews become familiar 
with five geographic regions stacked one above the other as they fly through the troposphere, 
stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere en route to circumterrestrial space 
about 60 miles (95 kilometers) above Earth, where aerodynamic drag and frictional heat lose 
most of their significance. 5 

Armed forces expressly prepared for employment in any given environment normally 
function less well elsewhere until they complete time-consuming and costly transitions. They 
must become familiar with new topography, climatic conditions, and social systems, modify 
their techniques, then tailor weapons, equipment, clothing, and supplies to suit the situation. 
Formations optimized for warfare in rain forests prepare to cope with heat, humidity, leaches, 
and insects. Dehydration and tropical diseases may cause more casualties than enemy 
ammunition if troops fail to take proper precautions. Poorly maintained weapons malfunction 
from rust and molds. Foot soldiers in lightweight uniforms that blend well with surroundings 
take precedence over tanks and trucks, aerial reconnaissance is severely restricted, small unit 
tactics predominate. Formations optimized for cold climes in contrast require white parkas, 
mittens, and insulated boots; lined sleeping bags; skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, and sleds; 
tents with stoves; antifreezes; low-viscosity lubricants; hot meals with high caloric contents; 
and retraining. 6 

Navies fully prepared for "blue water" warfare must modify modi operand! along 
continental shelves, where adversaries ashore as well as afloat can take advantage of short 
flight times for aircraft and antiship missiles to strike with minimum warning. Mines, 
minisubmarines, and "frogmen" are other potential menaces. Maneuver room along littorals 
is often limited. Sensors and communication systems able to work effectively in coastal 
waters must supplement or replace those designed for use in, on, or over deep seas. 
Differentiation of friends from foes poses complex problems where civilian and military air 
and sea traffic mingle. 7 

Military regions and political boundaries seldom coincide. Most nations consequently 
contain two or more geographic subdivisions that complicate planning, preparations, and 
operations, jungles and swamps by no means blanket Vietnam; the Pleiku Plateau, for 
example, is made to order for armor. Austria is by no means all alpine. Cultural factors often 
introduce militarily important inconsistencies within regions that are topographically and 
climatically coherent. Saudi Arabia harbors urban oases in an otherwise nearly empty nation 


that is everywhere arid and displays only a handful of prominent physiographic features other 
than mountains along the Red Sea coast. 


Policymakers, strategists, and tacticians can expect unpleasant surprises whenever they 
overlook the fact that many geographic factors fluctuate in response to seasonal, cyclical, or 
random change. Nuclear combat, however restrained, could instantaneously turn urban 
battlefields into rubble, transitions from night to day alter radio propagation characteristics, 
and sunspots periodically cause high frequency blackouts. Viet Cong sanctuaries lost much 
of their utility when defoliants reduced concealment. Ice transforms unbridgeable bodies of 
water into arterial highways (trains have crossed bits of the Baltic Sea in wintertime), and 
wheels are welcome in frozen fens. Forces oriented north to south often find themselves in 
topographically different worlds than those facing east to west, while switches from defense 
to attack may cause obstacles to loom where protective barriers stood before. Streams that 
flood without warning can frustrate even the best laid plans, as U.S. Army engineers in Bosnia 
discovered in December 1995, when it took a week longer than anticipated to build a 
pontoon bridge over the raging Sava River, suddenly swollen by melting snow. Rising waters 
inundated adjacent tent cities occupied by troops waiting to cross from Croatia to Bosnia- 
Herzegovina. Casualties were confined to those caused by dampness coupled with bone- 
chilling weather, but only because the tactical situation was benign. 8 

History is replete with prominent commanders who sorrowfully assumed that enemy area 
analyses would mimic their own. New Carthage fell to Rome's Scipio Africanus during the 
Second Punic War when his vanguard waded a lagoon at low water to reach and scale a city 
wall that Hannibal's brother, Mago, fecklessly left unprotected. 9 British General Wolfe's 
forces captured Quebec in 1 759 after they climbed cliffs that the French defender, Marquis 
de Montcalm, guarded too lightly. 10 Japanese columns landed on the Malay Peninsula well 
north of Singapore in December 1941, then penetrated presumably impassable mangrove 
swamps to reach the city, which fell the following February, partly because the heavy artillery 
of British defenders all pointed seaward. 11 German Panzers poured through the Ardennes 
almost unopposed in May 1940, after Marshal Henri Petain proclaimed that forest 
"impenetrable," and did so again during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, because U.S. 
strategists learned little from Petain's lesson. 12 

Leaders who flunk elementary map reading courses or lack much feel for clime and 
terrain are prone to make geographic miscalculations. General Henri Navarre unwisely 
staked the future of France in Asia on the defense of indefensible Dien Bien Phu (1 954), an 
isolated Indochinese basin that was far from the nearest support base, was sustainable only 
by air, and was dominated by forbidding terrain. 13 Ill-fated operations at the Bay of Pigs (April 
1 961 ) caused repercussions that reached the White House when incompetent U.S. planners 
put anti-Castro "freedom fighters" ashore in an alligator-filled marsh that had only one major 
route inland. 14 

It is worth remembering that human factors often may be more cogent than physical 
geography. Che Guevara, once a guru on guerrilla warfare, almost literally committed 
suicide in Bolivia, largely because he misread the cultural context. What logic could explain 
"an Argentinian out of Cuba by way of the Congo in the wilds of the Bolivian jungles 


memorizing the verbs of the wrong Indian language in order to convert a people, already 
possessing land, whose vision for endless centuries had turned inward?" 1 ' Far from being a 
fish in a sea of people, as revolutionary warriors advocated, he was a fish out of water. He 
paid with his life for geographic ignorance. 


Geographic factors become fully significant politically and militarily only when related to 
probable effects on friendly and enemy courses of action and assigned missions (attack, 
defend, delay, withdraw, and so on) during nuclear, conventional, and unconventional 
conflicts as well as operations other than war typified by shows of force, humanitarian 
assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping, search and rescue, counternarcotics, and 
counterterrorism. Analyses also vary with forces available (combat and support, land, sea, 
air, amphibious, and space). Countless questions require answers, as the following samples 

What offensive strategies and tactics would be most advisable in terrain that favors 

How far and fast would radioactive fallout from a 2-kiloton nuclear surface burst drift 
and how wide an area would it afflict? 

Do land forms and vegetation in adjacent countries conceal sanctuaries into which 
enemy forces retreat to recuperate, then return to the fray? 

What area would be submerged for how long if bombers destroyed a large dam on 
the River Styx? 

Would sea states, tides, and currents help or hinder combat swimmers and their 
delivery vehicles? 

Will fog preclude proposed use of night vision devices, battlefield illumination, lasers, 
and thermal sights? 

How much heavy traffic will the only major highway bear between rear area bases 
and the combat zone? 

What colors and symbols should psychological operations leaflets avoid because 
superstitious recipients consider them unlucky? 

Is the water table too high or the soil too friable for troops to dig foxholes? 

Will starving refugees welcome U.S. Meals-Ready-to-Eat or will some contents offend 
cultural beliefs? 

A convenient framework for area analyses fortunately is available. Mnemonic devices 
line up war fighting factors to form the acronym COCOA: 

Critical Terrain 


Cover and Concealment 

Observation and Fields of Fire 

Avenues of Approach 


Others prefer OCOKA, in which the K stands for key terrain. Neither sequence seems 
logical, but all five considerations in either case stand ready for inspection. The area analysis 
format also addresses geographic effects on logistics, civil affairs, and other relevant matters 
before,ceJating the whole lot first to options that enemies might adopt, then to friendly 
courses of action. 

Such analyses are perishable. Astute users employ them posthaste or update periodically 
to guarantee that facts, assumptions, interpretations, and findings remain valid with regard 
to environmental conditions and ongoing events. Inconsistencies send them back to their 
drawing boards. 

One U.S. four-star officer, after reading the foregoing in first draft, said, "I need to know 
how the rest of this book will serve as a practical guide." His request was easy to answer. 
Armed combat and military operations other than war may be games that anyone can play, 
but they are not games that just anyone can play well. Only gifted participants win prizes. 
Long experience indicates that, all else being equal, military practitioners and their civilian 
supervisors who purposefully make geography work for them are winners more often than 
not, whereas those who lack sound appreciation for the significance of geography succeed 
only by accident. There are no hard and fast rules that impose stiff fines for infractions, and 
universally applicable " school solutions" are scarce, but topic headings and historical 
examples in each succeeding chapter of this treatise could serve as intellectual checklists and 
tools to help readers arrive at sound judgments, provided they recognize that no two 
situations are precisely alike. 


1 . Additional overviews are available in Patrick O'Sullivan, Terrain and Tactics (New York: 
Greenwood Press, 1991); C. Peltier and G. Etzel Pearcy, Military Geography (New York: D. Van 
Nostrand, 1966); Sir Edward S. May, An Introduction to Military Geography (London: Hugh Rees, 

2. Bill Mauldin, Up Front (Cleveland, OH: World Publishing, 1 945), 20. 

3. H. M. Forde, "An Introduction to Military Geography, Part I," Military Review 28, no. 1 1 
(February 1 949): 30-36; "An Introduction to Military Geography, Part II," Military Review 28, no. 1 2 
(March 1949): 55-62; Louis C. Peltier, "The Potential of Military Geography," The Professional 
Geographer 1 3, no. 6 (November 1 961 ). 

4. Gavin de Beer, Alps and Elephants (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1 956). 

5. Curtis D. Cochran, Dennis M. Gorman, and Joseph D. Dumoulin, eds., Space Handbook 
(Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, January 1985), 1-3 and 1-4; G. Harry Stine, 
Handbook for Space Colonists (New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1 985), 47-63. 

6. Field Manual (FM) 90-5, Jungle Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, August 1 6, 
1 982); FM 31-70, Basic Cold Weather Manual (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, April 1 968). 

7. Ronald O'Rourke, "The Future of the U.S. Navy," in Fifty Years of Canada-United States 
Defense Cooperation, eds. Joel J. Sokolsky and Joseph T. Jockel (Lewiston, ME: Edwin Mellen Press, 
1992), 318-320, and briefing slides from a seminar, "Naval Force Structure Planning: New 
Environment, Old Habits of Thought" (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, June 21, 
1993), presentation by Ronald O'Rourke. 

8. Dennis Steele, "Spanning the Sava," Army 46, no. 2 (February 1 996): 1 6-1 9. 

9. Basil H. Liddell Hart, Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 
1992), 20-43. 


1 0. J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, vol. 2 (New York: Funk and Wagnals, 
1955), 258-268. 

1 1 . Noel Barber, A Sinister Twilight:The Fall of Singapore (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1 968). 

12. Alistair Home, To Lose a Battle: France 1940 (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Co., 1 969), 
192, 195-198, 211-212, 235-239, 244-268; John S. D. Eisenhower, The Bitter Woods (New York: 
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1969). 

13. Bernard Fall, Hell in a Very Small Place (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1 966). 

1 4. Peter Wyden, Bay of Pigs (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 979). 

1 5. Daniel James, ed v The Complete Bolivian Diaries of Che Guevara and Other Captured 
Documents (New York: Stein and Day, 1 969); the quotation is from J. Bowyer Bell, The Myth of 
the Guerrilla: Revolutionary Theory and Malpractice (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971 ), 240. 




Space is the integrating factor in geography just as time is for history. 

Lucille Carlson 
Geography and World Politics 


great degrees the capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities of armed forces since the Stone 
Age. It seems safe to predict that the pertinence of spatial relationships will remain 
undiminished indefinitely. 1 


Archimedes, elaborating about the value of levers more than two millenia ago, asserted, 
"Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth/' Favorable geographic locations confer 
militarily advantageous leverage, while poor positions foster insecurity. 


No nation that lacks access to any ocean has ever been able to project military power 
globally. The United States, blessed since 1 848 with sheltered ports on ice-free coasts that 
open on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and on every continent, can deploy military power 
rapidly from one theater to another. No other world power currently enjoys comparable 
freedom of action. Russia, which fronts on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, boasts 
the world's longest coastline, but its fleets are bottled up in ports that lack convenient outlets 
to blue water and are ice-bound every winter, except for bases in the Black Sea and near 
Norway's North Cape, where the Gulf Stream warms frigid waters (maps 1 and 2). 2 

Ocean front property, however, does not ipso facto indicate good prospects for sea-going 
commerce and mighty navies. Unobstructed approaches, sheltered harbors, and convenient 


Map 1 . Selected Russian Naval Bases 



Map 2. Bottlenecks That Inhibit the Russian Navy 

North Atlantic Choke Points 

North Pacific Choke Points 


i? Ocean 



connections with the hinterland must complement maritime locales. Capabilities diminish 
to some degree if even one of those attributes is deficient or absent. 


Secure locations physically separate friends from foes. The British Isles, only 22 miles (35 
kilometers) west of continental Europe, last saw successful invaders when William the 
Conqueror defeated King Harold at Hastings in 1066. Hitler's cross-channel attack plan 
code-named Operation Sea Lion aborted in September 1 940. 3 Japan has never been stormed 
by outsiders. The continental United States has seen no hostile forces on its soil since the 
War of 1812, when British troops burned the White House and Capitol, bombarded Fort 
McHenry in Baltimore, and unsuccessfully sought to sack New Orleans. Canada and Mexico 
have been friends of the United States for more than a century. No nation now has sufficient 
amphibious assault capabilities to bridge the watery miles that isolate America from its 
enemies, then seize a foothold on defended U.S. shores. Spaced-based weapons, long-range 
aircraft, missiles, and transnational terrorists consequently pose the only potentially serious 
external threats by armed adversaries. 

Buffer zones make admirable shields. Joseph Stalin swallowed six European countries in 
the mid-1 940s (East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria), 
then rang down an Iron Curtain. Those so-called "satellite states" separated forces in 
NATO's center sector from the nearest Soviet border by several hundred miles. Demilitarized 
zones (DMZs) provide variable degrees of protection, depending in large part on geographic 
circumstances. Incursions across the Korean DMZ, for example, have been restricted to hit- 
and-run raids since 1 953, partly because no overland bypasses are available on that narrow 
peninsula, whereas enemy troops and supplies consistently circumvented the barrier between 
North and South Vietnam via the open flank in Laos. 

Armed forces that do battle on more than one front at a time must overcome serious 
strategic, tactical, and logistical problems or risk defeat. Israel found satisfactory solutions 
during two wars with Egypt and Syria, first in 1 967 and again in 1 973, 4 but German forces 
that saw combat on Eastern and Western Fronts during World War I, then on four fronts 
counting North Africa and Italy during World War II, were spread too thinly during both 
conflicts and both times they lost. Soviet leaders for that reason understandably feared the 
possibility of simultaneous wars with NATO and China after the Sino-Soviet split in the early 
1 960s. 5 


Time, distance, and modes of transportation not only determine how fast armed forces can 
move from one place to another but influence abilities to perform most effectively 
immediately upon arrival. Well-conditioned rifle companies take longer to march 20 miles 
(32 kilometers) at 2.5 miles per hour (4 kph) than airmobile troops in huge transport aircraft 
take to cross the Atlantic Ocean, yet the "grunts" may arrive more eager to fight, because jet 
lag accompanied by fatigue, digestive disorders, and reduced proficiency commonly afflicts 
flight crews and passengers who swoosh rapidly through several time zones and thereby 
disrupt their "metabolic clocks" (24-hour circadian rhythms). 6 

Great distances between home bases and operational areas reduce opportunities for 
timely employment of military power in emergencies. Lengthy lines of supply and 


communication increase requirements for long-haul transportation and, if vulnerable to 
enemy interdiction, make users divert combat forces to protect them. U.S. and British naval 
surface combatants, for example, had to escort merchant ships and troop convoys from the 
U.S. east coast and the Gulf of Mexico to Great Britain and the Soviet Union during World 
War II, while shore-based antisubmarine warfare aircraft conducted search and destroy 
patrols at both ends and from Iceland. 7 

Forward deployments on friendly territory, best typified by globally distributed U.S. bases 
and facilities, alleviate but cannot eliminate quick-reaction problems, because requirements 
may arise in locations where no concentrations exist. Most of the half million U.S. forces that 
helped drive Iraq from Kuwait in 1991 were stationed in the United States and Germany 
when that crisis erupted. Equipment and supplies prepositioned at Diego Garcia in the 
middle of the Indian Ocean were more than 2,000 miles from transfer points in the Persian 
Gulf, where custodians issued them to personnel airlifted from far distant bases. 8 

Neither the United States nor the Soviet Union was consistently well situated during the 
Cold War. NATO's armed forces watched impotently while Soviet troops crushed the 1 956 
uprising in Hungary, partly because their access routes ran through Communist 
Czechoslovakia and neutral Austria, whereas the Soviets were in position to generate great 
combat power rapidly and sustain it over short, internal lines under their control. 9 Nikita 
Khruschchev conversely backed down during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, partly 
because most Soviet armed forces were remote from the Caribbean. 10 Like his predecessors 
and successors, he furnished money, materiel, and ideological assistance to pro-Communist 
regimes in distant places, but avoided large-scale military involvement for similar reasons. 
Mutual force reductions in Europe, an arms-control goal established well before the Cold War 
wound down, succeeded in 1990 only after negotiators overcame critics who correctly 
claimed that Soviet forces could withdraw a few hundred miles overland, then return on short 
notice if relations soured, whereas U.S. counterparts would have to be airlifted and sealifted 
from remote bases. 11 

Distance may also discombobulate alliances. Japan concluded a security pact with 
Germany in November 1 940, but that aggressive pair never were able to form a combined 
high command, seldom coordinated policies, plans, or programs, never shared bases, and 
never conducted mutually supporting operations in widely separated theaters that at their 
zenith remained more than 3,500 straight-line miles (5,630 kilometers) apart. 


Dominant geographical locations anywhere on Earth or in space best enable occupants to 
achieve present or anticipated objectives of any kind. The most desirable positions may be 
as large as a country or as small as spots plotted on large-scale tactical maps. The leverage 
available from any given point or area usually varies with missions, situations, forces on tap, 
terrain, available time, and political restrictions. Attackers and defenders view each site from 
different perspectives. So do armies, navies, and air forces which strive to gain geographic 
advantage for themselves and deny it to adversaries. 

Strategic, operational, and tactical positions take many forms and serve many purposes. 
Great Britain originally acquired Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Suez, Aden, and Socotra to help 
protect lifelines of empire to the Middle East and South Asia. The Soviets, with transitory 
success, sought influence and footholds along the Horn of Africa and in India from which 


they could threaten sea lines of communication that linked the United States and its allies 
with petroleum producers astride the Persian Gulf. The North American Air Defense 
Command (NORAD) in the early 1960s draped 81 Distant Early Warning (DEW) stations 
across the arctic from the Aleutians to the Atlantic as safeguards against a Soviet surprise air 
attack over the North Pole. A generous group of gap-filler radars and picket ships augmented 
the Mid-Canada and Pine Tree Lines farther south. Three huge Ballistic Missile Early Warning 
Sites ( BMEWS) located in Clear, Alaska, Thule, Greenland, and Fylingdales Moor, England 
kept a sharp lookout for Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) shots, with assistance 
from surveillance satellites that scanned for submarine-launched ballistic missiles as well as 
ICBMs. 12 

Appropriately located islands often make ideal stepping stones. Propeller-driven transport 
aircraft that spanned the Pacific during the Korean War hopped from Travis AFB near San 
Francisco to Honolulu, Midway, and Wake Island (which looked like a postage stamp from 
the air), then on to Tokyo. Flights over the Atlantic at that time called at Goose Bay, Labrador 
and Keflavik, Iceland. U.S. weapons, equipment, and supplies bound for Tel Aviv during the 
1973 Arab-Israeli conflict arrived rapidly only because Portugal granted refueling rights in 
the Azores. 


Manmade boundaries, which are merely lines on maps, impose political obstacles that 
sometimes inhibit military operations as much as physical barriers when allies or neutrals 
forbid the armed forces of outsiders to violate their land or territorial waters. Transgressors 
who nevertheless choose to do so may pay political, economic, or military prices, the nature 
and intensity of which are not always obvious beforehand. 

High stakes coupled with low risks in relation to likely gains encourage aggressors to 
ignore political boundaries. Hitler clearly felt free to ride roughshod over neutral Belgium, 
Luxembourg, and the Netherlands on his way to France in 1 940. Low stakes coupled with 
high risks in relation to likely gains contrariwise encourage caution. British-based U.S. 
bombers on April 1 5, 1 986, made long dog-legs over the Bay of Biscay and back through 
Gibraltar en route to hit Tripoli and Benghazi because the French Government denied them 
overflight rights when President Ronald Reagan directed retaliation for a Libyan-backed 
terrorist attack in Berlin. 12 

Privileged sanctuaries behind sacrosanct boundaries, which permit adversaries to fight 
when they wish and then run away, also impose political inhibitions, although such asylums 
seem to survive only if probable penalties for disturbing them surpass potential benefits. 
Manchuria comprised such a shelter throughout the Korean War, first as a Chinese supply 
base for North Korea, then as a haven for defeated North Korean troops who fled across the 
Yalu River on floating footbridges and, after October, 1 950, as a springboard for Chinese 
Communist offensives. The U.N. Command could have lanced that boil if so directed but 
declined to do so for fear that such action would precipitate "the wrong war, at the wrong 
place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy." ' Communist sanctuaries inside 
Cambodia fared less well after President Nixon authorized U. S. armed forces to conduct 
cross-border raids in 1 970 and again in 1 971 . 1S The United States maintained sanctuaries 
in japan, Okinawa, Thailand, and the Philippines throughout the Vietnam War, although 
many observers overlooked that fact. 



The square miles or square kilometers encompassed by any operational area furnish room 
for armed forces to maneuver offensively or defensively and to disperse command centers, 
military formations, ports, airfields, logistic installations, and other static or mobile targets. 
Total size, however, is only one relevant criterion. Usable space is equally important. 


Areas that are large in proportion to forces employed therein offer a greater range of offensive 
options and facilitate greater freedom of action than crowded spaces afford. Envelopments 
and turning movements become feasible on the ground, whereas cramped quarters 
commonly compel frontal assaults accompanied by increased casualties (picture assault 
forces trying to puncture enemy defenses from exposed positions on beachheads or 
bridgeheads). The U.S. 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment established a world's record for 
microsized regimental drop zones (DZs) in February 1945, when it leaped onto Corregidor: 
the larger DZ had been a parade ground that measured 325 by 250 yards (297 by 229 
meters), the smaller was once a nine-hole golf course, and both were bounded on the south 
by a cliff. Each C-47 transport completed multiple passes that lasted 6 seconds apiece, barely 
long enough for jumpmasters to push eight paratroopers out the door. 16 

Offensive naval flotillas as well as land forces need a lot of maneuver room in this high- 
tech age, which renders close combat excessively risky. No modern admiral, for example, 
would be enthusiastic about battle in closed bodies of water such as Salamis, where 
Themistocles defeated the Persian Navy in 480 B.C., Aboukir Bay, where Lord Nelson blasted 
Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet to win the Battle of the Nile in 1 798, or Lake Erie, where Captain 
Oliver Hazard Perry beat the British in 1 813, then announced, " We have met the enemy and 
they are ours!" 


Defenders on land and at sea prefer arenas that contain enough room to maneuver laterally 
and in depth, trade space for time if necessary, then regroup, reinforce, and redeploy for 
offensive action when enemy spearheads at the end of extended supply lines lose 
momentum. Tiny Luxembourg plays poor games of cat and mouse, whereas Tsarist Russia 
used defenses-in-depth to frustrate Napoleonic invaders, who briefly occupied and burned 
Mosow in 1 81 2 but fell back under pressure when winter approached. Retreat, coupled with 
scorched earth policies, paid off for the Soviet Union after Hitler launched Operation 
Barbarossa in June 1 941 . Communist defenders ceded ground grudgingly, left communes 
in ruins, torched crops, and systematically shifted essential industries from war zones to 
interior sites desperate workers dismantled nearly a quarter of the nation's manufacturing 
capacity and carted it east of the Ural Mountains before temporarily victorious Germans 
overran the rest. 17 

Evasion and escape artists in most countries envy the vast space available to Nez Perce 
Chief Joseph, who led 300 warriors along with 400 women and children on a 4-month trek 
that totaled nearly 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) through parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, 
and Montana before the U.S. Army finally brought his starving tribe to bay in October, 
1 877. 18 Mao Zedong's classic Long March (map 3), in much the same mold, departed his 
base camp with about 100,000 men in October 1 934. Six thousand miles (9,655 kilometers) 


and 366 days later 20,000 survivors slipped into northern Shaanxi Province, short on 
provisions but long on professional pride, after leading Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang troops 
on a roundabout chase through half of China. 19 

Open water can add great depth to holdings on land, as Japan demonstrated during 
World War II. Its four home islands cover an area approximately equal to North and South 
Dakota, but outpost lines that ran from the Aleutian Islands through Pacific Trust Territories, 
New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands, and the Netherlands East Indies afforded several million 
more square miles within which to conduct delaying actions (see map 25, page 160). 

Finally, it is worth emphasizing that any nation may brandish nuclear weapons for 
deterrent purposes, but policies that contemplate even limited use against similarly armed 
opponents appear excessively imprudent for all save those that possess a redundant 
(preferably well- protected) power base. Only a few very large countries fit that description. 
Most of the remainder, which concentrate likely targets in a handful of cities or in the capital, 
could not survive small-scale nuclear attacks. 


Large operational areas sometimes are mixed blessings. Continent-sized Australia, which 
concentrates most elements of political, economic, and military power along its periphery, 
is fortunate that potential targets are mainly on its southern shores far from potential enemies. 
Canada's principal assets, which hug the United States, are safe because those two countries 
remain partners. The capital cities and other "crown jewels" of many medium-sized states, 
however, run high risks. Saudi Arabia and Syria typify largely empty lands wherein core 
assets are close to insecure borders, while Seoul, Korea is barely 25 straight-line miles (40 
kilometers) south of the demilitarized zone that separates it from sworn enemies. 

Gigantic size clearly can be a military liability rather than an asset. Territorial infinity was 
illusionary in the U.S.S.R., a colossus that spanned 7,000 miles (1 1 ,230 kilometers) and nine 
time zones between the Baltic Sea and Bering Strait. Approximately 80 percent of the 
population, along with a high proportion of industrial capacity, were west of the Ural 
Mountains when Nazi Germany invaded. Connections between European Russi'a and the 
Soviet Far East depended almost entirely on the ribbonlike Trans-Siberian Railroad, a 
condition that compelled Soviet Armed Forces to operate in two widely separated and only 
slightly synchronized theaters. Long Soviet boundaries were so hard to defend and 
recalcitrants so hard to control throughout the Cold War that heavily armed Border Guards 
and Internal Security Troops peaked in the 1980s at a combined personnel strength that 
approximated 600,000 (more than most national armies). 20 Other huge nations, such as 
China and India, have experienced similar internal problems. 


Favorable configurations generally confer military advantages, whereas awkward shapes do 
not. A circle with prized possessions dispersed well back from its rim would be perfect. 
Some countries or operational areas approach that ideal, but a good many are elongated, 
discontinuous, or fragmented. 21 



Map 3. Mao's Long March 

Approximate route 
of the Red Army 

100 200 Miles 

1 i I i I 
I I I I I I I 

100 200 300 Kilometers 



Communist area 
in 1936 


\ rl 9 hungki ? 




Communist area 
in 1934 

Hong Kong 



South China Sea 


Adapted from Robert Payne, Portrait of a Revolutionary: Mao Tse-Tung (London: Abeland-Schuman, 1961), 150. 




Spindly Chile, 2,650 miles long and nowhere more than 250 miles wide (4,265 by 400 
kilometers), is lucky, because the towering Andes Mountains guard most of its land borders. 
Israel, in contrast, had a waistline only 8 miles wide (<13 kilometers) before it seized and 
retained West Bank territories during the 1 967 war the Mediterranean was a 3-hour march 
for Jordanian foot troops, 1 5 minutes in medium tanks, and less than artillery range from the 
nearest enemy positions. Opportunities to trade space for time were nil. President Charles 
de Gaulle greatly increased NATO's military vulnerability when he evicted its armed forces 
from France in 1967; his action crammed U.S. combat and support formations into the 
narrowest part of West Germany where that nation is barely 150 miles wide (240 
kilometers). 22 

Military salients, a less exaggerated form of elongation, extend into enemy territory. 
Problems accompany those that penetrate deeply whenever hostile armed forces remain 
strong enough to hit one or both flanks. Iraqi divisions that captured Kuwait in 1990, for 
example, were dangerously exposed. General Colin L. Powell publicly announced, "Our 
strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we 
are going to kill it." 23 Allied counteroffensives during the Battle of the Bulge (December 1 6, 
1944 to mid-January 1945) similarly pinched a German salient that, at its zenith, drove a 
wedge almost 50 miles (80 kilometers) into Belgium, as map 4 depicts. 24 

Peninsulas, unlike salients, tend to isolate conflicts. Allied campaigners obtained positive 
results in Italy, a "sideshow" theater, where economy of force operations in 1943-1945 
pinned down many German divisions that otherwise might have bolstered the Atlantic Wall 
or have reinforced German defensive capabilities in Normandy after Anglo-American armed 
forces landed. Armed combat lasted three years in Korea (1 950-1 953) without spreading to 
the mainland. Defensive actions against superior foes on peninsulas from which there is no 
escape, however, seldom have happy endings, as U.S. forces in the Philippines found after 
Japanese invaders backed them onto minuscule Bataan Peninsula hard by Manila Bay. A 90- 
mile "Death March" followed their surrender on April 9, 1 942. 25 


Discontinuous shapes of military significance come in assorted sizes and degrees of 
permanence. The smallest are parachute drop zones and helicopter landing zones in enemy 
territory. None can survive long unless it is reinforced rapidly, friendly forces advancing 
overland link up expeditiously, or surrounded units withdraw. Operation Market Garden 
decisively demonstrated that point in September 1944, when two U.S. and one British 
airborne divisions strove to secure five bridges over large rivers and canals in Holland so 
armored columns could scoot 64 miles (103 kilometers) up a narrow corridor, cross the 
Rhine at Arnhem, outflank the Siegfried Line, then head for the Ruhr, which was Nazi 
Germany's industrial heartland (map 5). British Lieutenant General Frederick (Boy) 
Browning, who feared that the plan was overly ambitious, said to Field Marshal Bernard 
Montgomery, its architect, "I think we might be going a bridge too far." He was right. The 
British 1st Airborne Division held out heroically at Arnhem for 10 days waiting in vain for a 
linkup, then disintegrated. Fewer than one-fourth of its 10,000 men made it safely back 
across the Rhine; the rest were killed, captured, or missing. 26 


Map 4. The Battle of the Bulge 

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80km. 


-; Aachen 

*"*'! *::x : :::x3E:x : :i:x : :x:x : :::x : 

10 20 30 








I A ffsyyX'XvXvX'Xv 

I Luxembourg fM^^^^ 

-***< jWS 

^N ^^\^liiSil?i 

Forward bases and facilities, which are semipermanent enclaves on foreign soil, constitute 
a second subcategory under the rubric of disconnected shapes. Those in enemy territory, 
such as the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba, and (from time to time) the Panama Canal 
Zone, are noteworthy because they demand stringent security. Exclaves on a grander scale 
primarily are political entities that frequently become flash points. Adolf Hitler, who 
hungered for East Prussia, which the Treaty of Versailles had separated from Germany proper 
in 1920, first requested from Poland (but never received) a connecting corridor through the 
free city of Danzig, then reclaimed those lands and much more by force of arms in 
September, 1939. Pakistan comprised east and west sectors 1,000 land miles apart (1,610 
kilometers) from 1947 until 1971 when East Pakistan, with Indian assistance, gained 
independence as Bangladesh after a bloody civil war. Beleaguered Berlin (map 6), a Free 
World exclave and potential powder keg 100 miles (1 60 kilometers) east of the Iron Curtain, 
had huge symbolic as well as practical importance. Its position was tactically untenable, 
because Soviet and East German forces could seal off or swallow the city at their pleasure if 



Map 5. Operation Market Garden 


Corps vill 
II Corps 

2nd ARMY 



Map 6. Beleagured Berlin 


RkOW I AREA: 154 sq. mi. / 



willing to risk a nuclear war. Only the massive Berlin Airlift kept the population alive during 
a prolonged blockade that lasted from June 1 948 until May 1 949. 27 


Fragmented shapes mainly pertain to island nations such as Japan and the Philippines, which 
are open to defeat in detail. Indonesia, the most noteworthy, consists of several thousand 
islands, many uninhabited, that festoon off the coast of Southeast Asia for 3,000 miles (4,825 
kilometers), a distance comparable to that between the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts. 
Isolation discourages coordinated offensive or defensive military campaigns in widely 
separated places and, in some cases (such as Timor), encourages separatist movements. 


The location, size, and shape of land masses and large bodies of water strongly 
influence military capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities. 

No nation that lacks access to any ocean has ever been able to project great military 
power globally. 

Geographical isolation offers countries considerable protection against invasion. 

Even very large armed forces that battle strong adversaries on more than one front may 
be seriously disadvantaged. 

Time, distance, and modes of transportation determine how rapidly armed forces can 
respond to remotely- located contingencies. 

Armed forces spread thinly throughout large countries and operational areas are 
offensively and defensively disadvantaged. 

Armed forces deployed throughout archipelagos and other discontinuous operational 
areas may be subject to defeat in detail. 


1 . Many political geography textbooks discuss spatial relationships in an international context. 
See, for example, Paul Buckholts, Political Geography (New York: Ronald Press, 1966), 73-93, and 
Lucille Carlson, Geography and World Politics (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1958), 24-39. 

2. Russia's maritime deficiencies following the demise of the U.S.S.R. duplicate those that 
confronted the Soviet Navy. See John M. Collins, The U.S.-Soviet Military Balance: Concepts and 
Capabilities, 1960-1980 (Washington, DC: McGraw-Hill Publications, 1980), 239-244. 

3. J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, vol. 1 (New York: Funk and Wagnals, 
1 955), 360-384; Peter Fleming, Operation Sea Lion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 957). 

4. Trevor N. Dupuy, Elusive Victory (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1992). 

5. Donald S. Zagoria, The Sino-Soviet Conflict, 1956-1961 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University 
Press, 1 962). 

6. Arthur N. Strahler, Physical Geography, 2d ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1963), 
chapter 5; Richard D. Lee, "Metabolic Clock," Aerospace Safety Review 3, no. 3 (Winter 1 966): 3-5. 


7. The War Reports of General of the Army George C. Marshall, General of the Army H.H. 
Arnold, and Fleet Admiral Ernest). King (New York: J. B. Lippincott., 1947), 557-563; Barry Pitt, The 
Battle of the Atlantic (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 977). 

8. Leonard Bushkoff, "Hungary (October-November 1956)," in Challenge and Response in 
International Conflict, vol. 2, The Experience in Europe and the Middle East, eds. Doris M. Condit, 
Bert H. Cooper, Jr., et al. (Washington, DC: Center for Research in Social Systems, American 
University, March 1967), 529-578. 

9. Peter David, Triumph in the Desert (New York: Random House, 1 991 ). 

10. James A. Nathan, ed., The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited (New York: St. Martin's Press, 
1 992); Robert Smith Thompson, The Missiles of October: The Declassified Story of John F. Kennedy 
and the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992); Raymond L. Garthoff, Reflections 
on the Cuban Missile Crisis, rev. ed. (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1989). 

11. Richard M. Nixon, U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1970's: The Emerging Structure of Peace 
(Washington: February 9, 1972), 177; Mark M. Lowenthal, The CFE Treaty: Verification and 
Compliance Issues, Issue Brief 91009 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 1991). 

12. Collins, 159-167. 

13. For background, see Daniel P. Bolger, Americans at War: An Era of Violent Peace, 1975- 
1986 (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1 988), 1 69-1 89, 383-441 . 

14. J. Lawton Collins, War in Peacetime: The History and Lessons of Korea (Boston, MA: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1 969), 1 9, 82, 1 83, 200, 21 7, 291 -292, 296. The quotation is by General of the 
Army Omar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is reproduced in testimony before 
the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Relations on The Military Situation in the Far 
East, 82 d Congress, 1 st sess., part 2, May 15, 1951, 732, 753. 

1 5. Keith William Nolan, Into Cambodia: Spring Campaign, Summer Offensive, 1970 (Novato, 
CA: Presidio Press, 1 990). 

1 6. Gerard M. Devlin, Back to Corregidor (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1 992); see especially 
37-39,44-61, 76-85. 

1 7. Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941-1945 (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1 964), 1 44- 

1 8. S.L.A. Marshall, Crimsoned Prairie (New York: Charles Schribner's Sons, 1 972), 1 91 -237. 

1 9. Robert Payne, Portrait of Revolutionary: Mao Tse-Tung (New York: Ablard-Schuman, 1 961 ), 
chapter 6. 

20. James T. Reitz, "The Soviet Security Troops: The Kremlin's Other Armies," in part 5, Soviet 
Union: What Lies Ahead? vol. 6, Studies in Communist Affairs (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, 1985), 549-580. 

21 . See, for example, Buckholts, Political Geography, 73-78. 

22. Gordon A. Moon, II, "Invasion in Reverse," Army 17, no. 2 (February 1967): 24-30 and 
"Uncertain Future," March 1967, 38-42. 

23. Colin L. Powell with Joseph E. Persico, My American Journey (New York: Random House, 
1995), 509-510. 

24. John S. D. Eisenhower, The Bitter Woods (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1969). 

25. John W. Whitman, Bataan Our Last Ditch (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1990); John 
Tolland, But Not in Shame: The Six Months After Pearl Harbor (New York: Random House, 1 961 ), 

26. Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 974). 

27. Ann and John Tusa, The Berlin Airlift (New York: Athenium Press, 1 988); James M. Schick, 
The Berlin Crisis,1958-1962 (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971). 



In peace, soldiers must learn the nature of the land, how steep the mountains are, how the 
valleys debouch, where the plains lie, and understand the nature of rivers and swamps then 
by means of the knowledge and experience gained in one locality, one can easily understand 
any other. 

Niccolo Machiavelli 


without cracking a smile, "Young men of all services must learn terrain or learn Russian." No 
one will ever know for sure whether he overstated his case, because the United States and 
the Soviet Union never went to war with each other, but the lay of the land was militarily 
important long before Rennaissance Man Machiavelli made his pronouncement more than 
500 years ago and likely will remain so. 


Land forms comprise the foundation upon which all other terrestrial features are 
superimposed (figure 1 is illustrative). 1 They occupy three militarily significant categories, 
which table 2 lists with the highest, largest, or deepest first. High ground, level land, and 
depressions each uniquely influence the abilities of air and ground forces to maneuver freely, 
locate targets, deliver firepower effectively, conduct non-combat operations, coordinate 
actions, and furnish essential support at strategic, operational, and tactical levels. 


"Mountains" and "hills" are imprecise terms, the definitions of which depend on 
circumstantial interpretations. High spots in southern India's Palmi Hills are equal in 
elevation to those of the U.S. Appalachian Mountains which, in turn, are small compared 
with the Alps or Andes. Some summits are saw-toothed, others are smooth. Little correlation 
may be evident between total elevation, measured from mean sea level to any point on land, 
and local relief, which measures topographic features from base to top (figure 2). Pike's Peak 
in Colorado, for example, is 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) higher than the loftiest pinnacle along 
Lebanon's coastal range, yet local relief is less because its climb begins more than a mile 
above sea level. Airmen, who set their altimeters according to elevation, view local relief 

Figure 1 . Land Forms Displayed Schematically 

Pass Topographical 

or crest Skyline Saddle Steep 


Clearing p ea k 






Evergreens gully 

Table 2. Land Forms Listed 

/-//g/i Ground 

Relatively Level Land 






Mesa Tops 
Butte Tops 





from different perspectives than land forces, whose front-line troops may consider hummocks 
to be high ground. Gradients, which measure how rapidly the ground rises or falls vertically 
over given horizontal distances, generally are expressed as plus or minus percentage figures, 
depending on direction of movement (figure 3 shows a +23 percent ascending grade from 
A to B and -23 percent descending from B to A). 

Very steep slopes severely limit military flexibility. Helicopter pilots, for example, must 
take care that rotor blades don't hit the ground on the uphill side while they hover or 
decapitate troops when they debark and ensure that the skids will hold instead of sliding 


Figure 2. Elevation and Local Relief 




High Tide 
Mean Sea Level Datum Plane 

downhill if they have to land. The proficiency with which ground forces negotiate steep 
terrain depends on professional skills, types of transportation, and loads. Mountaineers can 
scale walls that would stop standard infantry; tracked vehicles can negotiate steeper ground 
than trucks; railway locomotives can tow longer trains up sharper grades if flatcars are laden 
with tents instead of tanks. Aerial observers and high-flying bombers are hard pressed to 
identify and hit targets concealed by rugged terrain where closely-spaced ridges make close 
air support a perilous proposition even in perfect weather. 

Points and areas on bare slopes are visible from the top to the bottom of any hill only if 
the topographical crest (the highest elevation) and the military crest (the highest point from 
which terrain all the way to the base is visible) happen to coincide. Convex slopes and other 
surface irregularities commonly create "blind spots" masks or defilades in military 
parlance that protect enemy positions from flat-trajectory weapons, such as rifles and 
machine guns (see figure 4). Terrain masks also degrade the performance of Very High 
Frequency (VHP) radios, which likewise depend on line-of-sight. Surface-to-surface missile 
and field artillery batteries emplaced along steep, narrow valleys cannot elevate launchers 
or tubes high enough to clear nearby crests. 


Flat to rolling surfaces include relatively small mesas and buttes as well as the gargantuan 
U.S. Great Plains, Russian steppes, and high plateaus such as the Tibetan Tableland, which, 
at 1 6,000 feet (4,875 meters), is higher than most mountains. Slopes nowhere exceed 5-1 5 
degrees on large plains and plateaus, except for isolated protuberances that rise abruptly 
above otherwise horizontal terrain. 



Figure 3. Slopes and Gradients 





+23% grade A to B 
-23% grade B to A 

Relatively level lands throughout history have witnessed major military operations. One 
of the first confrontations between pastoral and agricultural societies occurred in the 18th 
century B.C, when Hyksos horsemen overran Lower Egypt, which, then as now, mainly 
occupied the Nile Delta. Roman luminaries Actius and Theodoric stopped Attila the Hun 
on the Mauriac Plain near what now is Chalons-sur-Marne, France, in 451 A.D. Charles 
Martel, a Frank, defeated Moorish invaders in the Loire Valley close by Tours (732 A.D.) to 
stem the Islamic tidal wave that was sweeping northward from Africa. Washington defeated 
Cornwallis on rolling lands around Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781 and thereby assured eventual 
victory for the infant United States, while Napoleon met Wellington and his Waterloo on 
Belgian lowlands in 1 81 5. 2 It should come as no surprise that the most expansive military 
campaigns in modern times took place on vast Soviet flatlands that allow gigantic armed 
forces to maneuver fluidly and conduct air-land combat on a grand scale. Operation 
Zitadelle, the epic clash at Kursk, reportedly culminated in 70,000 Germans killed or 
wounded (not counting captured or missing in action) and the destruction of 3,000 tanks, 
1,400 aircraft, 1,000 artillery pieces, and 5,000 trucks. Soviet loses in that largest of all 
armored battles were only slightly less/ 


Canyons and gorges make awesome obstacles, but are fewer than caverns and caves, which 
come in many sizes and serve many military purposes. Mao's strategic concepts, for 
example, took shape in a Shaanxi cave where he had ample time for reflection after the Long 
March. Natural shelters, perhaps further hollowed out and refined, need not be nearly as 
large as the cliff side cavity that hid the fictional Guns of Navaronne. Tenacious Japanese 
troops on Peleliu, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and other contested Pacific islands that were 



Figure 4. Line-of-Sight and High-Angle Trajectories 



Lines of Sight 




Dotted line is the highest angle of fire for artillery 

honeycombed with comparatively small caves made U.S. forces root them out at the expense 
of frightful casualties on both sides, because air strikes and heavy naval artillery left those 
sanctuaries virtually intact. 4 Yugloslav guerrillas who took refuge in caverns and caves from 
1 941 through 1 944 gave fits to a sizable number of German divisions that might have been 
profitably employed on other fronts. 5 Weapons, equipment, and supplies stockpiled deeply 
beneath bedrock generally are safe from direct hits by conventional bombardment. 
Subterranean facilities used by enemies to store nuclear, biological, or chemical munitions 
cause concern for identical reasons, because actions to neutralize them by frontal assaults 
would be costly and outcomes uncertain. An 1 1 -man sabotage team, following surreptitiously 
acquired floor plans, hit Hitler's heavy water plant at Vermork, Norway, and with one small 
explosion crippled Nazi Germany's nuclear weapons program, 6 but that spectacular 
achievement has proved to be an exception instead of a rule. 

Basins surrounded by steep terrain expose forces on the bottom to murderous fire if 
opponents occupy commanding heights, as French paratroopers in Vietnam found at Dien 
Bien Phu (1 954) and U.S. Marines discovered at Khe Sanh during the next decade (1 967- 
1 968). Alfred, Lord Tennyson immortalized the Charge of the Light Brigade during the battle 
of Balaclava in 1 853 with these heart-wrenching words: 

Cannon to the right of them, 
Cannon to the left of them, 
Cannon in front of them 
Volley'd and thunder'd . . . 
Into the jaws of death, 



Into the mouth of hell 
Rode the six hundred. 

Shocked onlookers became so hushed when the Light Brigade entered the "Valley of Death" 
that the jingle of bits and accouterments could clearly be heard. Twenty minutes later almost 
250 men and twice that many horses were dead. 7 


Fast-moving offensive ground forces that lack sufficient air assault capabilities must swim, 
ford, ferry across, or build bridges over large streams without breaking stride or forfeit forward 
momentum while defenders on the far bank hold in place. 8 All military services routinely 
require adequate water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation, plus special purposes such as 
decontamination during chemical combat. Drainage systems, river crossing sites, and 
militarily useful reservoirs thus are relevant topics. (Chapter 1 1 covers inland waterways.) 


Drainage systems generally are shaped like asymmetrical trees, each branch of which empties 
its contents into a larger stream until the biggest tributaries connect with the trunk. Immense 
systems such as the Amazon and Mississippi funnel runoff from several million square miles, 
while minor systems service much smaller areas. Great rivers that arise and remain in well- 
watered regions have many tributaries. Streams 30 to 60 feet wide (9 to 18 meters), for 
example, lace Western Europe every 6 miles (9+ kilometers) or so, while rivers up to 300 feet 
across occur on the average at 30-mile intervals. Relatively few branches in contrast feed the 
Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile, which arise where water is plentiful but traverse dry lands 
thereafter. 9 

Militarily important riverine characteristics begin with widths, measured in feet, yards, or 
meters from bank to bank, and with depths which indicate the distance from surface to 
bottom (figure 5). Current velocities, usually stated in feet or meters per second, depend 
primarily on the steepness of the stream bed. Twenty-five to 30 feet (7-9 meters) per second 
or 1 7 to 20 miles an hour is considered quite fast, whereas 1 or 2 feet per second or less is 
sluggish. The deepest, fastest flow normally follows the main channel well above the bottom, 
because stream banks and beds function as friction brakes. Currents accelerate along outside 
curves, where they figuratively play "crack the whip." 

Widths, depths, velocities, and volumes measured in cubic feet, yards, or meters past 
particular points are by no means constant. Military planners and operators anticipate 
seasonal fluctuations, typified by annual inundations along the Nile Valley, and are fully 
aware that tidal rivers rise and fall twice daily in response to lunar cycles. Not all destructive 
floods, however, are predictable nor are they all from natural causes: Germans defenders in 
Novemberl 944 blew dams on the Roer River at Schmidt to delay advancing Allied armies; 
Chinese "volunteers" at Hwachon Reservoir in Korea (1 951 ) threatened to release a wall of 
water that could have washed away command posts, supply dumps, and bridges and split 
U.S. IX Corps. 10 

Sand bars, mud banks, and rock outcroppings impose natural obstacles close to shore, 
especially along outside curves. Floating debris and ice floes in stream can be destructive 


Figure 5. Selected Stream Characteristics 

= Approach Elevation 
= Approach Distance 
Slope in Percent of Approach = 
4a /4b x100 

1 . The width of stream bed 'from bank to bank. 

2. The actual width of the wafer measured at normal stage. In addition, maximum width 2a and minimum 
width 2b are estimated, based on local observations or records of high water and low water, and then 

3. The actual depth of the stream at normal water level. 

3a. Estimated maximum water depth based on local observations or records. 
3b. Estimated minimum water depth based on local observations or records. 

4. The slope of the approaches is the slope of the stream banks through which the approach roads are cut. 



to river craft and bridges, but solid ice is beneficial when thick enough to bear the weight of 
troops, trucks, and tanks. 


River crossings at many places on broad fronts minimize enemy abilities to concentrate 
decisive defensive power against vulnerable targets, perhaps employing weapons of mass 
destruction. Ideal locations exhibit the following attributes: 11 

Good roads closely parallel the river so that offensive forces can easily reach the best 
crossing sites. 

Well-protected areas are ample to hold follow-on forces waiting to reinforce assault 

Easily negotiable slopes lead to water on the near shore and to land on the far side. 

Narrows facilitate fast assault crossings, round trips by rafts and ferries that support 
subsequent buildups, and combat bridge construction. 

Current velocities less than 5 feet per second (3.5 miles per hour) limit down-stream 

Fording sites are consistently shallow, their bottoms are firm enough to bear heavy 
traffic, and selected routes are free from militarily significant obstacles. 

Unfordable streams are consistently deep enough to float swimming vehicles, 
inflatable boats, rafts, and ferries. 

Rapids, shoals, sandbars, snags, debris, and icy obstructions are conspicuously absent. 

Conveniently located islands that act as stepping stones reduce combat bridging 

The best crossing sites unfortunately are apt to be staunchly defended and actual 
conditions seldom are ideal. German panzer divisions in Russia during World War II, for 
example, frequently found that marshy lowlands abutted both banks of large streams, floods 
loaded with sediment clogged inboard engines, ice floes each spring bombarded expedient 
bridges, and vehicles became toboggans on moderate slopes after torrential summer rains. 12 
Skilled tacticians nevertheless overcame such adversities and learned that landings at 
unexpected spots improve prospects for low-cost success. 


Large armed forces demand enormous quantities of water in peacetime as well as war, 
whether active or passive, at fixed installations or in the field. Requirements are most 
difficult to satisfy in arid regions, especially when division-sized ground elements and air 
wings move frequently. Drinking water must be palatable (color, odor, and taste all count) 
and be unpolluted by pathogenic bacteria that spread contagious diseases such as typhoid 
fever, cholera, and amoebic dysentery. Time-consuming and expensive purification processes 
become obligatory when water for use as coolants is corrosive. Surface and subsurface 
sources are complementary, because neither suffices under all conditions. Both contribute 
supplies that differ quantitatively as well as qualitatively from time-to-time and place-to-place 
with varying degrees of convenience. 13 


Surface Water. Rivers, lakes, and some inland seas are large sources of fresh water on 
Earth's surface. Lesser repositories include ponds, small streams, and springs. Some sources 
are consistently reliable, whereas floods and droughts elsewhere seasonably reduce usable 
water supplies below required amounts. Unpredictable depletions caused by nature or enemy 
actions may do likewise with little or no notice. Prudent commanders consequently try to 
identify alternative sources before water crises occur. 

Perennial flows of sweet, cool spring water usually are low in organic impurities but tend 
to be widely scattered, high in mineral content, and output seldom is enough to satisfy large 
military formations which most often must establish, operate, and maintain water supply 
points at locations that are easily accessible and facilitate distribution by road. Large 
quantities of good quality surface water are commonly available on plains and plateaus 
where rainfall annually exceeds 25 inches (60 centimeters), but ample sources are hard to 
find in mountains where runoff starts, in frigid climes where sources are ice-bound many 
months each year, in the tropics where pollution frequently is rampant, and near small towns 
and urban centers where raw or incompletely treated sewage and toxic chemicals sometimes 
contaminate running water and reservoirs. 

Naval vessels and some coastal countries distill brine to produce fresh water. The world's 
largest desal in ization plant, located in Saudi Arabia, siphons more than 5 million gallons per 
day from the Persian Gulf (nearly 1 9 million liters) and, after purification, pipes fresh water 
as far inland as Riyadh. Allied missile defense batteries took special precautions to protect 
that facility against Iraqi Scud attacks during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 
1 990-1 991 . M The U.S. Marine garrison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which is isolated from the 
rest of Oriente Province by minefields and other man-made obstacles, routinely requires 
about 1 .2 million gallons (4.5 million liters) of desalinated sea water per month. Surplus 
capacity and barges, plus 15 million gallons in storage, made it possible to accommodate 
55,000 Cuban and Haitian refugees who inflated peak consumption to more than 73 million 
gallons in October 1995 (27.6 million liters). 15 

Subsurface Water. Not all precipitation and melt water empties directly into surface 
drainage systems. A good deal seeps into subterranean reservoirs instead. How much 
depends on total accumulations, slopes, soil compositions, and the permeability of 
underlying rocks. Moisture first percolates through an aerated zone that alternately dampens 
and dries, then reaches the water table, a saturated layer of variable thickness and depths that 
may be shallow or deep (figure 6). Some water continues to trickle down through cracks 
and crannies until contained by aquifers encased in nearly impervious rock formations. 
Artesian springs that rise to the surface under hydrostatic pressures along fissures and fault 
lines are little affected by seasonal fluctuations or by pollution, but often are too mineralized 
for human consumption or cooling systems. Relatively shallow wells sunk into the water 
table generally are preferable with two prominent exceptions: well water along littorals tends 
to be brackish; supplies drawn from arctic sources above permafrost are only briefly 
productive each year. 1b 

Mobile ground forces seldom sit still long enough to tap subsurface reservoirs, but ports, 
airfields, supply depots, major maintenance shops, and other static installations frequently 
benefit. So do Civil Affairs well-digging teams whose humanitarian mission is to improve the 
quality of life for impoverished people. Subterranean repositories furnish the only reliable 
source of water inland wherever lands are parched, a fact of particular importance when 



Figure 6. Water Tables, Acquifers, and Wells 

Permeable: Aquifer 

summer heat heightens routine requirements and demands soar under stressful conditions. 
Conservative estimates, for example, indicate that it would take approximately 200,000 
gallons of wash water to decontaminate the personnel, weapons, equipment, and facilities 
(such as aid stations and field hospitals) of just one U.S. Army or Marine division hard hit by 
persistent chemical warfare (CW) agents. 17 That would be a tall order even if fire hydrants 
were handy, and perhaps impossible in the desert, where the employment of CW munitions 
could entail unconscionable risks for both sides if reprisals in kind drenched aggressors. 


Commanders, staffs, and subordinates from the highest to the lowest echelons of every armed 
service need to know how geology and soils affect combat and support operations, but most 
are bored to tears by those technical subjects. This brief section, which seeks to stimulate 
interest, first characterizes Earth's mantle, then explains important military implications in 
simple terms. 


Soil covers Earth's land surface in layers that vary from several hundred feet thick on some 
alluvial plains to an inch or so on steep mountain slopes. Various grades of gravel, sand, silt, 
and clay, classified in descending order of particle size, occasionally appear in pure form but 
more often in a mix (silty gravel, sandy clay, and so on), each with distinctive properties such 
as texture, compactness, porosity, and consistency that affect military utility (table 3). 18 



Table 3. Selected Soil Characteristics 













Dries Fast 

Dries Slowly 






Gravel consists of coarse and smooth rocks, rounded or angular, that range from about 
1/4 inch to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6 centimeters) in diameter and are unaffected by weather 
conditions. Smaller grains constitute sand, which is unconsolidated when dry yet compact 
when wet. Dry silt is finer still, but solid except for the surface, which raises dust clouds 
under windy conditions, whereas wet silt constitutes soft, slippery mud until sunshine, 
warmth, or wind re-solidify it. Plasticity and adhesiveness are salient characteristics of 
microscopic (almost poreless) clay particles, which are hard and often brittle when dry. Clay 
sheds water well but, once saturated, combines the worst attributes of slime and glue. Clay 
also takes a long time to dry and, like silt, heaves in response to alternating freezes and thaws. 
Combinations modify each basic soil type, depending on the mix. 

Top soils heavy in humus (decomposed vegetation ) are several feet thick in peat bogs, 
somewhat less in marshes and meadows. Humus invariably is thin in deserts where scanty 
precipitation supports little plant life, in the arctic where cold retards decay, and wherever 
tropical heat and humidity disintegrate organic waste. 

Bedrock beneath all soil sometimes lies at or near the surface, but often is deeply buried. 
Structures (laminated or solid), textures (coarse or smooth), and fracture patterns (clean or 
jagged breaks) are notable attributes. "Rock of Ages" like granites and quartzites are 
exceedingly hard, but all conglomerates, sandstones, siltstones, even splintery shales are 
more durable than their basic constituents, which were gravel, sand, silt, and clay before 
being cemented together under great pressures. Calcium-rich limestones range from very 
hard construction material to very soft chalk, the latter typified by the white cliffs of Dover. 19 


Load-bearing capacities, traction, and stability despite sustained use characterize the abilities 
of particular soils to tolerate traffic by wheeled and tracked vehicles as light as snowmobiles 
and as heavy as tractor-trailers or tanks. Cross-country mobility over gravelly ground is 
consistently feasible, whereas bogs and swamps are impassable to all but small amphibians. 
Off-the-road movement, however, most often depends on weather conditions. Frozen fields 
generally are conducive. So are dry soils other than sand, which in its loose state 
immobilizes trucks that lack low-pressure tires. Saturated silt, in contrast, churns into soft 
mud after the first few vehicles pass, faster than usual when loosened by cultivation. Wet 
clay is worse: deep ruts rapidly appear; stickiness gums drive trains, degrades speed, and 



complicates steering; modest inclines become too slippery to climb; and after soaking rains 
tanks and armored fighting vehicles slide down slopes like Olympic-class luges. 20 

Terrain strewn with boulders also inhibits free movement, as British Brigadier John Bagot 
Glubb discovered in 1931, when he took an Arab Legion patrol into Trans-Jordan's 
panhandle to suppress rambunctious Bedouins. Blocks of black lava so littered the landscape 
that progress on horseback was painfully slow and dismounted legionnaires took 1 days to 
clear a path that was barely wide enough for a column of trucks to proceed 6 miles (9.6 
kilometers), then turn around. 21 


Soil conditions and rock affect the performance of many conventional weapons and delivery 
vehicles. Rocky outcroppings and gravel magnify the lethal radius of conventional munitions, 
which ricochet on impact and scatter stone splinters like shrapnel, whereas mushy soil 
smothers high explosives that burrow before they detonate. Even light artillery pieces leave 
fairly heavy "footprints" in saturated earth, a peculiarity that limits (sometimes eliminates) 
desirable firing positions. Gunners struggled to keep towed artillery pieces on targets when 
they worked at or near maximum tube elevations on wet ground in Vietnam where it didn't 
take many rounds to drive 155-mm howitzer trails so deeply into the mire that recoil 
mechanisms malfunctioned. Each piece consequently had to be shifted several times each 
night, a grueling proposition that caused trucks to snap winch cables when soil suction 
exceeded their capacities. Howitzer trails proved impossible to seat permanently at lower 
angles of fire, which caused whole batteries to slide after one or two volleys. No amount of 
shoring solved those problems, but resourceful artillerymen in the Mekong Delta improvised 
long-legged heliborne platforms that rested on solid foundations that gave their guns 
acceptable stability. 

Surface conditions likewise amplify or mute nuclear weapon effects. The diameters and 
depths of craters are less when soil is dry than when soaked, nuclear shock wave,s transmitted 
through wet clay are perhaps 50 times more powerful than those through loose sand, and the 
intensities as well as decay rates of nuclear radiation reflect soil compositions and densities. 
Research and development specialists at underground test sites use related data to determine 
how deeply they must bury nuclear devices of specified yields to prevent radiation from 
venting in open air. Massive beds of volcanic ash called "tuff" seem best. 22 


Engineers whose mission is to build, repair, and maintain military roads, airstrips, vehicle 
parks, bridge foundations, and field fortifications routinely use bulldozers, front loaders, 
dump trucks, and shovels to scoop, prepare, and redeposit surface soils. Some materials, 
however, are much better suited than others for such purposes.. 

Excavations in granite and other hard rock require demolitions and power tools, whereas 
most sandstones, limestones, and shales are easier to extract, provided the earthen 
overburden allows easy access. Amalgams of gravel with silt or sand make good material for 
fill, stable embankments, and foundations, but no mix of silt or clay is suitable for aircraft 
runways, taxi strips, or road surfaces, even with palliatives to keep dust down during dry 
seasons. Weathered basalt, which forms a hard crust when dry but develops deep ruts after 
rains, also is undesirable. 23 Laterite, a common deposit in tropical alluviums, was the 


construction material of choice for main supply routes and C-130-capable airfields in 
Vietnam, because its iron and aluminum oxide concretions harden irreversibly and withstand 
tremendous abuse. Peneprime, oil, or some other asphaltic compound waterproofed and 
controlled dust. 24 


Paleolithic foot soldiers armed with stone axes and wooden clubs discovered that dense 
vegetation limits land mobility and observation to front, flanks, and rear. Problems multiplied 
when warriors began to employ "standoff" weapons that required clear fields of fire (spears, 
javelins, slingshots, bows and arrows), formed cavalry squadrons, and devised "mechanized" 
modes of transportation (mainly horse-drawn chariots). Technological innovations that 
include armor, aircraft, and thermonuclear weapons have profoundly altered the significance 
of vegetative cover since then, but none has neutralized its effects. Bare ground still favors 
offensive forces; forests still favor defense. 


Arctic and Antarctic barrens girdle the globe around the North and South Poles, but the Earth 
is covered thickly or sparsely with some sort of vegetation in most other places (map 7). 25 
Several distinctive belts, one below the other from high to low latitudes, are observable in 
the Northern Hemisphere where huge land masses predominate. 

Tundra, a bleak zone that begins where perpetual ice caps terminate, supports a mat of 
mosses, lichens, summer flowers, and a few grotesquely twisted dwarf trees that hug the 
ground. A great band of evergreens, commonly called the "taiga," replaces tundra somewhat 
farther south in response to a longer growing season. Spruce, pine, hemlock, and fir forests 
intermingled with deciduous birch, alders, larch, and willow trees sweep across subarctic 
Alaska, Canada, European Russia, and Siberia. Moss-covered swamps cover level, poorly 
drained lands. 

Broadleaf woodlands, once typified by Sherwood Forest in England, Germany's 
Schwartzwald (Black Forest), and the northern United States east of the Mississippi River, 
replace the taiga in middle latitudes (some say a squirrel could cross the State of Pennsylvania 
in colonial times without touching ground). Cultivated fields and pastures, however, have 
long since supplanted primeval stands of oak, ash, maple, hickory, elm, walnut, and beech 
trees. Natural grasslands originally covered much of mid-western Canada and the United 
States as well as Eurasian steppes from Ukraine to the Orient, where the climate is too dry 
for trees. A good deal of that land also is agricultural today. 

Mediterranean borders, southern California, central Chile, and South Africa's Cape 
Province furnish conditions conducive to squat cork oaks, olive trees, vineyards, and scrubs 
that prefer cool, wet winters and long summer droughts. Prickly, leathery-leaved plants such 
as cacti, mesquite, creosote bushes, and chaparral favor deserts and their fringes that are 
more or less centered along the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Neither of those 
discontinuous strips dips closer to the Equator than 1 5 degrees or much farther away than 40, 
but individual deserts very considerably. The 3.5-million-square-mile Sahara (6.3 million 
square kilometers) occupies almost as much space as all 50 United States, and the Great 
Australian Desert constitutes almost half of its parent continent, whereas the Lut Desert in 


Map 7. Regional Vegetation 

Source: U.S. Dept. Agriculture Yearbook, 1941, "Climate and Man." Aitoff's equal-area projection 
adapted by V.C. Finch. 



Iran, at 1 55,000 square miles (401,000 square kilometers), is relatively small. Some stretches 
of sand and bare stone are devoid of vegetation, although even the driest soils by and large 
support some struggling plant life. 

Tropical forests ring the world at its midriff, most notably in the Amazon Basin, West- 
Central Africa, parts of India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and nearby Pacific Islands where 
abundant rainfall and an endless growing season encourage exuberant vegetation, jungle 
giants that include teak, mahogany, and ebony trees commonly form double, triple, even 
quadruple canopies that exclude sunshine from forest floors. Undergrowth, contrary to 
popular misconception, is dense only where light filters through. Mangrove thickets that 
straddle the Equator flourish best along salt water coasts, but those botanical flying buttresses 
take root as far upstream as tidal influences are felt. 

Vegetation varies with altitude as well as latitude. Each 1,000-foot ascent (305 meters) 
is roughly equivalent to a trip 300 miles (480 kilometers) north or south of the Equator. Sage 
brush and short grass, for example, greet back-packers at the eastern base of the Colorado 
Rockies a mile above sea level. Routes to the top enter woods with widely-spaced ponderosa 
pines, then thick stands of Douglas fir before they reach the timber line at about 1 1 ,500 feet 
(3,500 meters). Landscapes thereafter consist of alpine pastures, then a crust of lichens well 
below wind-swept peaks where the environment is too hostile for the hardiest plants. 


Each type of vegetation significantly influences military operations in unique ways. Varieties 
that are offensively advantageous almost always frustrate defense and vice versa, as the 
following vignettes indicate. 

Forests. Fairy tales fantasize about ogres who wait for unwary travelers in gloomy forests. 
Legitimate terrors confront warriors in dark woods, where armed forces battle like blindfolded 
boxers who cannot see their opponents, small-unit actions by foot troops predominate, 
control is uncertain, and fluid maneuvers are infeasible. State-of-the-art technologies confer 
few advantages regardless of the day and age: 

Vehicles of any kind are virtually useless, except on beaten paths. 
Tree trunks deflect flat-trajectory projectiles. 

Nuclear blasts that topple timber could create impassable abatis that benefit nobody. 
Tanks can bulldoze small trees, but the vegetative pileups impede or stop progress. 
The lethal radius of conventional bombs and artillery shells is much less than in open 
terrain, although the "bonus" effect of flying wood splinters can be considerable. 

Hand grenades bounce aimlessly unless rolled at short ranges that sometimes 
endanger the senders. 

Napalm burns out rapidly in moist greenery; flares illuminate very little; and dense 
foliage deadens radio communications. 

Winners and losers are hard to predict when combat takes place in forests. Publius 
Quintilius Varus lost three well-armed, well-trained Roman legions when beset by teutonic 
barbarians near what now is Munster during the battle of Teutoburgerwald in 9 A.D. He and 
his senior henchmen committed suicide to avoid capture after that defeat, while survivors 
were crucified, buried alive, or sacrificed to pagan gods. Caesar Augustus shaped the political 


outline of Europe in many respects when, as a result, he abandoned plans to colonize lands 
that have become Germany. 26 Forest campaigns ever since have often been costly to 
belligerents on both sides. Wilderness (U.S. Civil War, May 1864), Belleau Wood and 
Argonne Forest (World War I), Guadalcanal, Burma, and New Guinea (World War II), 
Vietnam, and Laos typify a few among many unhappy experiences that involved the United 

Scantily Clad Landscapes. Brush, high grass, tall crops typified by sorghum and corn 
(maize), orchards, and widely spaced plantation trees do little to limit aerial or spaceborne 
sensors and weapon systems. Such vegetation hinders vehicular movement very little, but it 
slows foot soldiers, reduces their visibility, and restricts fields of fire for land-based line-of- 
sight weapons. Wire-guided missiles that require clear ground between gunners and targets 
are useless in thickets and other entanglements. Dense herbage deflects thermal radiation 
caused by nuclear blasts, yet amplifies the persistence of chemical warfare agents. Immense 
steppes sparingly carpeted with short grass and deserts devoid of vegetation afford little cover 
or concealment for armed forces or military installations, but favor long-range observation 
and clear fields of fire. Air superiority and technological prowess count a lot under those 
conditions, as Iraq's President Saddam Hussein discovered during Operation Desert Storm 
(1991), which took place on the geographic equivalent of a sand-colored pool table. His 
army, which was tactically and technologically deficient, lacked an air umbrella. Allied 
forces, aided by satellite intelligence, thus were able to bombard and maneuver at will while 
Iraqi formations risked destruction whether they moved or stayed still. One U.S. Marine 
Corps pilot quipped, "It was like being in the Super Bowl, but the other team didn't show 
up." 27 


Military men have long sought to modify vegetative cover whenever it interferes with 
observation, fire lanes, cross-country trafficability, or affords adversaries convenient ambush 
sites. Roman legionaires in hostile territory often stripped brush and trees 'a bow-shot 
distance on both sides of dangerous roads. Clearing processes eliminate offensive verdure, 
while grubbing removes roots and stumps. Techniques employed depend on the type and 
thickness of vegetation, the acreage involved, perceived urgency, troops on hand, and 
available implements that range from heavy engineer equipment to hand tools. 

Land Clearing. Bulldozers, which are used for most large-scale land clearing operations, 
can upend small trees and stumps up to 6 inches in diameter (15 centimeters), tree dozers 
(commonly called "Rome plows") shear off somewhat larger trunks at ground level, leaving 
chain saws to fell timber of almost unlimited diameters and cut forest giants into manageable 
segments. Tractor-mounted units pull stumps; rippers reduce root systems; and graders 
windrow debris for disposal. Carefully controlled brush fires sometimes assist. Explosives 
occasionally may prove indispensable, but it takes additional time and energy to fill resultant 
craters. 28 

U.S. Army engineers in Vietnam used 30 bulldozers and Rome plows per team to remove 
dense vegetation around base camp perimeters, enemy infiltration routes, and potential 
ambush sites. Each team could create a helicopter landing zone in a matter of minutes or 
clear 1 50 to 250 forested acres a day on reasonably level terrain, although rough ground and 
thick secondary growth reduced output by half. Amphibious tree crushers, which weighed 


in at 97 tons, could churn through bogs and hack out wide swaths on dry land at a steady 3 
miles (4 kilometers) an hour, but welders and radiator repairmen had to work round-the- 
clock on all vehicles to patch up punctured cooling systems and replace hydraulic lines that 
heavy brush ripped off. 29 

Defoliation. The U.S. Air Force, with permission from the Republic of Vietnam, began 
to spray chemical defoliants over the Cau Mau Peninsula in the Mekong Delta during 1 962. 
That practice spread to the Rung Sat Special Zone, a mangrove swamp along shipping 
channels into Saigon, then countrywide, including the southern half of the demilitarized 
zone. Herbicides thus deposited produced desired results, but accompanying ecological and 
health problems sparked controversies that remained unresolved decades after the last load 
was released. 30 


High ground, level land, valleys, and depressions each influence armies and air forces 
in unique ways. 

The proficiency with which ground forces can negotiate steep terrain depends on 
professional skills, types of transportation, and loads. 

Rugged topography drastically reduces observation, the value of flat-trajectory weapons, 
and line-of-sight communication systems performance. 

Ground forces find dominant terrain advantageous despite the proliferation of high- 
technology sensors and weapon systems. 

Combat assaults across broad streams in hostile territory demand suitable sites, plus 
special tactics, techniques, equipment, and training. 

Surface materials strongly influence the lethality of nuclear as well as conventional 
explosives, cross-country movement by motor vehicles, and military construction 

Dense vegetation benefits defensive operations, whereas sparsely covered, level terrain 
favors offensive maneuvers. 

Armed forces in the field must be able to tap, purify, store, and distribute water supplies 
in adequate quantities for assorted purposes even in arid climes. 


1 . Norman A. E. Hinds, Ceomorphology: The Evolution of the Landscape (New York: Prentice- 
Hall, 1 943); Arthur N. Strahler, Physical Geography, 2 d ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1 963), 
part 4, Land Forms. 

2. R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3,500 
B.C. to the Present, 4 th ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1 993), a monumental work of 1 ,654 pages. 

3. Ibid., 1203; Earl F. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East, Army 
Historical Series (Washington, DC: U.S. Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1 968), chapter 
VII, "Operation Zitadelle." 

4. Henry L. Shaw, Jr., et at., Central Pacific Drive, History of Marine Corps Operations in World 
War II, vol. 3 (Washington, DC: Historical Branch, U.S. Marine Corps, 1966) (see page 680 for 
pertinent pages); George W. Garand and Thurman R. Strobridge, vol. 4, Western Pacific 
Opera tions, 1971 (see page 843 for pertinent pages); Roy E. Appleman et al., Okinawa: The Last 


Battle, United States Army in World War II (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 
1 984) (see page 51 5 for pertinent pages). 

5. Earl F. Ziemke, "Yugoslavia 1941-1944," in Challenge and Response in International 
Conflict, eds. Doris M. Condit and Bert H. Cooper, Jr., et al., vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Center for 
Research in Social Systems, American University, March 1967), 321-351; Antiguerrilla Operations 
in the Balkans (1941-1944), DA Pamphlet 20-243 (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, August 

6. Dan Kurtzman, Blood and Water: Sabotaging Hitler's Bomb (New York: Henry Holt, 1 997). 

7. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1 854, Stanza 3. For elaboration, 
read Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Reason Why (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1 954), especially 1 97-249. 

8. Carl von Clausewitz addressed the military significance of river lines early in the 19 th 
century. See On War, eds. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton 
University Press, 1976), 433-446, 532-534. 

9. Leon Bertin, Larousse Encyclopedia of the Earth, 2 cl ed. (New York: Prometheus Press, 1 965), 
68-91; Arthur N. Strahler, Physical Geography, chapter 23. 

1 0. Edward G. Miller, A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hurtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams 
(Texas Station, TX: Texas A&M Press, 1995); Martin Blumenson, "The Rangers at Hwachon Dam," 
Army, no. 3 (December 1967): 36-53. See also, "Look for Safer Crossing Places," Army Digest 25 
(March 1970): 1. 

11. For overviews, refer to Field Manual 90-1 3/Fleet Marine Force Manual 7-26: River Crossing 
Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army and Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, September 
30, 1992), especially chapters 2 and 7; FM 5-36: Route Reconnaissance and Classification 
(Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, March 1988), 2-36 through 2-47; Charles Huie, "Soviet Army 
Bids for River Crossing Mobility/' Army 1 8 (December 1 968): 41 -44 

12. DA Pamphlet 20-290: Terrain Factors in the Russian Campaign (Washington, DC: Dept. of 
the Army, July 1951, 16-27. 

13. FM 30-1 0: Terrain Analysis (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, March 27, 1 972, 1 27-1 30 
(superseded by FM 5-33, same title, July 1 990, but contains more detailed information about water 

1 4. Arthur P. Clark et al., ed., ARAMCO and Its World: Arabia and the Middle-fast, rev. ed. 
(Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabian Oil Co. ,1995), 166; Abdulaziz Al-Sweel, ed., Saudi Arabia: 
A Kingdom in Transition (Washington, DC: Saudi Arabian Cultural Ministry to the United States, 

15. Mark Sullivan, specialist in Latin American Affairs, interview by author, Congressional 
Research Service, March 21, 1996, Washington, DC; correspondence from Plans Division, U.S. 
Marine Corps, March 29, 1 996. 

1 6. FM 5-484: Navy Facilities Engineering Command Pamphlet P-1065, and Air Force Manual 
32-1 072: Multiservice Procedures for Well-Drilling Operations (Washington, DC: Depts. of the Army, 
Navy, and Air Force, March 8, 1 994). 

1 7. Conversations with Army chemical warfare specialists in February 1 996. 

1 8. FM 30-1 0: Terrain Analysis, 82-83, 1 45; FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis (Washington, DC: Dept. 
of the Army, July 1 990), 1 -4 and 1 -5. 

1 9. Technical Manual 5-545: Geology (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, July 1 971 ), chapter 
2; Chester R. Longwell, Adolph Knopf, and Richard F. Flint, Outlines of Physical Geology, 2 d ed. 
(New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1 946), 24-42. 

20. Daniel O. Graham, Jr., "Soils and Slopes," Armor (September-October 1 977): 41-44; FM 
30-1 0: Terrain Analysis, 80-82,1 42-1 47. 

21 . John Bagot Glubb, The Story of the Arab Legion (London, Hoddler and Stoughton, 1 952), 


22. Samuel Glasstone, ed., The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, DA Pamphlet 39-3 (Washington, 
DC: Government Printing Office, February 1964), 267-27, 289-296, 300-301; FM 30-10: Terrain 
Analysis, 82-83. 

23. Working papers, Combat Intelligence Center Vietnam (CICV), 1 968; James A. Wilson, Jr., 
"The Fourth Dimension of Terrain," Military Review 26, no. 6 (September 1946): 52-53; Glenn R. 
Locke, "Dust," U.S. Army Aviation Digest (August 1970): 34-35. 

24. Laterite and Its Engineering Properties: A Geology/Soils Survey, Combat Intelligence Center 
Vietnam, March 1 0, 1 967, 1,3, 5,7. 

25. Peter Farb, The Forest, rev. ed. (New York: Time-Life Books, 1969), 57-80, and A. Starker 
Leopold, In the Desert of the Earth (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Janonovich, 1961), 9-15, 53-67. 

26. J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, vol. 1 (New York: Funk and Wagnals, 
1955), chapters. 

27. Williamson Murray, Gulf War Air Power Survey, vol. 2, Operations and Effects and 
Effectiveness (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1993); Frank N. Schubert and Theresa 
L. Kraus, eds., The Whirlwind War (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1995). 
The quotation is from "Stray Voltage," Armed Forces Journal (March 1 991): 58. 

28. FM 5-430-00.1 /Air Force Joint Pamphlet 32-801 3, vol. 1 : Planning and Design of Roads, 
Airfields, and Heliports in the Theater of Operations Road Design (Washington, DC: Dept. of the 
Army and Dept. of the Air Force, August 26, 1 994), chapter 4. 

29. Robert R. Ploger, " 'Different' War Same Old Ingenuity," Army 1 8, no. 9 (September 1 968): 
71-72; Joseph M. Kiernan, "Combat Engineers in the Iron Triangle," Army 1 7, no. 6 (June 1 967): 42- 
45; Richard Duke, "Rooting Out Charlie," Army Digest (November 1 967): 56; "Tree Eater Tested in 
Vietnam," Army Digest (December 1 967): 1 4. 

30. Arthur F. McConnell, Jr., "Mission: Ranch Hand," Air University Review 21 , no. 2 (January- 
February 1970): 89-94; Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam, 
Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 
1 994); "Agent Orange Linked to Diabetes," Army Times, May 1 9, 1 997, 2. 




Our planet has the wrong name. Our ancestors named it Earth, after the land they found all 
around them. . . . If the ancients had known what the earth is really like they undoubtedly 
would have named it Ocean after the tremendous areas of water that cover 70.8 percent of 
its surface. 

Leonard Engel 
The Sea 


education and experience in the First World War [was] based on roads, rivers, and railroads. 
During the past two years, however, I have been acquiring an education based on oceans 
and I've had to learn all over again/' 1 That made him a member of a very large club whose 
membership has not diminished. 

Oceanography emerged as a distinctive field of military study in 1 855, when U.S. Navy 
Lieutenant Matthew F. Maury published the first treatise on that subject, The Physical 
Geography of the Sea. 2 Findings since then have affected every naval activity from ship 
design to employment practices above, below, and on open waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, 
Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic Oceans, as well as along their littorals. 


Water is one of the few substances on Earth that exists in solid, vaporous, and fluid forms, 
although most remains liquid. Four basic attributes of sea water are militarily important: 
salinity, density, stratification from surface to sea bottom, and permeability to light and sound 
All four are interconnected. 3 


Sea water, best described as brine, is not uniformly salty. The proportion of sodium chloride 
and other chemicals in solution determines salinity which, as a rule, is highest in the Horse 
Latitudes, which straddle 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south where dry winds encourage 
evaporation; less in the Doldrums astride Earth's Equator, where rainfall is abundant; and 
least near both poles, where melting glaciers and pack ice provide a stream of fresh water. 
Large river systems like the Amazon, Congo, and Mississippi also dilute the salt contents far 
offshore. Air temperatures and terrestrial streams condition the salinity of relatively small 

inland seas that directly or indirectly connect with oceans, as exemplified by the cool Baltic 
Sea (especially the Gulf of Bothnia near Finland), which is abnormally fresh, while the Red 
Sea in a torrid zone is exceptionally salty. Few major rivers feed the brackish Mediterranean, 
whereas the Danube, Dneister, Dneiper, and Don empty into the Black Sea. 


High salinity increases the density (weight and mass) of sea water. So do water temperatures 
down to the freezing point, which approximates 28.5 F (-2 C). Surface temperatures, which 
average about 80 F (26.7 C) near the Equator, generally decrease 0.5 F with every degree 
of latitude north or south, but many anomalies obtain. Thermometers dipped in the Persian 
Gulf, for example, commonly register as much as 85 F (29 C), somewhat warmer than open 
waters around Diego Garcia 2,000 miles to the south. Pressures, which also contribute to 
water density, increase about 2 pounds per square foot for every 100 feet (30 meters) of 
descent until the weight of waters above exerts an astonishing 1 5 tons per square inch in the 


A much simplified representation of sea water reveals three remarkably different horizontal 
laminations between the ocean surface and the floor. Layer One, a watery mix well stirred 
by wind and waves, covers the top few hundred feet in temperate climes up to 50 degrees 
north and 50 degrees south latitude, although a thinner cover of warm, light water prevails 
in the tropics. Temperatures and salinity plummet in Layer Two, a thermocline where 
densities increase correspondingly until they stabilize at a depth of 5,000 to 6,000 feet (2,000 
or so meters). The coldest, saltiest, and therefore the heaviest waters little influenced by 
seasonal change lie in Layer Three below, because the intervening thermocline acts as a 
barrier between top and bottom. A modified pattern exists near both poles, where cold water 
and low salinity dominate on the surface as well as the seabed and the absence of a 
permanent thermocline allows upwelling from ocean depths, as figure 7 indicates. 


Few electromagnetic emanations can penetrate sea water at great depths. Extremely low 
frequency (ELF) radios, the principal exception, take 1 5 minutes or more to transmit a three- 
letter message, which means that some other mode must be found to keep submarine crews 
abreast of football, baseball, and basketball scores. The limit of visible light is slightly more 
than 600 feet (200 meters) under ideal conditions, but plankton, organic debris, silt, and 
other suspended materials commonly reduce illumination to 50 feet (1 5 meters) or less along 
coastlines. Radar, infrared, and most radio signals rebound from the surface. 

Sounds, in sharp contrast, may transmit thousands of miles under water, but directions 
and intensities depend on available power, geographic locations, seasonal variations, and 
time of day. Inorganic particles, schools of fish, gas bubbles, ship traffic, and offshore drilling 
scatter or absorb signals. Sounds that travel swiftly along any given duct may bounce about 
when they try to cross boundaries between the three horizontal sea water layers or penetrate 
upwelling water columns and may bend or refract as much as 15 degrees toward more 
favorable channels. Shadow zones that exclude sounds and convergence zones where 
amplifications occur further complicate sound propagation. 4 


Figure 7. Sea Wafer Stratification 



Layer o| 


Layfer One 

Layer Two 
Main Thermocline 

Layer Three 
Cold and Dense 

Not to Scale 


The uppermost layer of sea water is eternally dynamic in response to Earth's rotation, the pull 
of sun and moon, winds, water densities, temperatures, seismic activities, and geomagnetic 
influences. Currents, tides, waves, swell, and sea ice are manifestations of intense interest 
to military mariners and civilian policymakers who plan, prepare for, conduct, or depend 
upon naval operations. 5 


Ocean currents, unlike waves and tides, transfer sea water long distances in endless 
redistribution cycles. Together with prevailing winds, they carried Christopher Columbus and 
his flagship the Santa Maria across the Atlantic from Europe to the New World in 1 492 and 
took Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki on a grand ride from Peru to the South Pacific 
archipelago of Tuamotu in 1947. Most naval operations have taken place in the Northern 
Hemisphere since Greece defeated a Persian fleet at Salamis during the Pelopponesian War 
in 480 B.C, fa but currents south of the Equator may become militarily important when least 

Temperature differentials set up primary circulation patterns with light, warm waters near 
the surface floating poleward in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, while cold, salty 
waters head toward the Equator through the abyss. The direction of movement, or "set," is 
the course currents steer, whereas current velocities constitute "drift." Prevailing winds, 
which push surface water before them, start to shape a circular pattern. Earth's rotation 
deflects currents clockwise north of the Equator and counterclockwise to the south, with three 
prominent exceptions: Equatorial currents set almost due west; an underlying countercurrent 



sets in the opposite direction; and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current takes an easterly course 
around the globe unobstructed by any large land masses (map 8). 

Relatively fast, narrow currents parallel the western rim of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian 
Oceans, whereas counterparts off east coasts are comparatively wide, shallow, and slow. The 
Gulf Stream, which is 50 miles wide (80 kilometers) and 1,500 feet deep (457 meters) near 
Miami, FL, drifts northward at 3 to 4 nautical miles an hour. The North Atlantic Drift, a 
prolongation of the Gulf Stream, spreads abnormally warm water north of the Arctic Circle 
past Spitzbergen and the ice-free Russian port of Murmansk until it touches Novaya Zemlya 
in much diluted form. Solid coastlines prevent any drift on such a scale in the North Pacific, 
but the cold Kamchatka Current, like the Labrador and Greenland Currents which also 
originate in polar regions, creates billowing fog banks on its way south when it collides with 
warm water headed north. 


Tides rock the oceans daily, about 12.5 hours apart, in response to gravitational tugs 
primarily by the moon. Spring tides about 20 percent greater than average arise twice a 
month when the sun reinforces lunar pull at the time of new and full moons and the Earth, 
moon, and sun are directly in line. Neap tides about 20 percent below average occur when 
the sun offsets the moon's pull at the time of lunar first and third quarters and the sun and 
moon are at right angles (figure 8 ). 

Elaborate tables forecast daily tides for principal ports, beaches, and many lesser locales. 
Calculations are complex, because high and low waters everywhere arrive about 50 minutes 
later each day, while high and low water readings persist longer than rise and fall. 
Successive tides for specific spots north and south of the Equator are unequal, although 
alternate levels are identical. That phenomenon, oddly enough, disappears twice a month 
when the moon passes over the Equator. Tides register 1 5 to 20 percent higher than normal 
once a month when lunar orbits bring the moon closest to Earth (at perigee) and about 20 
percent below normal once a month when the moon is farthest away (at apogee). Extreme 
heights occur when perigee and spring tides coincide. Tidal ranges also differ from place 
to place. The rise and fall of a foot or less is common along some straight line or sheltered 
coasts, but 50 feet (15 meters) have been recorded in New Brunswick's Bay of Fundy, a 
funnel-shaped basin that confines incoming slosh and rockets a 4-foot wall of water up 
narrow inlets at 1 to 1 5 miles an hour (1 6 to 24 kilometers per hour). 


Waves, unlike currents and tides, are whipped up entirely by winds. When winds abate, 
long, low, parallel waves called swell continue indefinitely, but transfer very little water from 
one place to another (figure 9 shows a bobbing cork that ascends each approaching wave, 
then slides down the reverse slope without moving far from its point of origin.) The vertical 
distance between the crest and trough determines wave height, the distance between 
successive peaks or depressions determines wave length, the speed at which each wave 
advances determines its velocity expressed in feet per second or nautical miles per hour, and 
the time it takes one crest to succeed another determines the wave period. Wave trains 
occasionally appear as parallel crests and troughs, but those driven by stiff breezes often 


Map 8. Ocean Currents 



Figure 8. Lunar and Solar Influences on Tides 

Sun, moon and Earth 
form a right angle. 
Neap tides result. 

Sun, moon and Earth 
are in line. 
Spring tides result. 

Adapted from Leonard Engel, The Sea. 

overtake, pass, or overwhelm each other to form a choppy sea checkered with foam (table 
4 connects wind velocities with sea states). Waves grow largest in deep water when lashed 
by strong steady winds over long distances a "fetch" of 500 to 1,000 miles (800 to 1,600 
kilometers) or more. Those generated in large bays never exceed a few feet no matter how 
hard the wind blows, whereas hurricanes and typhoons over open oceans develop 
superwaves that routinely top 50 feet (1 5 meters). A watch officer on the U.S. Navy tanker 
Ramapo en route from Manila to San Diego on February 7, 1 933, reportedly saw a great sea 
rising astern "at a level above the mainmast crow's nest/' and calculated its height at a record 
112 feet (34 meters). 7 

Ocean waves and swell begin to slow when they reach shallow water that is about half 
as deep as the distance between crests (figure 1 0). Bottom drag then reduces spacing between 
waves, which rapidly increase in height and steepness until crests roll forward as breakers 
that pound cliffs or wash sheets of brine over flat shores where some seeps in while the rest 
pours back. Longshore currents slip sideways when waves strike coasts at sharp angles. 


Icebergs can cripple or sink surface ships and submarines whose skippers are unwary, as 
passengers and crew of the Titanic discovered on a clear, calm night in April 1 91 2, when that 
"unsinkable" luxury liner took a one-way trip to Davy Jones' locker. Glacial tongues of 



Figure 9. Ocean Wave Motions and Measurements 




Direction of Wave Travel 

Adapted from Leonard Engel, The Sea. 

Figure 1 0. Conditions Conducive to Surf 



Plan view of wave crests 

Wave height increasing; 

, ,ii 

length decreasing. 

Continental Shelf 

Wave length 
in deep water 




Table 4. Beaufort Wind Scale Related to Sea States 













Light Airs 






Light Breeze 






Gentle Breeze 


Scattered Whitecaps 




Moderate Breeze 


Many Whitecaps 




Fresh Breeze 


Moderate Waves 




Strong Breeze 


Large Waves Develop 




Moderate Gale 


White Foam Begins 




Fresh Gale 


Foam Streaks 




Strong Gale 


Seas Roll 




Whole Gale 


Heavy Seas, Hanging 






Medium Ships Lost 
Behind Huge Waves 






Great Danger 



Greenland's gigantic ice cap are the source of most icebergs in the North Atlantic. Huge 
blocks with sharp peaks and jagged bellies break off in springtime, a process called "calving," 
then drift southward with ocean currents. Icebergs float, because ice is less dense than sea 
water, but about nine-tenths of their mass are concealed. Many tower 250 feet (76 meters) 
or more above the surface and spread a quarter of a mile (400 meters) or so below. Titanic's 
catastrophe occurred at 41 46' North Latitude, on a line with Madrid, Spain, although most 
icebergs in the Atlantic melt before they float that far south. Fewer bergs appear in the North 
Pacific, because "breeding" grounds are restricted, but those that break off the Antarctic ice 
shelf are immense, numerous, and drift farther toward the Equator than those from 
Greenland. Associated hazards, however, are less owing to lighter seagoing traffic. 

Pack ice, which perennially covers most of the Arctic Ocean, produces flat-topped, steep- 
sided, tabular floes of which all proceed independently before dominant winds with narrow 



strips of water known as 'leads" in between. Some such floes are sufficiently large and 
smooth enough to accommodate medium-range cargo aircraft equipped with skis while 
others, buckled together by vagrant winds, feature rough surfaces that impede foot travel. 
Truckers at Thule Air Base, Greenland regularly drive across North Star Bay from late autumn 
until late spring on sea ice, which freezes 5 to 10 feet thick (2 to 3 meters) and thaws 
annually on the fringe of the permanent ice pack. Most floes that separate from Antarctic ice 
shelves in summer are much larger than any counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere; many 
are miles wide and 2,000 feet (600 meters) or so thick, with spectacular cliffs that tower 200 
to 300 feet (60 to 90 meters) above the water. 


Marine topography above and below any ocean includes continental shelves, continental 
slopes, islands, and the abyss. Amphibious forces are essentially concerned with littorals, 
especially beaches, their seaward approaches, and straits, whereas "blue water" sailors factor 
in mountain ranges, troughs, and plains concealed under the seas. 8 


Beaches, which start at the shoreline and extend inland to the first marked change in 
topography, come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and descriptions. Those found along low-lying 
coasts generally are wide, long, and continuous, while others are interrupted by headlands, 
are confined to tiny strips by towering cliffs, or are displaced completely where mountains 
meet the sea. Vacationers prefer broad expanses of soft, white sand, but beaches are black 
on infamous Iwo jima and some places along the Kona coast of Hawaii. Narrow strands at 
Nice, France, and other ritzy resorts on the Cote d'Azur are strewn with pebbles, 
cobblestones, and boulders. Mud deposits are by no means unusual. 

Militarily useful beach studies address offshore conditions and exits inland, with particular 
attention to water depths, bottom gradients, obstructions, tides, currents, surf, and dominant 
terrain ashore (figure 1 1). Lengths must be adequate for amphibious forces of appropriate 
size, normally a battalion landing team, although tactical situations may demand larger or 
smaller formations. Task force commanders regularly subdivide very long beaches into 
segments code-named, for example, Red, White, and Blue, even Red 1, Red 2, Red 3 if 
necessary. Widths should afford ample room for essential command/control and logistical 
shore parties on dry ground above the high water mark. Beyond that, beaches ideally display 
the following characteristics: 

Water offshore is deep enough for transport ships to operate as near the beach as 
tactical situations prudently allow. 

Final approaches are free of sandbars, banks, shoals, reefs, offshore islands, rocky 
outcroppings, and other obstacles.. 

Channel configurations discourage mining. 

Beach gradients allow amphibious landing ships and craft to discharge troops and 
loads on dry ground near the high water mark. 

The sea bottom and beach both are firm enough to support wheeled and tracked 
vehicles where dry landings are infeasible. 


Adequate landing zones are available ashore for helicopters. 

Defenders lack dominating terrain that overlooks landing beaches. 

Multiple exits of ample capacity lead from the beach to initial military objectives 

Figure 1 1 . A Typical Beach Profile 

Sea Apprc 
Offshore -* 

9 Coastal 


each width a 


. J'lilT- 

ctreme limit 
storm wave 

an low water, 
The word 
lie datums. 




High-water ! 

Zone of 
wave wash 
water level 

Beach width at high water 
(minimum), (normally dry) 

Berm Crest 
/ yBerm 

/^ ^*ri 


Limit of normal wave action of 
(high water) 

ach gradient 
H.W. zone (influenced 
ally by wave action) 

jsually based on mean values, such as me 
3an sea level, mean low water springs, etc. 
s a general reference to various hydrograp 


^tpw w^fef^itum) 1 eve 1 ~ ~ : B. rS '(Low ti <$& 

p^ ^ 

Z : :-:-::-<:'.-$:+ 

. . : ; ' ;; '; 


^$^^ " Low-water to in 
;^tm>m**is*r \ high-water gr 
r : x^x>iii* "^ l " \ beach gradient 
>-*^ Average nearshore 
\ bottom slope 
Vprx. 30 ft. or 10m depth SHSSS 
datum used in this figure 

Seaward approaches generally are gentle wherever shores are sandy and flat, whereas 
rocky coastlines tend to drop off more sharply. Beaches backed by high ground almost 
always abut deep water, but those at the base of cliffs habitually are littered with boulders 
visible only at low tide, if at all. Trucks fight for traction in dry, shifting sands on level shores; 
pebble and cobblestone beaches bear heavy loads, but roll so freely that tanks and other 
tracked vehicles slide; mud beaches often seem bottomless. Damp sand, in contrast, provides 
the best surface for amphibious operations. Dunes formed from fine to medium-sized wind- 
blown sand rarely rise more than 20 to 1 00 feet (5 to 30 meters) above high water, although 
some measure three times that high. Those that are even partly covered with vegetation are 
relatively firm and therefore traffickable. So are low ridges that storms create when they wash 
debris and driftwood ashore. Broad coastal plains behind beaches afford ample maneuver 
room and alternative avenues inland, provided the footing is solid, but boundaries that troops 
on the ground can easily find are hard to draw. Featureless terrain also affords few prominent 
registration points for artillery or naval gunfire, and flanks remain open. Rough topography 
alleviates some of those problems, but may restrict access to the hinterland. 9 

On-the-spot reconnaissance, which calls for clandestine infiltration and exfiltration 
capabilities along with a lengthy list of specialized skills, 10 is performed whenever possible 
to ascertain precise characteristics of beaches, approaches, and exits before amphibious 
commanders approve landing plans. Superbly trained Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) teams equipped 



with state-of-the-art technologies most often implement such missions for the U.S. 
Department of Defense. Enemy armed forces are not their only adversaries dense sea weed, 
sharks, barracudas, venomous sea snakes, and various fish with poisonous spines await the 
unwary under water. 11 


Control over key straits and other natural or manmade narrows has been a basic military 
objective since naval warfare came into vogue well over two millennia ago, because 
unfriendly armed forces on one or both sides of any naval choke point may try to deny free 
passage to opponents. 12 Several such bottlenecks have made bold headlines in the 20th 
century (map 9). The Panama and Suez Canals, Gibraltar, the Red Sea's southern gate at 
Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China, and the Strait of 
Hormuz astride sea lines of communication (SLOCs) to and from Persian Gulf oil producers 
are among those that have been (or still are) bones of contention. 

The British Commonwealth expended 250,000 men in unsuccessful attempts to wrest the 
Dardanelles from the Ottoman Empire during World War I; Turkish casualties were 
comparable. 13 Chechen separatists seized a ferry in the Black Sea eighty years later and 
threatened to blow it up in the Bosporus if Russian President Boris Yeltsin refused to lift a 
siege in their homeland. 14 Inspiration for that audacious act may have come from former 
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ordered subordinates to load ships with 
cement, then sink them in the Suez Canal during the 1 967 Arab-Israeli war. Results from his 
standpoint were rewarding: the main channel remained closed until 1975. 15 

Choke points identified on map 9 helped shape U.S. and Soviet military strategy 
throughout the Cold War. Hunts for lone Red Octobers' 6 were commonplace until the Soviet 
Union armed its strategic nuclear submarines with long-range ballistic missiles that could 
attack targets from sanctuaries close to Russian coasts. Those in the Northern Fleet took cover 
in the Barents Sea beyond the Greenland-Iceland-Norway (C-I-N) Gaps. Counterparts with 
the Soviet Pacific Fleet hid in the Okhotsk bastion. Advantages, however, were by no means 
one sided. Soviet attack submarines and surface ships could not reach the Atlantic Ocean en 
masse without a fight, because NATO navies and shore-based aircraft blocked the G-I-N 
Gaps. Soviet Baltic and Black Sea Fleets were respectively bottled up by the Danish and 
Turkish Straits, which remained in NATO's hands. Occupants of the Kremlin consistently 
sought (but never were able) to neutralize Japan, use adjacent straits to reach open water, and 
close them to the U.S. Navy, which would have frustrated emergency efforts to reinforce and 
resupply U.N. forces in the Republic of Korea. 17 


Continental shelves lie between low tide and depths of 500 to 600 feet (85 to 1 00 fathoms). 
They include shallow embayments and inland seas such as the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay, 
the Yellow Sea, Black Sea, and the Baltic. Regions rich in food fish, oil, and mineral deposits 
stimulate intense economic competition, often with military overtones, because some 
countries press extravagant territorial claims up to 200 miles (325 kilometers) that 
international conventions have not yet negated. 


Map 9. Crucial Naval Choke Points During the Cold War 



Shelf widths range from 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) under arctic ice north of Siberia to 
narrow (even nonexistent) strips where rough terrain crowds the coast or swift currents keep 
sheves from forming. Most shelves are undulating plains, but low spots and protuberances 
are common. The Aleutian Islands festoon across the North Pacific for 1,000 miles (1,600 
kilometers), while the Indonesian Archipelago stretches more than twice that far. Fringing 
reefs, which are coral formations attached to shore, often form in tropical climes. Like barrier 
reefs farther out on the shelf, they are partly submerged, parallel to the coast, and frequently 
block easy access from high seas to the beach, even for flat-bottomed boats. Continental 
slopes 10 to 20 miles wide (1 6-32 kilometers) begin where shelves leave off, then plunge at 
sharp angles until they reach the bottom which is miles below sea level in some locales. The 
most spectacular dropoff on Earth is located along the coast of Chile, where more than 8 
vertical miles (1 3 kilometers) separate the Andean peak of Cerro Aconcaqua from the deepest 
spot in the Peru-Chile Trench fewer than 250 horizontal miles (400 kilometers) away. 
Undersea avalanches of stone and soupy silt occasionally race at express train speed down 
submerged gorges and canyons that characteristically cut into continental slopes. 18 


Cold, dark abyssal plains covered with a thick carpet of sediments under tremendous pressure 
lie 1 5,000 to 20,000 feet (4,570-6,095 meters) below sea level. Not all of the ocean floor, 
however, is level. Challenger Deep, south of Guam, the most awesome of many trenches, 
could swallow Mount Everest without a trace. The world's longest mountain chain, known 
as the Mid-Ocean Ridge, winds through the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans for 40,000 
miles (64,375 kilometers) at elevations that average 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,525-18,285 
meters). Those eminances break the surface only in Iceland, but volcanic seamounts project 
above water in Hawaii, the Azores, and 10,000 other places large and small. Low-lying 
atolls that feature coral reefs around quiet lagoons are widely distributed in warm Pacific 
waters. Breaks in such reefs afford the only convenient avenues of arrival and departure 
when flats are exposed at low tide. 


The oceans, their contents, underwater topography, and shorelines shape naval plans, 
programs, and operations on, above, and below the surface along the littoral as well as on 
high seas. This synopsis singles out three ramifications: ship designs; amphibious landings; 
submarine and antisubmarine warfare. 


Flotation, buoyancy, stability, and speed were essential properties of every man-of-war in 
olden times and will remain so eternally. Seaworthiness in the presence of ocean waves, 
swell, and buffeting winds was relatively easy to attain when wooden warships were 
fashionable, but design problems have multiplied and magnified manyfold since the first two 
steam-driven ironclads, the Federal ship USS Monitor and the Confederate ship CSS Virginia 
(originally christened the Merrimac) did battle inconclusively on March 9, 1862, in 
Chesapeake Bay. 19 

K^-^ttm : am : m : ttffi^ 


Hull dimensions, shapes, volumes, weights, and centers of gravity must be in proper 
proportion; performance suffers if even one of those factors is out of kilter. Surface ships float 
only if the submerged hull displaces a weight of water equal to the vessel's total weight, 
including crew, weapons, munitions, water, fuel, and other stores. Plimsoll lines drawn on 
cargo ships at the maximum allowable draft indicate whether they are safely loaded in tepid 
sea water of average salinity. Subsidiary marks account for difference in water densities, 
because ships ride higher or lower regardless of load when water temperatures and salt 
contents change (figure 1 2). 

Figure 12. Plimsoll Line Markings 

Deck Line 




TF - Tropical fresh water 

F - Fresh water 

T - Tropical sea water 

S - Summer, sea water 
W - Winter, sea water 

WNA - Winter, North Atlantic, for 

vessels under 330 ft. in length 

LR - These letters indicate the 

registration society, in this case 
Lloyd's Register 

Ships underway tip up, down, and sideways around the center of flotation, which seldom 
coincides with centers of gravity or buoyancy. Stable hull shapes thus are the Holy Grail of 
every naval architect, because waves and winds not only make warships surge, sway, heave, 
roll, pitch, and yaw in heavy seas (figure 13), but introduce great structural stress. Ice that 
forms on upper decks during freezing weather also degrades stability to such an extent that 
poorly designed ships respond sluggishly, founder, or sink. 

Surface ships must be sturdy enough to withstand slamming when flat-plated bows meet 
huge waves at acute angles. Forward momentum stops momentarily, the ship shudders, and 
vibrations from stem to stern adversely affect weapons systems. So do extreme rolling and 
pitching. Walls of water can damage deck-mounted equipment, wave crests that scatter 
electronic signals sometimes cause spurious echoes to appear on radar screens, fixed-wing 
and helicopter operations become impossible, and underway replenishment must be deferred 
regardless of need. Instability induced by winds and waves moreover may encourage motion 
sickness among the hardiest crew members and passengers when really foul weather strikes- 
Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, a legendary U.S. Marine, turned green in 1 950 when the 
tail end of a typhoon rocked the ship upon which he was embarked. Mental acuity and 
manual dexterity suffer so greatly at such times that simple tasks become difficult. Designers 
consequently locate operations and control centers as well as quarters amidships, where 
turbulence is least pronounced. 



Figure 1 3. Effects of Wave Action on Ship Stability 


Heave or Sag 





Along x 
Along y 
Along z 


To Port 

About x 


Port Side Down 


About y 
About z 


Bow Up 
Bow to Port 

Adapted from P. G. Gates and N. M. Lynn, Ships, Submarines, and the Sea (New York: Brassey's 
(UK), 1990), 67 

Submarines constitute a separate case, for they must sink or remain neutrally buoyant at 
required levels beneath the sea. Excessive buoyancy in fact would prevent rapid submersion 
in emergency. Crewmen pump water into ballast tanks to dive, pump part of it out to slow 
or terminate descent, and restore compressed air when they want to rise. Tanks fore and aft 
maintain submarines on an even keel, which is particularly important when they employ 
weapon systems or loiter at periscope depth where waters often are turbulent. Compromise 
designs are required to ensure effective performance, because streamlined shapes that are 
well suited under water are less efficient on the surface. 

The corrosive effects of sea water and salt air on surface ships and submarines are 
pervasive and pernicious, the curse of every "swabbie" who spent most of his or her first 
cruise chipping paint. Superstructures and immersed hulls are under ceaseless attack. 
Unsightliness is the least serious problem, because metals eventually lose strength, electrical 
shorts occur, bolts seize up, and accretions on launch tracks cause missiles to malfunction 
if untended for long. Not even stainless steel is immune, so the search for antidotes and rust- 
resistant materials continues. 

Sea weeds that foul screws and barnacles that encrust keels along with immersed 
instruments (such as surveillance devices) can be just as destructive as rust. Antifouling 
paints that slowly leach copper, tin, or mercury into sea water are somewhat protective, but 



their poisonous emissions are envionmentally inadvisable and hazardous to handlers. 
Frequent repainting with less objectionable substances must suffice until acceptable 
substitutes such as co-polymers become widely available. 


Amphibious warriors who wait for picture perfect beaches and approaches are apt to miss 
golden opportunities, while those who take calculated risks after making sound terrain 
analyses sometimes reap rich rewards. Island hoppers in the Pacific during World War II, for 
example, took fewer than 3 years to leapfrog from Guadalcanal (August 1 942) to Okinawa 
(March 1 945), even though Japanese resistance was tenacious and precious few landings took 
place under ideal conditions. 20 

Two Contrasting Outcomes. British commandos armed with accurate descriptions of the 
German Navy stronghold at St. Nazaire, France conducted an amphibious raid in March 
1942 and, against all odds, destroyed the only dry dock large enough to accommodate 
Hitler's superbattleship Tirpitz. The cost was high (five participants won Victoria Crosses for 
their valor), but ends and means were well matched. The Tirpitz, denied a home port, 
headed for Norway where British mini-submarines damaged it badly in 1943 before the 
Royal Air Force sank it in 1 944 with a bevy of 6,000-pound bombs. 21 The bloodletting at 
Tarawa in November 1 943 was less well planned and U.S. troops were less well equipped. 
More than 3,000 Marines were killed or wounded, partly because terrain intelligence was 
deficient. Armored amphibious tractors, the only available vehicles or landing craft able to 
cross that atoll's coral reef, were sufficient only for the first three waves, so follow-on forces 
had to wade 400-500 yards (350-450 meters) under withering fire before they reached dry 
land. The assault succeeded after 3 vicious days, but the value of that victory still provokes 
disputes. 22 

The Inchon Landings. Landings at Inchon, Korea, in September 1950 (map 10), 
conceived by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and conducted mainly by U.S. 
Marines, capitalized on surprise to achieve success with few casualties on either side even 
though, as one staff officer later revealed, "We drew up a list of every natural and geographic 
handicap and Inchon had 'em all": 23 

The tidal range is tremendous. 

Low water exposes extensive mud flats. 

Only one narrow channel led to the landing areas. 

A fortified island blocked the final approach. 

No beaches were worthy of the name. 

A high sea wall separated all landing sites from the city. 

The mission was to outflank North Korean invaders and relieve pressures on forces in 
the Pusan Perimeter, which was in danger of collapse. General MacArthur and his assistants 
seriously considered three alternatives in August 1950. Wonson, well north of the 38 th 
Parallel on the east coast, seemed a bit ambitious. Kunsan, well to the south on the west 
coast, seemed overly conservative. MacArthur elected Inchon despite objections by the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff (JCS), 24 primarily because his main political aim was to free Seoul by the end 
of September. 

MKMK..V. v .>::- :.:.:.:.:.V.:.M.X.^.:.:J.:.X.-.-.:: ;,;.:-::;.>:;:.;;:-: -.-.;.--,... : . v. : . .- . x .v.9h!.w.;.v.w.;hw^ 


Map 1 0. Beaches and Approaches at Inchon 

Mud Flats 

Sept. 15, 1950 


0730 Mrs. , , 

Sept. 15, 1950 y Industrial 

Areas within dashed lines were 
the built-up districts of Inchon 

1930 Mrs. 
Sept. 15, 1950 



Mud Flats 



Geographic obstacles indeed were daunting. Outdated U.S. and Japanese tide tables 
differed significantly, but generally agreed that water would be deep enough to float landing 
ships, tank (LSTs), with a draft of 29 feet (9 meters) only on September 1 5 th , soon after sunrise 
and again at dusk, for periods that approximated 3 hours apiece. Schedules consequently 
called for the assault elements of two Marine regiments to debark 1 2 hours apart, with no 
possibility of reinforcement for first waves in the interim. Ships unable to unload troops, 
equipment, and supplies in that short time would be immobilized by wide, gooey mud flats 
that looked like solidifying chocolate but smelled like fecal matter. 

LSTs and assault transports had to feel their way through tricky channels in dim light, a 
doubly difficult task because none at that time mounted technologically advanced 
navigational gear. Currents ran 6 to 8 knots (almost 1 miles per hour) when tides flowed 
in and out, close to the speed of available landing craft, which struggled upstream. Naval 
gunfire support ships had to anchor in the channel or be swept away, which made them 
sitting ducks for enemy artillery batteries ashore. Final approaches were so narrow there was 
little room to maneuver or turn around, passages were easy to mine, and one disabled ship 
would have blocked passage to or from final destinations. Fortunately for the amphibious task 
force, hostile artillery fire was desultory, no mines were found, and no ships were disabled. 

Wolmi Do, a small fortified island connected to the mainland by a mile-long causeway, 
had to be taken on the morning tide before any ships could enter, because it dominated the 
harbor and waterfront in every direction. Inchon's beaches, code named Red, Green, and 
Blue from north to south, were small, separated from each other, bounded on the seaward 
side by mud flats at low tide, and backed by some combination of salt pans, piers, industrial 
congestion, and sea walls that had to be scaled with ladders. Two typhoons on a collision 
course with ports of embarkation in Japan as well as objective areas made matters worse. 

Shrewd scheduling nevertheless enabled the invasion fleet to avoid the full brunt of both 
typhoons and catch North Korean foes flat-footed: late on D-Day General MacArthur told the 
JCS, "Our losses are light [21 killed, 174 wounded]/' and U.N. Command Cpmmunique 
Number 9 announced that Seoul was recaptured on September 26, 1 950, slightly ahead of 
schedule. 25 Inchon, despite geographic adversities, in short became the "jackpot spot," as 
Vice Admiral Arthur D. Struble, the Task Force Commander, predicted and remains a classic 
case study of strategic as well as tactical surprise at the U.S. Marine Corps' Amphibious 
Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia. 


The first recorded use of submarines as a weapon system occurred during the American 
Revolution when the Turtle, a one-man model with a hand-operated screw propeller, 
unsuccessfully sought to sink HMS Eagle, a British man-of-war, in New York harbor. The six- 
man Hunley flying a Confederate flag and armed with one torpedo attached to the bow, 
rammed and sank the Housatonic, a Federal corvette that was blockading Charleston, South 
Carolina, in 1864. German U-boats equipped with diesel engines, storage batteries, and self- 
propelled torpedoes implemented a "sink on sight" campaign in 1 91 5 that eventually sent 
hundreds of Allied ships to the bottom, including the Cunard ocean liner Lusitania with 1,1 98 
men, women, and children aboard. Submarines and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) forces 
have played increasingly sophisticated games of hide-and-seek ever since in a unique 
geographic medium. 


Submarines. The ambition of every submarine skipper is to remain undetected on patrol 
and accomplish assigned missions unscathed. They can achieve those aspirations only if able 
to deceive enemy snoopers positioned to pick up the trail when they leave port, then 
disappear without a trace. Long-range missile submarines that maintain solitary vigils far 
from their targets are more difficult to find than those that must approach within torpedo 
range, but all submarines in motion emit energy signals, cause thermal disruptions, leave 
biological tracks of dying microorganisms in their turbulent wake, and disturb ultraviolet 
radiations in the sea. Nuclear-powered submarines ingest salt water to cool reactors, then 
discharge warm residue that rises to the surface where it leaves "thermal scars." Large 
submarines that maneuver at high speeds leave the most obvious "signatures." 26 

Immersion in the ocean inhibits the ability of the almost "silent service" to exchange 
information with and receive instructions from far distant headquarters. Transmission modes 
that trail antennae on the surface are dead giveaways if observers are nearby; one captain 
who cautiously raised his periscope discovered a flock of sea gulls riding behind him as he 
crisscrossed an enemy convoy. One alternative is to float expendable buoys that can send 
preprogrammed "burst" messages with a wide choice of frequencies before they self-destruct. 
All options, however, are susceptible to intercepts that are traceable back to the source. 
Submarines can receive Very Low Frequency (VLF) traffic on set schedules at ranges that 
exceed 1,000 miles (1,650 kilometers) or more, provided they interrupt activities in the deep 
and reposition near the surface. Repeat broadcasts that give captains more than one chance 
to make contact foster operational flexibility, but the narrow VLF band is congested, 
transmissions are no faster than telegraphy, reciprocal communications are impossible, and 
senders cannot verify whether addressees received their messages. 27 Extremely Low 
Frequency (ELF) radios, in contrast, can send strong signals to deeply submerged submarines 
almost anywhere around the world. The huge installations required, however, are costly and 
vulnerable, procedures are ponderous, and critics oppose any such project on political, 
social, and environmental grounds. 28 

Antisubmarine (ASW) Forces. ASW forces are by no means assured victory in their 
deadly game of hide and seek, despite the vast array of surveillance and weapon systems at 
their disposal. Not many optimists predict that science and technology will soon render 
oceans transparent, no matter how much money responsible officials devote to research and 
development (R&D). Acoustical sensors are most popular among many specialists who 
consider alternatives "unsound," but even those who pursue the full spectrum of possibilities 
encounter mind-boggling obstacles. Acoustical devices, which are particularly useful for 
long-range detection, must be submerged, remain stationary, or move slowly through the 
water lest hydrodynamic noises drown out incoming sounds that make it hard to differentiate 
legitimate indications from distractions. Ducted sounds travel great horizontal distances in 
salt water with little attenuation other than spreading and absorption, but bending and 
refraction distort signals if sensors are located in one layer and submarines in another where 
temperature, salinity, and pressure are quite different. 29 

Short-range acoustic and nonacoustic surveillance devices narrow the search after long- 
range lookouts locate enemy submarines within a radius of 50 square miles (130 square 
kilometers) or so. Many complementary systems commonly conduct the search while 
computers record every action and skilled analysts interpret results. Aircraft may drop dozens 
of sonobuoys to listen at various depths, perhaps along with submersible thermometers 


(bathographs) to test the temperature of local water layers and estimate the quarry's likely 
depth. Magnetic anomaly detectors search for distortions that submarines make in Earth's 
magnetic field. Other equipment tries to spot electrical aberrations, bioluminescence, 
leaking lubricants, radioactive trace elements, and so-called "Kelvin wakes" that reach the 
surface. 30 

All ASW systems now deployed or on drawing boards nevertheless have serious 
limitations. No current combination can overcome all geographic obstacles. Oceans, 
according to most well-informed opinion, thus seem likely to remain opaque pending major 
technological breakthroughs that few pundits predict at any early date. 


The characteristics of salt water influence every naval activity from ship design to 
employment practices above, on, and beneath the surface of oceans and contiguous seas. 

Radar, visible light, infrared, and short-wave radio signals rebound from ocean and sea 
surfaces, whereas sound transmits well in water. 

Currents, tides, waves, swell, and sea ice strongly influence naval plans, programs, and 

Beach characteristics and approaches, thereto are primary concerns of amphibious forces 
and of logisticians whenever they must accomplish assigned missions without access to port 

Straits and other choke points adjacent to important sea lines of communication often 
are the objectives of military plans and operations designed to close them or keep them 

Naval architects constantly struggle to overcome the pernicious effects of salt water, 
heavy seas, and ice under conditions that civilian ships seldom experience. 

Submarine and antisubmarine warfare transpire in a unique environment that demands 
intimate oceanographic knowledge in addition to that required of surface sailors. 


1 . Robert Debs Heinl, jr., Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations (Annapolis, MD: U.S. 
Naval Institute, 1966), 289. 

2. Matthew F. Maury, The Physical Geography of the Sea (New York: Harper and Brothers, 
1 855). For subsequent elaboration, see Benjamin Dutton and Elbert S. Maloney, Dutton's Navigation 
and Piloting, 14 th ed. (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1985); Rhodes W. Fairbridge, The 
Encyclopedia of Oceanography (New York: Reinhold, 1979). 

3. For sea water attributes, see Harold V. Thurman, Introductory Oceanography, 2 d ed. 
(Columbus, OH: Charles E Merrill, 1978), 25-46; Richard A. Davis, Jr., Principles of Oceanography 
(Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1972), 69-73,134-181; P. J. Gates and N. M. Lynn, Ships, 
Submarines, and the Sea (London: Brassey's, 1 990), 1 8-24, 85-89; William L. Donn, Meteorology 
With Marine Applications (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1 946), 384-386; Leonard Engel, The Sea (New 
York: Time-Life Books, 1969), 10-12, 79-80. 


4. P. J. Gates and N. M. Lynn, Ships, Submarines, and the Sea, 1 32-1 33; Donald C. Daniel, 
"Antisubmarine Warfare in the Nuclear Age," Orbis 28, no. 3 (Fall 1 984): 530-533. 

5. For sea surface behavior, see Davis, Jr., Principles of Oceanography, 74-133; Thurman, 
Introduction to Oceanography, 1 83-272; Donn, Meteorology With Marine Applications, 396-408; 
Gates and Lynn, Ships, Submarines, and the Sea, 85-106; Engel, The Sea, 77-78, 88-92. 

6. J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, vol. 1 (New York: Funk and Wagnals, 
1955), chapter 1. 

7. The quotation is from Engel, The Sea, 89. 

8. For marine topography, see Davis, Jr., Principles of Oceanography, 1 9-40, 289-377; Harold 
V. Thurman, Introductory Oceanography, 65-102, 139-156. 

9. FM 30-1 0: Terrain Analysis (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, March 27, 1 972, 73-80, 
1 26, 1 39, 1 41 (superseded by FM 5-33, same title, July 1 990, but the earlier edition contains more 
detailed information about beaches and approaches). 

1 0. Orr Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Water: The Untold Story of Navy SEALs (Novato, CA: Presidio 
Press, 1992); parts of several chapters address beach reconnaissance missions. 

11. Engel, The Sea, 34-35, 131-143. 

1 2. Selected straits are described in A/Con/I 3/1 6: Preparatory Paper for Conference on Law of 
the Sea (New York: United Nations, 1 957); Sovereignty of the Sea (Washington, DC: Dept. of State, 
1965). For one regional analysis, see John H. Noer with David Gregory, Chokepoints: Maritime 
Economic Concerns in Southeast Asia (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press in 
cooperation with the Center for Naval Analyses,1 996). 

13. Alan Moorehead, Callipoli (New York: Harper, 1 956). 

1 4. Kelly Couturier, "Pro-Chechen Gunmen Seize Ferry," Washington Post, January 1 7, 1 996, 
A1, A20. 

1 5. Suez Canal Salvage Operations in 1974 (Washington, DC: prepared for Dept. of the Navy 
by Booz, Allen and Hamilton and Sea Salvage, Inc., 1975). 

1 6. Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1 984). 
1 7. John M. Collins, The U.S.-Soviet Military Balance, 1980-1985 (Washington, DC: Pergamon- 

Brassey's, 1985), 145-151. 

18. Charles H. Sinex and Robert S. Winokur, "Environmental Factors Affecting Military 
Operations in the Littoral Battlespace," Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest 14, no. 2 (1993). 

1 9. The section on ship design relies mainly on P. J. Gates and N. M. Lynn, Ships, Submarines, 
and the Sea, 24-46, 65-84. 

20. Alfred Vagts, Landing Operations from Antiquity to 1945 (Harrisburg, PA: Military Service 
Publishing Co., 1946); Joseph H. Alexander and Merrill L. Bartlett, Sea Soldiers in the Cold War: 
Amphibious Warfare 1945-1991 (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1995); Theodore L. 
Garchel, At the Water's Edge: Defending Against Modern Amphibious Assault (Annapolis, MD: U.S. 
Naval Institute Press, 1996). 

21 . C. E. Lucas Phillips, The Greatest Raid of All (Boston: Little, Brown, 1 960); Leonce Peillard, 
Sink the Tirpitz! (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1 968). 

22. Joseph H. Alexander, Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa (Annapolis, MD: U.S. 
Naval Institute Press, 1995). 

23. Walt Sheldon, Hell or High Water (New York: Macmillan, 1968); Robert Debs Heinl, 
Victory at High Tide: The Inchon-Seoul Campaign (New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1 968), 18-121. 

24. J. Lawton Collins, War in Peacetime: The History and Lessons of Korea (Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin, 1969), 114-137. 

25. Ibid., 155, contains General MacArthur's quotation. See also T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind 
of War (New York: Macmillan, 1 963), chapter 1 5. 

26. Daniel, "Antisubmarine Warfare in the Nuclear Age," 528, 535-540. 

w - w ---' J ^" M w ' e s^^ 


27. W. T. T. Packingham, "The Command and Control of Submarine Operations/' Naval Forces 
6, no 2 (Spring 1985): 50-53; Robert J. Carlin, "Communicating with the Silent Service/' U.S. Naval 
Institute Proceedings 107, no. 12 (December 1981): 75-78. 

28. "ELF Communications System Isn't Needed, Might Not Work, GAO Says," /Aerospace Daily, 
March 22, 1979, 107 (cites GAO classified report, The Navy's Strategic Communications System, 
PSAD-79-48); Seafarer ELF Communications System Final Evaluation Impact Statement for Site 
Selection and Test Operation (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Navy, December 1977). 

29. Robert S. Winokur and Craig E. Dorman, "Antisubmarine Warfare and Naval 
Oceanography," Oceanus 33, no. 4 (Winter 1 990/91 ): 20-30; Oceanography and Underwater Sound 
for Naval Applications (Washington, Oceanographic Analysis Division, Marine Sciences Dept., U.S. 
Naval Oceanographic Office, October 1 965); Daniel, "Antisubmarine Warfare in the Nuclear Age," 
530-533; Jonathan B. Tucker, "Cold War in the Ocean Depths," High Technology (July 1 985): 29-35. 

30. Tom Stefanick, "The Nonacoustic Detection of Submarines," Scientific American 258, no. 
3 (March 1988): 41-47; Paul Seully-Power and Robert F. Stevenson, "Swallowing the Transparency 
Pill," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 1 1 3, no. 1 2 (December 1 987): 1 50-1 52; Thomas B. Allen and 
Norman Polmar, "The Silent Chase," New York Times Magazine, January 1, 1984, 13-17, 26-27; 
Daniel, "Antisubmarine Warfare in the Nuclear Age," 535-545. 



Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from 
the swift completion of their appointed rounds. 

Motto of the U.S. Postal Service, 
adapted from Herodotus 


operate therein must perform a much wider range of missions in foul weather than civil 
servants who deliver letters and packages. General George S. Patton, Jr., resorted to prayer 
during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, when God seemed to be giving all the 
breaks to his opponents. "Sir," he beseeched, "this is Patton talking. The last fourteen days 
have been straight hell. Rain, snow, more rain, more snow and I'm beginning to wonder 
what's going on in your headquarters. Whose side are You on, anyway? ... I am not going 
to ask for the impossible ... all I request is four days of clear weather ... so that my fighter- 
bombers can bomb and strafe, so that my reconnaissance may pick out targets for my 
magnificent artillery. Give me four days to dry out this blasted mud/' 1 Whether God granted 
his request is debatable, but good weather broke the following day, Allied air power tipped 
the balance favorably, the German drive stalled, and Allied ground forces resumed the 
offensive. 2 

Commanders, however, cannot consistently count on prayers to manipulate atmospheric 
phenomena. Long-range planners find climatological surveys more reliable, while military 
operators, who take shorter views, lean heavily on meteorological observations that must be 
timely, accurate, and tailored to specific circumstances. Results, for good or ill, influence 
military strategies, tactics, force development, task organizations, readiness, morale, and 


Half of Earth's atmosphere lies between sea level and 15,000 feet (4,500 meters). The next 
20,000 feet or so (6,000 meters) contains half of the remainder. Most militarily significant 
atmospheric phenomena develop within that envelope or along its periphery: barometric 
pressures, winds, air currents, temperatures, humidity, fog, clouds, precipitation, and storms. 3 



International authorities define "normal" atmospheric pressure as 14.7 pounds per square 
inch at mean sea level 45 degrees north and south of the Equator (29.2 inches or 1013.2 
millibars on standard barometers). Irregular heating of Earth's surface, however, causes 
significant deviations. Relatively high pressures permanently surround both poles, where the 
air always is cold and dense; relatively low pressures predominate in the tropics, where the 
air always is warm and light; and alternating pockets of high and low pressure that give 
forecasters fits travel from west to east in middle latitudes, where variable temperatures 
prevail. Exceptions to the rule are plentiful, but clear skies usually accompany high pressure 
domes, whereas depressions presage poor weather. Atmospheric pressures everywhere 
decrease with altitude, since the air becomes progressively thinner. Barometric pressures are 
one-thirtieth less at 900 feet (275 meters) than at sea level, one-thirtieth less at 1 ,800 feet than 
at 900 feet, and so on. 


Surface winds blow from high toward low pressure like water flows down hill, fastest where 
gradients are steep because great pressure changes occur over short distances, slowest where 
slopes are gradual because slight changes transpire over long distances. Winds as a rule are 
steadier and stronger over open water than over level land, where surface friction not only 
limits velocities but produces distinctive effects (see table 4 on page 54 and table 5 on page 
71 for comparative consequences at sea and ashore). Gusts that fluctuate 1 knots or more 
between minimum and maximum velocities create horizontal turbulence that changes 
direction erratically and becomes "bumpier" up to about 1,500 feet (450 meters), after which 
the influence of surface friction is noticeably less pronounced. 

Surface winds are individualistic. Light air, for example, flows up slopes on warm days, 
whereas cool air drains downhill after dark. Sea breezes blow toward locally low pressure 
systems that develop during daylight hours, then face about when night falls because land 
heats and cools faster than water (figure 14). Monsoonal winds that visit southern Asia 
reverse their fields seasonally rather than daily for similar reasons. Local winds that bear such 
exotic names as Bora, Buran, Chinook, El Nino, Fohn, Khamsin, Mistral, Santa Ana, Shamal, 
and Sirocco blow hot and cold, wet and dry, in various locales and various combinations. 
Hurricanes, typhoons, and winds that funnel through mountain passes or roar off Greenland's 
ice cap commonly atttain terrifying speeds. 

Winds aloft are notably different. Turbulence due to surface friction disappears, but see- 
saw effects from powerful up-down drafts perpendicular to the main airflow often make 
aircraft unmanageable. Intense shearing also can occur along boundaries between strong 
currents that sometimes race in opposite directions above and below one another. Two 
serpentine jet streams, one in the Northern Hemisphere and a twin in the south, alternately 
loop toward the Equator and the poles at altitudes that vary from 30,000 to 40,000 feet 
(9,000 to 1 2,000 meters). Military air crews headed from west to east in middle latitudes take 
advantage of tail winds therein that reach 160 knots during winter months (90-100 knots 
when weather is warm) and avoid bucking head winds on return trips. 


Table 5. Beaufort Scale Related to Surface Winds Ashore 

Beaufort Wind 
Number Type 



Situation Ashore 



Smoke rises vertically 

1 Light Airs 


Smoke shows wind direction 

2 Light Breeze 


Wind vanes move, wind felt on 
face, leaves rustle 

3 Gentle 


Leaves and twigs sway; light flags 

4 Moderate 


Dust and loose paper blow; 
small branches sway 

5 Fresh Breeze 


Small trees in leaf sway; wavelets 
on inland waters 

6 Strong Breeze 


Branches sway; umbrellas blow 

7 Moderate 


Whole trees sway; walking 
against wind takes effort 

8 Fresh Gale 


Twigs snap off trees; progress 
generally impeded 

9 Strong Gale 


Slight structural damage; roof 
slates removed 

10 Whole Gale 


Trees uprooted; considerable 

1 1 Storm 


Widespread damage 

12 Hurricane 




Air temperatures near Earth's surface usually are measured in degrees Fahrenheit ( (> F) or 
degrees Celsius (C), but upper atmosphere reports always cite Celsius. Military commanders 
and staffs express special interest in mean daily maximum and minimum temperatures as well 
as temperature extremes, which indicate the hottest and coldest weather that armed forces 
might encounter in any given month (table 6). The number of days below freezing is 
important in some operational areas, especially when coupled with wind chill factors 



(table 7], which indicate the combined effects of low temperatures and circulating air on 
exposed human flesh, taking "true" wind speeds into account. Personnel riding in open 
vehicles at 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour, for example, experience the equivalent of a 30 
mph (48 kph) buffeting if they buck 10 mph head winds. Back blasts by propeller-driven 
aircraft can give ground crews a bad case of ague long before thermometer readings dip 
below freezing, so alert commanders take appropriate precautions. Local inversions make 
cold, heavy air drain down steep slopes, but air temperatures as a rule decrease 3.5 F with 
every 1,000-foot (300-meter) increase in elevation above sea level. Readings drop at that rate 
up to 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) or so, where Fahrenheit thermometers generally register 
between -60 F and -65 F, then remain more or less constant up to an average altitude of 
120,000 feet (36,575 meters), beyond the limit of most military aircraft. 

Figure 1 4. Land and Sea Breeze Regimes 

Low Pressure 

Warms During 

High Pressure 
Sea Breeze 

Ocean Surface 

High Pressure 

*** * 

Low Pressure 

Cools After 

Adapted from William L. Donn, Meteorology with Marine Applications. 

Table 6. Militarily Important Temperature Statistics 
(A typical table in degrees Fahrenheit) 














Mean Daily Max 













Extreme Max 













Mean Daily Min 













Extreme Min 













Days Min 32 U F 
or Less 













Table?. Wind Chill Factors 

What the Thermometer Reads (degrees F) 













Equivalent Effects on Exposed Flesh 








- 2 > 
























- 2 > 













- 1 > 








































































Little danger of freezing 
exposed flesh 

Danger of freezing 
exposed flesh 

Great danger of freezing 
exposed flesh 


"It's not the heat, it's the humidity," is an age-old adage, but those two atmospheric elements 
in fact are inseparable. Absolute humidity, defined as the volume of water vapor in a cubic 
foot or cubic meter of air, varies from nearly nil in deserts to four or five percent in some 
soggy climes. Relative humidity is the percentage of vapor present compared with the 
maximum amount possible, which is greatest in warm air. Saturation (100 percent relative 
humidity) occurs when contents and capacities become equal. Condensation from gaseous 
to liquid or solid states follows further cooling. Water droplets (dew) or ice crystals (frost) 
then form in the air or on Earth's surface, often between dusk and dawn. 

Most humans find conditions acceptable when thermometers register 90 F (32 C), as 
long as relative humidity stands, say, at 20 percent, but that same temperature produces a 
sweat box when water vapor in the air reaches 60 percent or more, because neither 
precipitation nor perspiration evaporates rapidly in such environments and bodies cool 
slowly unless wafted by breeze. Damp cold also is debilitating. Bone-chilling winds and wet 
weather made life miserable for U.S. and Japanese Armed Forces who contested control of 
the Aleutian Islands during World War II and more recently discomfited British and Argentine 
troops who battled to determine sovereignty over the Falklands/Malvinas. 




Clouds and fog are distinctive forms of condensation that consist of minute water particles 
suspended in air. Clouds remain aloft whereas fog hugs the surface, but the two are 
indistinguishable whenever low-lying clouds touch land or water and both obscurants limit 
visibility in various degrees regardless of their origin. 

Fog. Ground fog, which most often develops on cool, calm, clear nights, appears first and 
becomes densest in depressions, then "burns off" after sunrise as soon as winds pick up and 
temperatures rise above the dew point (1 00 percent relative humidity). Poor visibility often 
causes nighttime traffic control problems in harbors surrounded by hills, because the 
atmosphere there is so close to saturation that contact with cool air above causes 
condensation. Industrial smoke and other manmade airborne pollutants convert fog into 
smog near many cities. (Table 8 displays maximum distances at which military personnel 
with 20-20 vision can identify prominent objects.) 

Thin maritime fog, called "arctic smoke," forms in the far north and south when vapors 
rising from relatively warm water meet cold air, but perhaps four-fifths of all dense fogs at sea 
are found in middle latitudes where warm air collides with cool water. Light winds of 5 to 
1 knots, which are strong enough to distribute but not disperse suspended vapors, help build 
huge fog banks off Newfoundland's coast where the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current 
intersect. "Pea soup" fog occasionally blankets the British Isles and parts of Northwestern 
Europe in wintertime, when warm, wet air overrides cold land. 

Table 8. Fog Linked to Visibility 

Fog Classification Maximum Visibility 

Dense Fog 50 yards (45 meters) 

Thick Fog 200 yards (1 80 meters) 

Fog 500 yards (450 meters) ,3 

Moderate Fog 0.5 nautical miles (0.9 kilometers) 

Thin Fog 1 nautical mile (1.8 kilometers) 

Clouds. Three elemental cloud types are recognizable: cirrus and stratus, which spread 
horizontally; cumulus clouds, which develop vertically (table 9 and figure 15 ). All others 
are modifications. Wispy cirrus clouds composed of ice crystals habitually occupy thin, dry 
air above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters), whereas stratus clouds spread sheets across all or most 
of the sky far below. Fluffy, flat-bottomed cumulus clouds in contrast sometimes tower 
30,000 feet (9,150 meters) or more from base to top. The prefix "alto" accompanies all 
middle level clouds, while "nimbus" Latin for rain designates turbulent storm clouds, 
including anvil-shaped cumulonimbus thunderheads that aviators try to avoid. 

Cloud cover, expressed as scattered (1/8 th to 4/8 ths ), broken (5/8 ths to 7/8 ths ), and overcast 
8/8 th ), determines vertical visibility. One tier may tell the whole tale, but scattered or broken 
clouds on two or more levels also cause overcast conditions. The lowest cloud bases 
determine ceilings, which range from zero to unlimited and differ significantly from place to 
place over hilly terrain (figure 1 6). 


Table 9. Cloud Classifications 

Horizontal Development 


High Clouds 
(> 20,000 feet) 
(>6,000 meters) 

Middle Clouds 
(7,000-20,000 feet) 
(2,000-6,000 meters) 

Low Clouds 
(<7,000 feet) 
(<2,000 meters) 






Steady, intermittent, and showery precipitation from clouds strike Earth as rain, sleet, snow, 
hail, or glaze, sometimes in combinations, the mixture of which depends primarily on air 
and surface temperatures. Intensities range from drizzles to downpours, with total 
accumulations characterized as a trace, light, medium, and heavy. One inch of rain (2.5 
centimeters) normally is equivalent to 10 inches of snow (25 centimeters). There are no 
comparable conversion factors for sleet or hail, which sometimes pile several inches deep, 
or for glaze that turns turnpikes and ship decks into impromptu ice skating rinks. Monthly 
and annual averages mean little unless precipitation is evenly distributed. Military 
commanders and staffs need to know whether three inches of rain in April spreads over most 
of that month or generally arrives as a "gully washer" (comedians chortle about the 
statistician who drowned while crossing a normally dry stream). 


Tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons) and frontal systems that form along the boundary 
between warm and cold air masses in middle latitudes feature low pressures, high winds, 
overcast skies, low ceilings, poor visibility, and precipitation that varies from trickles to 
torrents. The most violent storms usually pass in a few hours (even minutes), while others 
linger for days. Tornadoes that hop, skip, and jump erratically are by far the most furious, but 
rarely affect military operations and exert little or no influence over plans and programs 
because they are short-lived, localized, and unpredictable. Tropical cyclones, typified by 
devastating winds that circle around a calm core (the eye), only occasionally imperil ships 
at sea and military installations on or near seacoasts, but thunderstorms that bring gusty, 
shearing, shifty winds along the front, hazardous up-down drafts, hailstones, heavy rain, and 
destructive electrical discharges regularly occur over land and water (figure 1 7). Towering 
cumulonimbus thunderheads, which sometimes measure more than 5 miles high, 20 miles 
wide, and 60 miles long (8 x 32 x 96 kilometers), pose serious impediments to military 
aircraft in pursuit of critical wartime missions. 



Figure 15. Cloud Types Depicted 

8,000 M - 
25,000 FT - 

7,000 M - 

20,000 FT 
6,000 M 

5,000 M 
15,000 FT 

4,000 M - 

10,000 FT 
3,000 M 

2,000 M - 
5,000 FT - 







Figure 1 6. Cloud Ceilings Related to Terrain 

Kham Due 

Hau Due 

Chu Lai 


Sunshine, moonlight, and starlight are the main sources of natural illumination, which is 
measured in footcandles (fc). The sun at its zenith, unfiltered by clouds or fog, lights flat 
surfaces on Earth at about 10,000 fc compared with 0.02 fc for full moons under similar 
conditions (sufficient light for steady reading averages about 10 footcandles). 

Daylight and darkness are not atmospheric phenomena, but staff weather officers 
routinely furnish military commanders with a wide range of light data for particular times and 
places. Relevant information includes sunrise, sunset, periods of morning and evening 
twilight, moon rise, moon set, lunar phases, and times that night vision devices would prove 
most useful. Four types of twilight, each with important military implications, are recognized 

Astronomical twilight, which persists as long as any detectable glow remains in the 
sky, starts in the morning when the sun is 18 below the horizon, lasts until sunup, 
reappears after sundown, then remains until dark. 



Figure 1 7. Anatomy of a Thunderstorm 

" * ' " *t'vV* */ * *^ ." ' I*, , 

*T !*.*> r-' /'- ''t-.\- ' 
/inlfant ^1;^^<fc^&| 
^SSJS GOwndi? 

SSs^Vtf^.V.: A 

*^ ;p%wo'/J Cfflri 

<' ". '/llfHhi 'in i H' I! i. 1 1 

Adapted from Guy Murchie, Song of frte S/ry 

The beginning of morning nautical twilight (BMNT) occurs before sunup when the sun 
is between the horizon and 1 2 below, at which times large silhouettes are distinguishable 
and stars that serve navigational purposes are visible in clear weather. 

The end of evening nautical twilight (EENT) occurs after sundown when the sun is 
between the horizon and 12 below. 

Normal outdoor activities are feasible without artificial light during civil twilight, when 
the sun is between the horizon and 6 below at dawn and again at dusk. 4 

Levels of natural illumination vary according to latitude and seasons of the year. Civil 
twilight during spring and autumn equinoxes, for example, lasts twice as long at 60 north 
or south as it does at the Equator. Regions near the North Pole experience 7 weeks of 
astronomical twilight from mid-September to mid-November, and 7 more weeks from mid- 
January to mid-March. Perpetual darkness prevails in the dead of winter, perpetual daylight 
during summertime in the "Land of the Midnight Sun" (Antarctica encounters analogous 
regimes in reverse order). The U.S. .Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, annually updates 
and publishes a wide selection of light data for each day, together with conversion factors 
that enable users to tailor additional calculations that meet individualistic requirements. 5 




Climatologists compile atmospheric statistics that disclose global and regional patterns. 
Displays that highlight daily-monthly-annual means and extremes become progressively 
more dependable, provided qualified observers compile specified information for particular 
places over periods that span several decades. Interpolations must supplement or supplant 
facts when they do not. 6 

Strategic planners and programmers, who focus their attention on next month, next year, 
or the indefinite future, are the principal beneficiaries of climatology, which is most 
important for armed forces that must prepare to implement missions in unfamiliar territory. 
Specialized studies not only help high-level contingency planners determine whether 
weapons, equipment, supplies, clothing, and other resources are well suited for operations 
within regions where military responsibilities might arise on short notice, but they indicate 
what research, development, test, evaluation, and acquisition programs would best bridge 
gaps between requirements and capabilities. Theater-level campaign planners, force 
developers, and resource allocators likewise rely on climatic assessments. General William 
C. Westmoreland, in his capacity as Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, 
Vietnam, for example, annually approved a series of so-called "monsoon plans'' that took wet 
and dry seasons into account on each side of Vietnam's mountain backbone. When the 
Northeast Monsoon turns coastal plains to quagmires from mid-October until early March 
Laos and Cambodia are dry. When the Southwest Monsoon takes over from May to 
September that regime reverses. 7 


Every climatological classification is flawed in some respects, whether it emphasizes 
precipitation (arid, semi-arid, moderate, humid, wet), temperature (cold, tepid, warm, hot), 
or other atmospheric phenomena. Characteristically warm climes that exclude identifiable 
winters, cold regions that exclude identifiable summers, and intermediate climates identified 
by four seasons are much too broad for practical military applications. The "Torrid Zone" 
isn't uniformly hot (highlands in Kenya and Ecuador, which straddle the Equator, are 
delightfully cool). "Frigid Zones" poleward of the Arctic and Antarctic Circles aren't 
uniformly cold (Verkhoyansk and Omyakyon in northeastern Siberia are frozen solid in 
winter but swelter in summer). "Temperate Zones" are neither climatically moderate nor 
uniform. Classifications that focus on seasonal or annual precipitation at the expense of 
temperatures are equally faulty, because they fail to account for evaporation, which heat 
encourages Basra, in the Iraqi desert, is notably drier than Russia's Kola coast 1,000 miles 
(1,600 kilometers) north of Moscow, which receives essentially the same amount of moisture 
but retains more of it. Most climatic maps moreover limit coverage to land and show sharp 
boundaries, whereas distinctive patterns appear over oceans and intersections between 
climatic regions generally are gradual. 8 


Three basic climatic groupings with several subdivisions apiece serve most military purposes 
reasonably well, whether forces are aloft, ashore, or afloat: low latitude climates controlled 
by equatorial and tropical air masses; middle latitude climates controlled by tropical and 


polar air masses; high latitude climates controlled by polar and arctic air masses. Highlands 
create temperature and precipitation anomalies in each case (map 11 and table 10 
elaborate). 9 


Military commanders who seek to make capricious weather work for rather than against 
them require timely, relevant information about current meteorological conditions and 
anticipated developments within respective areas of responsibility. Staff weather officers 
armed with the best available information peer into the immediate future, evaluate variables, 
identify apparent trends, apply past experience, then predict meteorological events at 
particular places for specified periods of time. 10 Their prognoses seldom cover more than 
a week (typically 1 or 2 days), because the reliability of longer outlooks remains spotty 
despite the proliferation of reporting stations and assistance from technologically advanced 
sensors on land, at sea, in the air, and in space. 11 


General George Washington capitalized on surprise when he deliberately picked a stormy 
Christmas night in 1 776 to cross the ice-caked Delaware River, despite roiling waters and 
high winds that drenched his 2,400 half-starved, threadbare troops with cold rain, wet snow, 
and hail. He landed early next morning near Trenton, New Jersey, caught the Hessian 
garrison off guard, then trounced them in little more than an hour at the expense of four 
American wounded. 12 Mother Nature, however, punishes imprudent commanders who 
arrogantly or ignorantly disregard weather. Generalissimo Joseph Stalin learned hard lessons 
when he ordered poorly acclimated and equipped Soviet Armed Forces to invade Finland on 
November 30, 1 939, after one of the worst winters on record had already begun. Skillful 
Finnish troops, who anticipated trouble and were well prepared for frigid land warfare, 
inflicted 10-to-1 casualties on Soviet adversaries before they were overwhelmed by sheer 
weight of numbers in mid-March, 1 940. 13 

Trafficability. Information about the possible impact of precipitation and temperature on 
trafficability deserves a high priority, because ground forces cannot maneuver effectively 
when the footing is unfriendly. They move fast across open terrain that is frozen solid 
(dashing French cavalry captured a complete Dutch fleet at the Texel roadstead, including 
its embarrassed admiral, when thick ice unexpectedly covered the Zuider Zee in 1 795 14 ), but 
mud stalls men and machines. British artillery barrages before the Third Battle of Ypres in 
1 91 7 destroyed the drainage system during incessant rains and pocked the battlefield with 
more than four million new water-filled craters that made rapid progress impossible. 15 
German tank and truck columns stranded in muck on Soviet steppes during the next World 
War were cemented in place like Greek friezes when thermometers dipped below freezing 
after dark. Mud made a mess in mountainous territory as well as on level land during that 
same time frame, witness U.S. forces in Italy, where men and pack mules skidded up and 
down slippery trails that four-wheel drive vehicles never could negotiate. 16 


Map 1 1 . Regional Climates Depicted 

Source: Arthur N. Strahler, Physical Geography, 2d ed, 1963, p.192 



Table 1 0. Regional Climates Described 



1 . Low Latitude Climates 

a. Rain Forests 
(10 North [20 in Asia] to 

Uniformly warm; heavy rainfall 

1 South) 

b. Tradewind Littorals 
(10 to 25 North and South) 

Uniformly warm; seasonally heavy rainfall on narrow east coast 

c. Tropical Deserts and Steppes 
(1 5 to 35 North and South) 

High maximum temperatures; arid or semi-arid 

d. West Coast Deserts 
(1 5 to 30 North and South) 

Very dry; relatively cool; limited to narrow coastal strips 

e. Tropical Savannas 
(5 to 25 North and South) 

Warm; wet season when sun is high; dry season when sun is low 

2. Middle Latitude Climates 

a. Humid Sub-Tropical 
(20 to 3 5 North and South) 

Cool winters and warm, humid summers on the east side of 
continents; frequent rain 

b. Temperate West Coasts 
(40 to 60 North and South) 

Cool; cloudy; humid; rainy, with winter maximums 

c. Mediterranean 
(30 to 45 North and South) 

Moderate temperatures; wet winters; dry summers 

d. Interior Deserts and Steppes 
(35 to 50 North and South) 

Arid; cold winters; hot summers 

e. Continental Centers and 
Eastern Sectors 
(3 5 to 60 North) 

Ample precipitation; cold winters; hot summers; variable weather; 
frequent fronts 

3. High Latitude Climates 

a. Subarctic 
(5 5 to 70 North) 

Low precipitation; fairly moist; long, cold winters; short, cool 
summers; huge temperature range 

b. Tundra 
(North of 55 N, South of 50 S) 

Damp cold; no warm season; moderate temperature range 

c. Icecaps 
(Polar Regions; Greenland) 

Dry; no monthly temperature above freezing 

Mountains and Plateaus 

Cool or cold above 5,000 feet (1,500 meters); wet or dry depending 

on location 



Weapon Performance. Atmospheric phenomena significantly affect the performance of 
weapon systems and munitions. Pressure changes and relative humidity alter barometric 
fusing and arming calculations, dense air reduces maximum effective ranges, gusty 
crosswinds near Earth's surface make free rockets and guided missiles wobble erratically, 
while winds aloft influence ballistic trajectories. Rain-soaked soils deaden artillery rounds, 
but frozen ground increases fragmentation from contact-fused shells. Dense fog, which 
degrades visual surveillance and target acquisition capabilities, also makes life difficult for 
forward observers, whose mission is to adjust artillery fire. Line-of-sight weapons, such as 
tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) antitank missiles, are worthless where 
visibility is very limited. Exhaust plumes that follow TOWs moreover form ice fog in cold, 
damp air, which conceals targets from gunners even on clear days, and reveals firing 
positions to enemy sharpshooters. Scorching heat makes armored vehicles too hot to touch 
without gloves, reduces sustained rates of fire for automatic weapons, artillery, and tank guns, 
and renders white phosphorus ammunition unstable. 17 Brutal cold has quite different effects, 
as U.S. Marines discovered in subzero combat around North Korea's Changjin Reservoir 
(December 1 950), where mortar base plates broke on the rock hard ground and hand 
grenades became unpopular, because users who removed mittens to pull the pin suffered 
frostbitten fingers if they held the cold metal for more than a moment. 18 


Winds, towering seas, and frigid temperatures influence naval operations more than any other 
atmospheric factors. Results sometimes are favorable a kamikase ("Divine Wind") saved 
Japan from invasion by a Mongol fleet in the 13th century, and Britain benefited when storms 
dispersed the Spanish Armada in 1 588 but foul weather at sea is seldom welcome. 

Aircraft Carriers. Large aircraft carriers are less affected than their escorts by heavy seas, 
but even so may roll nine degrees or more when their flight decks are exposed to strong 
winds. Small wonder, therefore, that U.S. carrier battle groups plying back and forth between 
Bosnia and Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia, in August 1 995 took special pains to bypass three 
hurricanes that then were active in the Atlantic Ocean. Less than gale force winds demand 
additional tie downs for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, repositioning becomes a complex 
proposition when decks are slick, and fighters may not be able to spread folding wings until 
they reach catapults. Underway replenishment, always a delicate business, becomes 
additionally hazardous in rough weather, when waves may wash away loads suspended on 
transfer lines and cargo handling on deck becomes infinitely more difficult. Foul weather 
procedures consequently emphasize smaller than normal loads, longer than normal transfer 
times, and greater than normal distances between support ships and recipients to prevent 
collisions. 19 

Other Surface Ships. Persistent heavy weather endangers surface ship stability, buoyancy, 
power, and structural integrity. Experienced helmsmen have a hard time maintaining course 
when beset by sharp pitching, swaying, surging, yawing, and heaving, but repeated wide- 
angle rolls from starboard to port and back again are exceptionally dangerous, because most 
surface combatants and support ships may capsize if efforts to restore stability fail. Conditions 
are worst when ships steer a course that parallels the storm path and their roll period (9 to 
10 seconds for a typical destroyer) coincides with the period between wave peaks and 
troughs. Paths perpendicular to the onrushing sea minimize roll but maximize pitch, which 


alternately causes bows to slam and propellers to beat thin air at high speeds while the 
whole ship shudders. Nonnuclear ships maintain the lowest possible center of gravity 
primarily by replacing consumed fuel with salt water ballast, which maintains low-level 
weight and prevents partially filled tanks from sloshing. All savvy captains position heavy 
loads below deck to the greatest practicable extent, and engineers take special pains to 
maintain propulsive power, because wallowing ships are helpless. 20 

Thick layers of ice can quickly form on decks, sides, superstructures, hatches, masts, 
rigging, exposed machinery, antennas, and weapon systems when salt spray hits ship surfaces 
at subfreezing temperatures. Two feet or more totaling several hundred tons may accumulate 
within 24 hours in very cold climes, depending on wind velocities and wave heights. 
Seaworthiness and combat effectiveness then suffer from top heaviness and increased wind 

resistance. 21 

Small Craft and Boats. Amphibious landing craft and naval special operations boats are 
especially sensitive to wind, waves, and surf. Cyclone class patrol boats, the most seaworthy 
vessels currently available to U.S. SEALs, are fully functional through Sea State 5 (winds 22 
to 27 knots, waves 10 to 12 feet, or 3 to 4 meters, high), but struggle to survive stronger 
storms. 22 Personnel transfers from seagoing "buses" to small boats are tricky under perfect 
conditions and fearful when they are not. One SEAL team aboard a slam-dunking tugboat 
on a training exercise in the frigid North Sea first fought to keep its six Boston whalers from 
washing overboard, then watched 50-knot winds flip three of them like flapjacks when they 
were lowered into foaming water. Forty-two heavily laden shooters had to time the swells, 
leap toward the boats, and pray they wouldn't be crushed or chewed by propel lors. 23 


Military aviators almost everywhere in peacetime must comply with visual and instrument 
flight regulations (VFR, IFR). VFR I imitations for land-based, fixed-wing U.S. military aircraft 
generally prescribe a ceiling of at least 1,200 feet (365 meters), visibility of 3, statute miles 
(4.8 kilometers) at destinations as well as departure airfields, and minimum distances above, 
below, and around clouds en route. Lower ceilings or poorer visibility obligate pilots to file 
IFR flight plans. 24 VFR for land-based helicopters are more lenient. 25 U.S. aircraft carrier 
captains, who generally determine whether weather is agreeable for takeoffs and landings, 
consider prospects for successful recovery at suitable bases ashore as well as aboard the 
mother ship. 26 All armed forces shelve peacetime restrictions when combat or other high 
priority operations commence, because assigned missions then take precedence over safety. 

Clouds and Fog. U.S. bomber crews during World War II fought weather along with 
Japanese adversaries on Umnak Island in the Aleutians, where fog was so dense that crew 
members poked their heads out of open windows to help pilots stay on taxi strips and steer 
straight courses down runways. 27 Bad weather all the way from air bases in England to drop 
and landing zones in Holland during Operation Market Garden on September 19, 1944, 
turned the third wave into a disaster fewer than half of the troop transports and gliders laden 
with desperately needed reinforcements and supplies found their way through the "soup" to 
intended destinations. 28 

Technological improvements make life much easier for modern airmen, but "socked in" 
airports and low ceilings still ground them occasionally regardless of pressing requirements, 
and low ceilings sometimes obscure approaches to target areas. U.S. and allied troops at 


highland outposts in Vietnam, for example, lacked close air support (CAS), assistance from 
gunships, and aerial resupply for all or most of many days during rainy seasons. High- 
performance, fixed-wing CAS aircraft at such times were limited to low-level, low-angle 
avenues that maximized their exposure to enemy air defense weapons and small arms (see 
chapter 19 for weather details in Vietnam and Laos). NATO more recently canceled or 
diverted nearly 360 military airlift missions in mid-December 1995, thereby delaying its 
initial buildup in Bosnia for more than a week. 29 

Barometric Pressures. All aviators set altimeters to reflect barometric pressure at 
departure airfields before they take off and update readings before they land so they always 
know how high they are above land or water. Accurate indications are most important for 
military airmen whose missions demand low-level or nap-of-the-earth flights through 
mountainous terrain under blacked out or murky weather conditions. Barometric pressures, 
together with temperatures and humidity, determine air density, which limits the ability of 
any given type aircraft to get off the ground with any given load and thereafter perform 
effectively. Heavy air that is common on cold days at sea level provides the best possible lift, 
but density decreases when thermometers climb. Altitude thins Earth's atmosphere so rapidly 
that regulations require U.S. military air crews to use supplemental oxygen when cabin 
altitude exceeds 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), 30 although SS Hauptsturmfuhrer (Captain) Otto 
Skorzeny proved that fantastic feats are possible in thin air when he landed 1 2 gliders atop 
Italy's boulder-strewn Gran Sasso Mountain in 1943, snatched Benito Mussolini from his 
Italian custodians, and whisked him away in a light airplane. 31 Lieutenant Colonel Maden 
of the Nepalese Army conducted the world's highest helicopter rescue on May 13, 1996, 
when he plucked two half frozen survivors off Mount Everest at 1 9,200 feet (5,850 meters), 
then flew them to a hospital in Katmandu. 32 

Winds. Wind velocities and vectors strongly affect military air operations in many ways 
that civilian fliers seldom experience. Expeditionary airfield users cannot switch runways 
every time strong crosswinds develop because they possess only one runway, so prevailing 
winds dictate the orientation of these fields. No ocean liner or cruise ship ever deliberately 
heads toward a storm, as carrier commanding officers often do in search of sufficient "wind 
over deck" (20 sustained knots or more) to launch and recover fixed-wing aircraft. 
Psychological operations (PSYOP) leaflets are worthless when winds blow in the wrong 
direction. 33 Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division had to accomplish their missions 
in July 1 943 despite 35-mile-an-hour winds that scattered them across Sicily and slammed 
them against stone walls in the dead of night. 33 Efforts to rescue U.S. hostages that Iranian 
radicals held in Teheran (1 980) failed when three of the eight mission-essential helicopters 
aborted, one because wind-blown dust storms turned it back. 34 


Nuclear weapons respond to weather in several ways, of which winds on the surface and 
aloft perhaps are most important. Chemical and biological warfare (CW, BW) agents are 
sensitive to several atmospheric phenomena under somewhat different conditions. 

Nuclear Weapons. Low air bursts beneath clouds amplify thermal radiation by reflection, 
whereas heat from bursts above cloud blankets bounces back into space. Heavy 
precipitation raises the temperature at which thermal radiation will ignite given materials and 
reduces the spread of secondary fires. Detonations after dark increase the range at which 


flashes from nuclear explosions blind unprotected viewers. Blasts on, beneath, or at low 
altitudes above Earth's surface suck enormous amounts of debris up the stems of mushroom 
clouds that drift downwind. The heaviest, most contaminated chaff falls back near ground 
zero within a few minutes, but winds aloft waft a deadly mist hundreds or thousands of miles. 
The size, shape, and potency of resultant radioactive fallout patterns differ with wind speeds 
and directions, because terrain shadows, crosswinds, and local precipitation sometimes 
create hot spots and skip zones within each fan. Fallout from one test conducted atop a tower 
in Nevada, for example, drifted northeast and retained strong radioactive concentrations 
around ground zero, while a second test from the same tower on a different date featured a 
"furnace" that was seven times hotter than its immediate surroundings 60 miles (95 
kilometers) northwest of the test (figure 18). Such erratic results are hard to predict even 
under ideal conditions. 35 

Figure 1 8. Nuclear Fallout Related to Wind 

12 kilotons 
28 May 57 
Burst at 500 ft. 





40 miles sjte 

60 Kilometers 

43 kilotons 
7 March 55 
Burst at 500 ft. 





40 miles 

60 Kilometers 

Dose Rate in Milliroentgens Per Hour 

12 Hours After Detonation 

Biological Warfare Agents. Biological warfare agents conceivably could create 
international chaos on a grand scale by infecting enemy armed forces, civilian populations, 
livestock, and crops en masse. Small laboratories can generate BW products so quickly in 
militarily significant quantities that refrigerated storage facilities no longer are necessary, but 
microbiol pathogens and toxins as a rule last only a few hours when exposed to high 
temperatures and low humidity inside bombs, missile warheads, spray tanks, and artillery 
shells. Some biological munitions, inherently unstable, can neither tolerate sharp strains 
associated with projectile flights nor stand direct sunlight. 3 ' 1 

Chemical Warfare Agents. Chemical warfare agents, in sharp contrast, thrive under 
weather conditions that biological weapons cannot tolerate. Heat and humidity help rather 
than hinder. Mustard and lewisite are particularly effective in hot weather, because 



perspiration promotes blisters. Protective clothing, masks, and gas-proof shelters are the best 
insurance against CW weapons of any kind, but fatigue followed by heat prostration afflicts 
personnel who "button up" very long in warm climes, while air conditioned facilities that 
lack fool-proof filters become death traps. Persistent agents laid down as liquids last longer 
than aerosols and are less sensitive to vagrant winds, so chemical warfare specialists advise 
commanders to initiate vapor attacks when breezes blow in the right direction between three 
and seven knots, to avoid rainy days, and to wait for temperature inversions that trap agents 
in the lowest layer of air. 37 


Active and passive electro-optical (E-O) systems include image intensifies, typified by night 
vision goggles; infrared devices, such as night sights; laser designators, some of which assist 
"smart" munitions; and low- light- level television sets able to "see" in the dark. Research and 
development laboratories are rapidly expanding and improving existing inventories. 

Adverse Atmospheric Influences. Windblown dust, fog, haze, high humidity, clouds, and 
precipitation degrade or defeat all E-O systems that gather visible light. Long wave lengths 
are less affected than short waves, although resolution is fuzzier. Atmospheric refraction, 
often less obvious than a mirage, can make targets seem to move (even disappear) in 
shimmering surface air and otherwise reduce electro-optical effectiveness. Heat is the most 
common cause of that phenomenon, but similar distortions sometimes appear above snow- 
covered ground when temperatures are well below freezing. Infrared and millimeter wave 
sensors, which depend on thermal contrasts to differentiate targets from backgrounds (warm 
engines, for example, concealed in cool woods), cannot discriminate as well as users would 
like when winds, rain, snow, or insulating clouds make temperature differences 
indistinguishable, so experimental programs continue apace. 38 

Inadequate Light. Military operations in the past typically were timed to begin just before 
dawn, then continue in daylight, because few armed forces were well prepared for armed 
combat after dark. Light enhancement tools may some day enable soldiers, sailors, airmen, 
and marines to "own the night," but research and development technicians first must solve 
several weather-related problems. Too much light sometimes defeats night vision devices on 
relatively clear nights when the moon is full or nearly so, because amplifications so saturate 
viewing areas that light and dark almost merge. Too little light may be available on overcast 
nights that conceal starlight when the moon is dark or down. Most night vision implements 
now on the market are miniaturized compared with predecessors even a few years ago, yet 
remain too bulky for facile employment by foot troops. Research and development goals 
accordingly concentrate on sharper resolution, better depth perception, longer range, 
stereoscopic capabilities, smaller size, reduced weight, and greater overall versatility. 39 


Directed energy weapons, which attack at the speed of light, occupy two basic categories. 
Electromagnetic beams embrace high-energy lasers (HEL) and high-powered microwaves 
(HPM). Particle beams include charged particle beams (CPB) and neutal partical beams 

Electromagnetic Beams. Atmosphere interferes with electromagnetic beams in at least 
four important ways:' 



Scatter occurs when beams strike clouds, fog, invisible vapors, dust, smoke, and other 
matter buoyed by air. 

Absorption occurs simultaneously for similar reasons. 

Blooming occurs when heated air makes beams expand and splay. 

Turbulence occurs when up-down drafts, cross currents, heat waves, and other 
atmospheric phenomena disrupt beams, the efficiency of which may fall by a factor of 
1 00 to 300 within a few miles 

Particle Beams. Particle beams differ from lasers in that they project a stream of highly 
energetic electrons, protons, neutrons, hydrogen atoms, or ions rather than radiant photons. 
Charged particle beams propagate well in Earth's atmosphere regardless of weather, but 
ranges at this writing are strictly limited. Weather is irrelevant with regard to neutral particle 
beams, which propagate only in the vacuum of space. 41 


Military men and women exposed daily to the elements cannot decide whether extreme heat 
or extreme cold is worse, but informal polls put one or both of those abominations at the 
bottom of almost everybody's list, regardless of individual tolerances, physical conditioning, 
and degrees of acclimatization. Cold coupled with bitter winds and heat coupled with high 
humidity are the worst weather combinations by consensus. 

Cruel Cold. Dry cold below freezing encourages frostbite among poorly clothed and 
trained personnel. German Armed Forces in Russia suffered 100,000 casualties from that 
cause during the winter of 1941-1942, of which 15,000 required amputations. Human 
breath turned to icicles in that brutal cold, eyelids froze together, flesh that touched metal 
cold-welded, gasoline accidentally sprayed on bare skin raised blisters the size of golf balls, 
butchers' axes rebounded like boomerangs from horse meat as solid as stone, and cooks 
sliced butter with saws. Dehydration, contrary to popular misconceptions, can be prevalent 
in frigid weather when personnel exhale bodily moisture with every breath. Low 
temperatures, which inhibit clotting, cause wounds to bleed more freely, and severe shock 
due to slow circulation sets in early unless treated expeditiously. U.S. medics armed with 
morphine for that purpose once kept syringes in their armpits so they would be warm enough 
to work when needed. High-Altitude High-Opening (HAHO) parachutists who exit aircraft 
in subzero temperatures experience extreme chill when they free-fall for 30 minutes or more 
at a terminal velocity of 120 miles per hour (193 kph). Survival often becomes the only 
practicable objective of forces on the ground when wind chill factors plummet far below 
freezing. 42 

Wet cold is even more debilitating in some respects. Crippling trench foot, a classic 
casualty producer, is caused by prolonged immersion of lower legs and feet at temperatures 
a bit above freezing. Prominent symptoms begin with numbness, followed by swelling, 
terrible pain and, in untreated cases, gangrene. During World War II, in the European 
Theater of Operations, trench foot assumed epidemic proportions among U.S. combat 
infantrymen who for days on end waded rather than marched through chilly muck, lived in 
water-filled foxholes, and lacked access to shelter or dry shoes and socks. More than 45,000 
of them filled field hospitals to overflowing between November 1 944 and February 1 945, a 
loss equivalent to the front-line rifle strength of 10 divisions. 43 

"-*- : -- ------ '- - ' - '- : - : - : : x : : x : : : : r-v.:.^^ 


Oppressive Heat. Armed forces in enervating heat face a different set of difficulties. 
Water consumption soars to prevent dehydration, since exertions over an 8-hour period in 
1 00 F (38 C) heat demand about 1 5 quarts a day (1 4 liters). Logisticians in the desert are 
hard pressed to supply huge loads, which amount to 30 pounds per person, or 270 tons for 
an 18,000-man U.S. armored division. Heat coupled with high humidity saps strength more 
quickly, especially when military personnel wear flak jackets or don protective clothing in 
anticipation of enemy chemical warfare attacks. 44 Myriad other matters attract concerted 
attention. Food handlers, for example, fight a ceaseless war against bacteria that contaminate 
un refrigerated perishables in mobile kitchens lacking modern amenities. The rate of gum 
accumulations in stored gasoline quadruples with each 20 F increase in temperature, which 
clogs filters and lowers octane ratings when forces deplete stockpiles slowly. 

Hypothermia occurs when human body temperature drops below normal (98.6 F), 
whether surroundings be cold, cool, or warm individuals can become hypothermic in 80 
F (26.7 C) water if immersed too long. The first visible signs may be uncontrollable 
shivering and impaired abilities to accomplish simple tasks. Sluggishness and amnesia 
appear next if body temperature continues to drop, then shivering ceases, stupor sets in, and 
respiration slows. Heart failure, internal bleeding, and death occur below about 78 F (25.6 
C) unless warmth, dry clothing, and perhaps stimulants reverse that process in time. 45 
Combat swimmers in seas between 60 and 40 F wear wet suits that trap a thin layer of warm 
water next to their skin (synthetics that "breathe" better than rubber are preferred materials). 
Watertight dry suits over thermal underwear are essential in colder water. 46 


Weather and climate influence almost every military activity on land, at sea, and in the 
air during peacetime as well as war. 

Military strategists and long-range planners rely on climatological statistics that observers 
in many locations around the world have collected over periods that usually span many 

Military tacticians and short-range planners rely primarily on current weather forecasts 
that seldom peer more than a few days into the future. 

All atmospheric phenomena and ambient light levels influence operations by all military 
services in various ways and differing degrees 

Extremely hot and cold temperatures, high humidity, water-logged soils, and snow- 
covered terrain impose critical constraints upon ground forces. 

High winds, stormy seas, extremely cold temperatures, and sea ice impose critical 
constraints upon surface navies. 

Low cloud ceilings, low visibility, winds, air currents, and barometric pressures impose 
critical constraints upon land-based and naval air operations. 


1 . Carlo d'Este, Patton: A Genius for War (New York: Harper Collins, 1 995), 685-688. 

2. John S. D. Eisenhower, The Bitter Woods (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1 969), 375-430. 

3. William L. Donn, Meteorology With Marine Applications, 1 st ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 
1946); Arthur N. Strahler, Physical Geography, 2 d ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1963), 
chapters 7, 8, 1 0, 1 1 ; Guy Murchie, Song of the Sky (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1 954). 

4. Physical Geography, 76-78; Field Manual 34-81 -1 : Battlefield Weather Effects (Washington, 
DC: Dept. of the Army, December 23, 1 992), 2-4, 3-6, 3-7, G1 0, G1 2, G1 6. 

5. The Air Almanac (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, issued annually). 

6. FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis (Washington: Dept. of the Army, July 1 990), B-1 , B-2; FM 34-81 - 
1 : Battlefield Weather Effects, 2-7; Air Force Doctrine Document 45: Aerospace Weather Operations 
(Washington, DC: Dept. of the Air Force, August 31 , 1 994), 2-4. 

7. Author's recollections as Chief, Campaign Planning Group, U.S. Army, Vietnam, 1 967-1 968; 
Harlan G. Koch, "Monsoons and Military Operations," Military Review 45, no. 6 (June 1 965): 25-34. 

8 . Physical Geography, 182-188. 

9. Ibid., 1 88-1 93; 1 94-255 elaborate region by region. 

10. For representative guidelines, see Joint Pub 3-59: Joint Doctrine for Meteorological and 
Oceanographic Support (Washington, DC: Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, December 
22, 1993) and Air Force Doctrine Document 45: Aerospace Weather. Historical background is 
available in John F. Fuller, Thor's Legions: Weather Support to the U.S. Air Force and Army, 1937- 
1987 (Boston, MA: American Meteorological Society, 1 990). 

1 1 . William J. Cook, "Ahead of the Weather," U.S. News and World Report, April 29, 1 996, 55- 
57; Kevin McManus, "Data from Weather-Observing System Sometimes All Wet," Washington Post, 
January 22, 1996, A3. 

12. Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1 952), 91 -304. 

13. Allen F. Chew, "Beating the Russians in the Snow: The Finns and the Russians, 1940," 
Military Review 60, no. 6 (June 1980): 38-47, and Fighting the Russians in Winter: Three Case 
Studies, Leavenworth Papers No. 5 (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff 
College, Combat Studies Institute, December 1981), 17-30. 

1 4. Samuel van Valkenburg, ed v America at War: A Geographical Analysis (New Yo'rk: Prentice- 
Hall, 1942), 103. 

15. Leon Wolff, In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign (New York: Viking Press, 1958), 
especially xii, 81 -87, chapters 9 and 1 3. 

16. The Winter Line, American Forces in Action Series (Washington, DC: Historical Division, 
U.S. War Dept., June 1 4, 1 945), 5, 1 5, 88, 90. 

1 7. FM 34-81 -1 : Battlefield Weather Effects, appendices B-D, H, J. 

1 8. S. L. A. Marshall, Infantry Operations and Weapons Usage in Korea, Winter 1950-51 (Chevy 
Chase, MD: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1 951 ), 21 , 94, 101. 

1 9. U.S. Navy Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships (Washington, DC: Chief of Naval 
Operations, Surface Ship Survivability Office, OP 03C2, May 1 988), 2-9 to 2-1 1 , 6-5-6-7, 6-1 0, 7-1 , 
8-1 to 8-4. 

20. Ibid., 8-1 to 8-4 

21. Ibid., 2-1 and 2-2, 2-4, 7-1. - 

22. "Special Boat Section," Naval Special Warfare Command Fact File (Coronado, CA: January 
1 993); What Is Naval Special Warfare?, undated (1 993), 8, 1 1 , 25-28, 30-37. 

23. Richard Marcinko, Rogue Warrior (New York: Pocket Books, 1 992), 250-254. 

24. Air Force Instruction 1 1 -206: General Flight Rules (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Air Force, 
July 25, 1 994), chapters 7-8; OPNAV Instruction 371 0.7Q: NATOPS General Flight and Operating 
Instructions (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, May 1 , 1 995), 5.1 0-5.1 5; 


Army Regulation 95-1 : Flight Regulations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, May 30, 1 990), 9-10, 

25. For weather effects on helicopter operations, see Aviation Weather, 1 6 student handouts 
2/5/9/9E-0525-23 (Fort Rucker, AL: U.S. Army Aviation Center, 1995). 

26. NAVAIR 00-80T-105:CVNATOPS Manual (Washington, DC: Naval Air Systems Command, 
December , 1 985), 5-1 8 and 5-1 9; Steve York, Meteorological and Sea Surface Effect Upon Naval 
Aviation, memorandum to the author, June 1 996. 

27. Brian Carfield, The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians (Garden 
City, New York: Doubleday, 1969), 114. 

28. Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 974), 41 6-41 8. 

29. Warfighting and Weather: Bosnia 1995, a briefing slide (Washington, DC: Office of the 
Director, Air Force Weather Service, undated, 1996); "Fog Again Prevents U.S. Forces From Reaching 
Tulza," Washington Post, December 1 8, 1995, 16. 

30. Air Force Instruction 1 1 -206, 1 6; OPNAV Instruction 371 0.7Q, 8-4. 

31 . Glenn B. Infield, Skorzeny: Hitler's Commando (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1 981 ), 29-45. 

32. Jerry Adler and Rod Nordland, "High Risk," Newsweek, May 27, 1 996, 55, 57. 

33. John R. Galvin, Air Assault (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1969), 97-110. 

34. Rescue Mission Report (The Holloway Report) (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff Special 
Review Group, 1 980), 9-1 0, 38-45; James H. Kyle, The Guts to Try (New York: Orion, 1 990), 246- 
255; Paul B. Ryan, The Iranian Rescue Mission (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1985), 

35. DA Pamphlet 39-3: The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, rev. ed. (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, February 1964), 436-488. 

36. Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, DC: Office of 
Technology Assessment, December 1993), 103, 105; The Problem of Chemical and Biological 
Warfare, vol. 2, CB Weapons Today (New York: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 
1 973), 37-48, 61 -72; Terrance and Kathleen White, "Biological Weapons: How Big Is the Threat?" 
International Defense Review, August 1990, 843, 845. 

37. FM 21-40: Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Defense (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 
October 15, 1977), chapters 1 and 5; ABC Warfare Defense Ashore, Technical Publication PL-2 
(Washington, DC: Bureau of Yards and Docks, Dept. of the Navy, April 1960), chapters 2-4. 

38. FM 34-81 -1 : Battlefield Weather Effects, appendix F. 

39. Glenn W. Goodman, Jr., "Owning the Night," and John G. Roos, "Generation Gap," Armed 
Forces Journal International (May 1996): 40, 43-45; Robert G. McClintic, "Rolling Back the Night," 
Army 1 9, no. 8 (August 1 969): 28-35. 

40. Kosta Tsipis, "Laser Weapons," Scientific American (December 1 981 ): 54-57. 

41 . "Report to the APS of the Study Group on Science and Technology of Directed Energy 
Weapons: Executive Summary and Major Conclusions," Physics Today (May 1987): S-8, S-10. 

42. FM 34-81 -1 : Battlefield Weather Effects, L-1 through L-3; U.S. Navy Cold Weather Handbook 
for Surface Ships, 9-2, 10-1,1 0-6, 1 0-7. 

43. Graham A. Cosmas and Albert E. Cowdrey, Medical Service in the European Theater of 
Operations, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 
1 992), 488-496; U.S. Navy Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships, 9-2, 1 0-6. 

44. FM 34-81 -1 : Battlefield Weather Effects, L-3 through L-6. 

45. U.S. Navy Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships, 9-1 , 1 0-4 and 1 0-5. 

46. Peter B. Bennett and David H. Elliott, eds., The Physiology and Medicine of Diving, 4 th ed. 
(Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders), 302-341 . 



Den Brer Rabbit talk mighty 'umble. "I don't keer w'at you do wid me, Brer Fox, " sezee, "so 
you don't fling me in dat briar-patch. Roas' me, Brer Fox, " sezee, "but don't fling me in dat 
briar patch, " sezee. 

Joel Chandler Harris, 

"The Briar Patch/' Uncle Remus: 

His Songs and His Sayings 


imperative military objective since time immemorial. Preparations, however, must suit 
situations, because neither man nor beast can be equally well prepared for every eventuality. 
Brer Rabbit, "bred and bawn in a briar-patch," knew he could out-fox Brer Fox in the 
brambles, but was bound to lose on bare ground. Military machines tailored to suit any given 
situation on land, at sea, in the air, or in space similarly function most effectively in disparate 
environments only after they satisfactorily modify strategies, tactics, techniques, weaponry, 
equipment, clothing, and supplies. 

Wise commanders, well aware that every geographical area of responsibility (AOR) 
possesses unique spatial relationships, topography, oceanographic characteristics, weather, 
and climate, honor the Principle of Regional Peculiarity, which posits, "Armed forces perform 
best when organized, equipped, and trained to accomplish particular missions in particular 
geographic locales/' 1 The following discourse, which incorporates considerations covered 
in chapters 1 through 5, addresses seven distinctive regions that affect military operations in 
markedly different ways: frigid flatlands; frigid seas; mountains; deserts; forests; wetlands; and 
coastal waters. 


Most military activities on polar ice caps thus far have been confined to scientific 
investigations such as those at Camp Century, near Thule, Greenland, and Little America in 
Antarctica. 2 There is no evidence that competition for potentially valuable resources beneath 
those wastelands will soon culminate in armed combat, but perennially and seasonably 
frigid flatlands that extend as far south as the northern United States, much of European 
Russia, and central Siberia have seen vicious wars in the past and likely will again (map 1 2). 3 



Map 1 2. Frigid Flatlands 


Military manuals and commanders invariably emphasize mission accomplishment, but 
subordinates exposed to killing cold often put personal survival first. Robert W. Service noted 
one offbeat technique in his poem about Sam McGee, a poorly acclimated prospector who 
begged to be cremated just before he succumbed on a frigid night in Alaska: 

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the 

heart of the furnace roar. 
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and 

he said, "Please close that door. 
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in 

the cold and storm- 
Since I left Plumtree down in Tennessee, it's 

the first time I've been warm." 4 

Real world warriors unfortunately find Sam McGee' s solution an unsatisfactory way to 
prevent disabling frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration, and cold-related diseases such as 
influenza in regions so frigid that spit crackles before it hits the ground and human flesh 
freezes in less than a minute after exposure to cruel winds. Practical measures then become 
crucially important to combat forces and logistical troops alike. 5 

Arbitrary cold weather uniform regulations are inadvisable, because metabolisms differ 
and co Id- wet/cold-dry requirements are dissimilar in some respects, but six or seven layers 
of clothing that are relatively light, loose, wind resistant, waterproof, and warm are preferable 



to one or two heavy garments in any case. Typical articles include long underwear, a woolen 
shirt and trousers, quilted coat and trouser liners, wind-breaker jacket and trousers, a pile cap 
with earflaps, a fluffy face mask, a parka liner, and parka. Cushion-sole socks, vapor boots 
(best for use with skis, snow shoes, and by troops in static positions), mukluks, gloves 
(preferably mittens), and a white camouflage suit round out each individual's wardrobe. 
Body armor adds bulk and weight, but goggles or other protection against snow blindness do 

Combat and support troops engaged in strenuous activities must guard against 
overdressing, which can be just as injurious as overexposure if excessive perspiration leads 
to exhaustion or evaporation causes bodies to cool too rapidly. Experienced personnel 
consequently unbutton, unzip, or shed clothing to ensure proper ventilation whenever 
necessary. Chemical warfare in cold climes poses two special risks: impervious protective 
shells, which must be baggy enough to slip over all other layers, are virtually impossible to 
vent; rubber masks cannot be worn over beards, remain pliable enough to ensure an air-tight 
fit only when warm, and encourage frostbitten faces in any cases. b 

Shelter. Shelters frequently spell the difference between life and death in frigid regions. 
Not many troops are as fortunate as U.S. peacekeepers in Bosnia, who soon after arrival were 
able to rotate between the field and elaborate modules where they warmed themselves 
during the winter of 1 995-96, enjoyed hot meals, laundered dirty uniforms, slept on cots, and 
relaxed for 3 days at a time until the next batch of 550 arrived at one of six such "cities." 7 
Most military personnel in wintry areas of operation instead occupy small-to-medium-sized 
tents. Unlike Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey Circus, which formerly used elephants 
to help roustabouts erect and strike Big Tops, they must unfurl heavy canvas stiff with cold 
(usually in the dark), try to drive tent pegs into tundra frozen harder than bricks (perhaps 
aided by explosives), build snow walls to ward off howling winds, then chop out before they 
displace. Base camps generally boast wooden floors, while warm sleeping bags atop air 
mattresses or other insulating materials are obligatory on bare ground. Troops in the open 
occasionally construct expedient shelters such as igloos and snow caves, which insulate as 
well as rock wool or fiber glass, but truck cabs and armored vehicles make poor bedrooms, 
because carbon monoxide is an ever present danger, and cold, hard surfaces rob sleepers of 
warmth. 8 

Food and Water. Generous, lightweight, well-balanced, nutritious, and preferably warm 
rations are essential in very cold weather, especially for troops engaged in strenuous 
activities. The U.S. Army sets 4,500 calories per day as a goal, although Finnish counterparts 
with greater practical experience recommend 6,000. Sweets make excellent instant-energy 
snacks between regular meals. Commanders and cooks must constantly bear in mind that 
food not in well-insulated containers will freeze in transit between kitchens and consumers. 
Each individual moreover requires 4 to 6 quarts (liters) of drinking water per day to prevent 
dehydration in cold weather, although adequate sources are difficult to tap when streams turn 
to ice. Five-gallon (1 8-liter) cans as well as canteens freeze fast in subzero temperatures, even 
when first filled with hot water. Problems compound when logisticians factor in water for 
hygienic purposes, not to mention huge amounts needed to decontaminate units hit by 
persistent chemical warfare agents. 9 

Leadership. Physical fitness, acclimatization, and training may prepare military men and 
women for cold weather warfare, but ample food, proper clothing, and adequate shelter 


cannot sustain them if a sizable percentage, bundled from head to foot against the cold, 
nearly deaf and blinded by parka hoods, begin to hibernate. Strong junior officers and 
noncommissioned officers then become truly indispensable, for units can disintegrate and 
missions fail under such conditions. 


Big maintenance problems begin to develop at about -1 0F (-23 C) and intensify with every 
degree that thermometers drop thereafter: 

Lubricants stiffen. 

Metals lose tensile strength. 

Rubber loses plasticity. 

Plastics and ceramics become less ductile. 

Battery efficiencies decrease dramatically. 

Fuels vaporize incompletely. 

Glass cracks when suddenly heated. 

Seals are subject to failure. 

Static electricity increases. 

Gauges and dials stick. 

Combustion engines are hard to start, partly because battery output at best is far below 
normal (practically zero at -40 F and -40 C). Tires inflated in garages at moderate 
temperatures slip on rims and rip off valve stems when trucks drive out the door into extreme 
cold. The value of collapsible fuel bladders is dubious below about -20 F (-29 C), cold- 
soaked connectors, control knobs, and electrical contacts are hard to assemble and repair, 
and fiberglass water trailers freeze because they cannot tolerate immersion heaters. 
Flammable fuels are apt to erupt unless motor vehicles and tent stoves are properly grounded. 
Maintenance man-hours required to cope with such problems balloon in the absence of 
heated facilities. More of almost everything is needed: more mechanics, more battery 
chargers, more replacement parts, more fuel. Different oils and greases also are required. 10 

Cold weather increases aircraft maintenance difficulties by at least one order of 
magnitude, greater in the absence of overhaul hangars. De-icing is crucially important, 
because even a thin coating on air foils can be fatal. Eight F-84 fighters, for example, crashed 
shortly after take-off in the early 1950s, because ice that blocked jet intakes caused their 
engines to explode. 11 


Whether frigid flatlands favor offense or defense is subject to conjecture. Forces on the attack 
benefit from blowing snow, which facilitates surprise but makes land navigation difficult for 
troops that lack Global Positioning System (GPS) assistance. Defenders in static observation 
posts benefit from blizzards that cover tracks and camouflage positions, but generally suffer 
more cold casualties than offensive forces on patrol. Brilliant thermal contrasts caused by hot 
objects against cold backgrounds such as moving vehicles and heated tents may benefit 
one side, both, or neither. Blankets of snow that reflect moonlight, starlight, and the Aurora 


Borealis on long winter nights illuminate friend and foe alike. Cold weather limitations on 
mobility and logistics, which elementally influence mission accomplishment, are amplified 

Overland Mobility. Infantrymen, who regularly log about 3 miles an hour on level to 
rolling terrain, struggle through knee-deep snow and come to a standstill when drifts are 
sticky or much deeper, whereas heavily laden military skiers, tutored by skilled instructors 
during long periods of intensive training, glide over such surfaces. Snowshoeing is less 
glamorous, slower, and requires greater exertion, but most troops can learn all they need to 
know in an hour or so. Trailbreakers normally leave early to blaze the way and, when 
necessary, navigate for the main body through trackless territory where few topographic 
features make prominent landmarks (hi-tech global positioning devices tell troops where they 
are but not how to set true courses). 12 

Any tendency for armed forces to be roadbound degrades military capabilities at every 
level, because frigid flatlands combine wretched cross-country trafficability with exceedingly 
sparse transportation networks. All-wheel drive trucks as a rule bog down when snows on 
roads measure more than one-third of wheel diameters, stall in line waiting for plows to clear 
the way through deep drifts, and cannot easily traverse tundra or muskeg even when the land 
is bare. Track-laying vehicles, which are better able to negotiate rough ground, lose traction 
when snows are much deeper than their ground clearance. Tank drivers who repeatedly rock 
back and forth trying to break through put power plants, drive trains, and sprockets under 
great stress and make it difficult for recovery crews to set them free if they finally go belly up. 
The utility of tractor-drawn cargo sleds, snowmobiles, air-cushion vehicles, and other special 
purpose transports skyrockets under such conditions, 13 but frozen lakes and streams make 
safe routes if load-bearing capacities are sufficient for vehicles of particular weights and 
drivers proceed single file at specified intervals. Soviet forces during the winter of 1 941 -42, 
for example, delivered substantial supplies to starving Leningrad via the "Road of Life" across 
Lake Ladoga, despite intense German artillery fire and aerial bombardment. 14 

Air Power. Frigid flatlands are sparsely settled except along the southern fringe. That 
geographic fact magnifies needs to gain and retain air superiority as soon as possible, so that 
air combat forces can conduct reconnaissance, deep-strike, and close-support missions while 
air mobility forces deploy, redeploy, supply, evacuate, and otherwise support troops on the 
ground. Frozen lakes and streams make extemporaneous airfields for lightly laden ski planes 
ifter engineers smooth out rough spots and helicopters enjoy large latitude in their choice 
of landing zones, but fighter, attack, bomber, and airlift squadrons that lack very short or 
vertical takeoff and landing (VSTOL, VTOL) capabilities require hard-surfaced runways. 

Military air operations always are iffy in wintry weather, which often poses worse hazards 
than armed enemies. Improperly insulated buildings, black-topped runways, taxi strips, and 
parking areas collapse if they absorb enough sunshine to melt underlying permafrost. Low 
ceilings, ice fog, and snow storms may prevent takeoffs or landings for several consecutive 
days, while wind-driven drifts close airports unless cleared repeatedly. Sensible commanders 
suspend close air support missions when "whiteouts" drastically reduce horizontal visibility 
and "grayouts" distort depth perception during prolonged periods of morning and evening 
twilight. 15 Heliborne and parachute assaults are numbing propositions in subzero weather, 
as members of the U.S. 504 th Parachute Infantry Regiment discovered in February 1954 
during Operation Arctic Night near Thule, Greenland, when thermometers read -35 F (-37 


C), the airspeed was 130 knots, and the prop blast that hit them as they leaped through wide 
open doors was far colder than conventional wind-chill charts ever register (table 7, page 73). 
Only strict discipline and thoughtful preparations prevented jump injuries and cold 
casulaties 16 

Supply. Cold clime logistical loads expand prodigiously in response to requirements for 
more of almost everything from rations, clothing, tents, water heaters, and stoves to 
whitewash, snow plows, antifreeze, batteries, repair parts, construction materials, and 
specialized accouterments such as snow shoes and skis. Armed forces in wintry weather 
burn fuel at outrageous rates. Motor vehicles churning through snow, for example, consume 
perhaps 25 percent more than on solid ground. It takes 1 gallons (38 liters) of diesel per day 
to keep a 10-man squad tent habitable when thermometers register -20 F (-29 Q. 
Additional petroleum, oil, and lubricant (POL) supplies are needed to keep distributors in 
business. Small wonder, therefore, that centralized logistic facilities, including field kitchens 
(the main source of warm meals for ground combat forces), often become tempting targets 
in frigid flatlands. 17 


Fierce seafarers dressed in wild animal skins were familiar with frigid seas long before Viking 
raiders invaded Ireland in the 6th century A.D. Naval interests in the North Atlantic, North 
Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, which intensified sharply during World War II, remained strong 
throughout the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union (1 946-1 989) and 
likely will continue to do so, because all three are strategically located. 


The subfreezing weather that creates frigid seas confines surface combatants, support ships, 
and merchantmen inside ice-clogged harbors much of the year unless icebreakers clear the 
way to open water. All crews, ships, and embarked aircraft experience many of the problems 
that afflict armed forces ashore and endure additional hardships that are uniquely naval. 

Icebreakers. No nation has greater need for icebreakers than Russia, where only the 
Black Sea Fleet enjoys ice-free ports (map 1 on page 1 2 and map 8 on page 51 ). The Gulf of 
Finland often freezes 3-feet (1 -meter) thick at Saint Petersburg and Kronstadt, which is home 
port for the Baltic Fleet. The Northern Fleet, ensconced near the Norwegian frontier where 
the Gulf Stream slightly warms the Barents Sea, is situated more favorably but still relies on 
icebreakers, as do ships of Russia's Pacific Fleet as far south as Vladivostok, where assistance 
is essential from November through March as a minimum. No naval base save 
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, washed by the relatively tepid Kurishio Current, has easy access 
to the ocean. 

Russians since the late 19th century consequently have specialized in icebreakers, which 
not only unclog their ports during brutal winters but drive wedges between floes on high seas, 
locate leads in polar ice, widen such channels for ships that follow in trail, and otherwise 
facilitate naval operations. Icebreakers of all countries characteristically are stubby enough 
to maneuver in close quarters and feature broad beams designed to cut wide swaths, enough 
horsepower to slice paths where required without repeated ramming, cutaway bows that ride 
over ice instead of hitting it head on, and reinforced hulls flared to lift the ship under pressure 
rather than let it be crushed. Huge fuel expenditures in regions where underway 


i replenishment may be impossible led the Soviet Union in 1 957 to develop and deploy the 
Lenin, the world's first nuclear-powered icebreaker expressly designed to bull its way through 
ice fields more than 6 feet (2 meters) thick and remain self-sufficient for more than a year. 18 
Housekeeping Problems and Responses. Surface ships and crews that cannot cope well 
with freezing temperatures, wild winds, and towering waves can anticipate cruel treatment. 
Routine preparations in many respects parallel those of armed forces in dank arctic regions 
ashore: protective clothing to shield wearers against cold weather; rations with high caloric 
contents; warm quarters; winterized weapons and equipment; specialized supplies; and 
preventive maintenance precautions. 19 Housekeeping problems peculiar to life aboard naval 
ships nevertheless are evident. 

Cramped compartments put storage space for cold weather gear at a premium, especially 
on board small surface combatants such as destroyers, frigates, and corvettes. It takes about 
1 cubic foot, for example, to stow the layered winter clothing of each individual, twice that 
much for one-piece exposure suits. Galleys generally must find room for 1 percent more 
food than they stock in warmer climes. Bulky drums of antifreeze, ice preventives, de-icing 
chemicals, and heavy bags of sand soak up precious space. So do additional repair parts 
needed to compensate for abnormally rapid expenditures as a direct result of severe weather. 
Commanders also must accommodate many awkwardly dimensioned implements, lash down 
impedimenta that does not fit in lockers, and assure easy access to stocks in greatest demand. 
What to take and what to leave behind involves painful tradeoffs. 20 

Frozen salt water spray, unknown inland, can cover decks, bulkheads, superstructures, 
air intakes, hatches, masts, rigging, exposed machinery, antennas, and weapon systems with 
thick layers of ice that increase displacement, decrease freeboard, degrade combat 
capabilities and, if not countered in time, endanger ship stability. Rock salt, calcium 
chloride, ethylene glycol, ethanol, urea, and other materials that depress the freezing point 
of sea water cause ice to melt at temperatures well below 28.5 F (2 C), but caution is 
advisable, because all mingle good and bad attributes. Urea emits ammonia gas and is not 
as efficient as salts pound per pound, but is less corrosive. Ethylene glycol, which works 
better than most substitutes at temperatures as low as 5 F (-1 5 C), is expensive and creates 
slippery surfaces. The Law of Diminishing Returns consequently determines which 
applications would be most cost effective and simultaneously least detrimental. 21 

Hazards Underway. Surface ships underway in arctic and antarctic waters even during 
summer months face hazards that no other regions duplicate. Tremendous waves on July 1 8, 
1 942, not only dumped water down the air intakes of rolling destroyers between Kodiak, 
Jaska, and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands but induced seasickness to such an extent that 
"vomit clung to every surface." Shipmates on the heavy cruiser Indianapolis, who almost 
immediately rescued a man overboard, discovered that hypothermia already had killed him. 
Sister ships curtsied past each other in dense fog until two blinded destroyers finally collided, 
then a third rammed a fourth, whereupon the task force returned to port without firing a 
;hot. 22 

Perpetual ice packs cover the Arctic Ocean between 90 and 80 or so north latitude, but 
the irregularly shaped Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) that forms farther south each winter 
sometimes extends fingers as far as Newfoundland and the Sea of Japan. Surface ships that 
venture into the mushy forward edge of the MIZ without icebreaker assistance may damage 
screws and rudders, while those that proceed too far risk major hull damage or could be 


immobilized until rescuers arrive. Floes that vary from a few feet to several miles in width 
habitually break off from the MIZ and float south, accompanied in the North Atlantic by 
icebergs that primarily originate in Greenland, Baffin Island, and Svalbard. 23 

Allied convoys that carried U.S. Lend-lease supplies from Iceland to arctic ports in the 
Soviet Union dodged those floating obstacles as well as enemy armed forces during World 
War II (maps 1 3 and 1 4). Crews on the so-called "Murmansk Run" were tethered by life lines 
to hawsers that stretched from bow to stern on each pitching ship. Tanks, locomotives, 
trucks, and crated aircraft had to be winched back into place repeatedly after wrenching 
motions broke their bonds. Convoy PQ-13, which left Reykjavik in March 1942, first met 
1 00-mile-per-hour winds that scattered 1 9 of its cargo ships and 9 escorts over 1 50 miles of 
the Barents Sea, then came under relentless German bomber and submarine attacks. Many 
crewmen perished in the frigid waters or suffered from severe frostbite before 11 of 35 
transports finally completed that traumatic voyage in~July (three ships survived because 
whitewash and bedding sheets helped them blend with ice floes). 24 


The search for a Northeast Passage that skirted Siberia from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean 
started in the 16th century with four fearless navigators: Hugh Willoughby, Richard 
Chancellor, Stephen Burrough, and Willem Barents. Four more failed to find a Northwest 
Passage along what currently is Canada's arctic frontier (Giovanni da Verrazano, Sir Martin 
Frobisher, John Davis, and Henry Hudson). Baron Nils Nordenskiold finally made the trip 
from west to east in 1 878-1 879 and Roald Amundson took a 3-year trek from east to west 
between 1904 and 1906, 25 but we now know that no militarily reliable arctic route for 
surface ships exists in either direction, even in summer with the aid of icebreakers. 

Naval operations beneath ice-filled seas nevertheless have been feasible since the U.S. 
nuclear-powered attack submarine Nautilus (SSN-571), equipped with special sonar and 
navigational gear, crossed under the polar ice pack en route from Seattle, Washington, to the 
Atlantic Ocean in August .1 958. 2b The Skate (SSN-578), with a hardened sail and other novel 
features, surfaced though heavy ice the following year (map 1 5). 

Soviet ballistic missile submarines occupied bastions beneath the Barents Sea and the Sea 
of Okhotsk late in the Cold War, but naval strategists and tacticians believe that cat-and- 
mouse competition could spread to other peripheral seas in Marginal Ice Zones south of the 
Arctic Ocean. Oceanographers, who are amassing detailed intelligence concerning 
bathymetry, topographic characteristics, water densities, bio-acoustics, sound transition, and 
ambient noise, conclude that the floating canopy of sea ice, which measures from 1 to more 
than 100 feet (30 meters) thick, is rock hard on top, has the consistency of cheap concrete 
below, is a dynamic mass under constant thermal stress, and moves sluggishly in predictable 
directions under the influence of currents and prevailing winds. Underneath, it constitutes 
an upside down world of bad lands, buttes, blocks, ridges, spires, hills, dales, planes, open 
cracks, lakes, and massive imprisoned icebergs, all superimposed above a similar landscape 
that shapes the floor. 27 Submarines able to operate most effectively in that complex 
environment could safely ignore high speed and deep submergence abilities but need an 
array of sophisticated navigation and target acquisition/tracking sensors that scan 360 degrees 
front and rear, left and right, above and below. Reliable ways to surface through solid ice 
also seem obligatory, because crews otherwise would perish if air supplies failed for any 



Map 1 3. Iceberg Routes to the North Atlantic 

\ V 

\ \ \ \ 




CALVING 61 N TO 6830'N 













Map 14. The "Murmansk Run' 



m y- 

St. Petersburg 


"' Bllililpl'i 





reason. Combat could be likened to jungle warfare in at least one respect: heavily armed 
defenders could silently wait until adversaries creeping through the clutter come within 
reach, then trigger ambushes. The quest for offensive countermeasures consequently 
emphasizes stealthiness and abilities to differentiate friends from foes quickly at close 
quarters. Some authorities also believe that stubby, ellipsoidal submarines should replace 
long, cigar-shaped models that cannot maneuver well in tight spaces. 28 


Imposing mountains that girdle the Pacific Basin and cut across Eurasia, together with high 
hills on every continent save Australia, constitute almost half of Earth's surface above sea 
level (map 1 6). All ranges, chains, and Cordilleras large and small feature compartmented 
topography, steep gradients, and few high speed avenues, but latitudes, elevations, shapes, 
soils, hydrology, vegetation, and climate nevertheless produce distinctive variations. 2 '' Snow- 
covered European Alps are quite unlike the relatively low but rugged Sierra Maestras that 
harbored Fidel Castro and his revolutionary band before they overthrew Cuban dictator 
Fulgencio Batista in 1959. 30 Sere spires in the Sahara and neighboring Sinai only faintly 
resemble forested slopes in rain-drenched Vietnam. The military implications of mountainous 
regions moreover are controversial, because tactical advantages sometimes become strategic 
liabilities, and vice versa. 



Map 15. The Arctic Ocean and Peripheral Seas 




Environmental adversity overcome only by special skills characterizes all mountains, 
regardless of their configuration or locale. Armed forces that are superlatively prepared for 
operations on flatlands often do poorly until they adjust. 

Environmental Adversity. British Field Marshal the Viscount Slim once ruefully observed 
that senior military planners who plot distances and calculate movement times on small-scale 
maps cannot appreciate what impediments mountains impose. "To do that/' he opined, "you 
must scramble up the precipitous slopes and slide down the other side, endlessly, as if you 
were walking along the teeth of a saw/' 3 

Movement indeed is difficult in mountainous terrain where obstacles abound, defiles limit 
aneuver room, and armed forces perched above are well positioned to dominate opponents 
below. Motorized conveyances as a rule are confined to roads that, with few exceptions, are 
rudimentary, narrow, and poorly constructed, with steep shoulders, switchback curves, 
numerous bridges (many of them flimsy), tunnels, trestles, and culverts, all of which restrict 
traffic flow and invite enemy interdiction. One disabled tank or truck, even a jackknifed 
trailer, could immobilize an entire column under such conditions. Steep slopes stymie 
wheeled vehicles and discourage tanks which may stall, slide, throw a track on loose gravel, 
or topple sideways if driven on too sharp a slant. Cross-country trafficability consequently is 
confined to foot troops and pack animals in the worst areas. Air mobility is a welcome 
supplement when weather permits, but is unreliable because thick fog or strong winds 
accompanied by severe turbulence often intervene unexpectedly and disrupt flight operations 
for prolonged periods. 32 



Map 1 6. Major Mountainous Regions 

Mountain weather, typified by meteorological anomalies such as temperature inversions, 
capricious winds, and sudden squalls, adversely affects foot sloggers as well as aircraft. 
Intense solar radiation causes valley thermometers to rise swiftly after sunup wherever the 
atmosphere is pollution free and drop after dark as soon as heavy, chilled air drains 
downslope. Daytime temperatures may vary as much as 40 or 50 F (20 or 25 C) between 
sun and shadeat high altitudes. Leeward locations are sheltered from winds, which elsewhere 
sweep across exposed mountainsides and accelerate through constricted passes that act as 
amplifiers. Appropriate uniforms thus depend in large part on particular places and times of 
day troops clad for early morning climbs in cold climates frequently become too warm well 
before noon. 33 

Usable space for airstrips, heavy weapons, and logistic installations usually is scarce, 
cramped, and vulnerable. The airport that serves Sarajevo in former Yugoslavia remained 
open for U.N. humanitarian relief flights in the early 1 990s only at the pleasure of Bosnian 
Serbs, who held commanding high ground until all belligerents accepted the Dayton Accords 
in November 1 995 and NATO deployed powerful peacekeeping forces. 34 Helicopters can 
deposit and provision light artillery batteries in advantageous locations that otherwise would 
be inaccessible, but self-propelled and heavy, towed howitzers seldom stray far from main 
roads along valley floors, which makes it hard for them to hit reverse slopes whenever angles 
of fire are excessively high. Forward observers moreover find that artillery directed against 



ridgelines and narrow valleys is difficult to adjust, because slight increases or decreases in 
tube elevation result in wasted rounds that overshoot or land short, perhaps among friendly 
troops. 35 

Special Skills. Requirements for rock climbers who can lug 1 00-pound rucksacks up 90- 
degree angles are limited, because military operations infrequently take place on 
mountainous terrain that demands esoteric techniques. Urgent needs, however, sometimes 
arise, which was the case in December 1943, when 600 U.S. and Canadian riflemen of the 
1 st Special Service Force (the "Devil's Brigade") scaled a 1 ,000-foot (305-meter) cliff that was 
almost perpendicular, then surprised and defeated German defenders atop Monte la Difensa 
near Cassino, Italy. A battalion of the U.S. 10 th Mountain Division equipped with pitons and 
ropes topped that feat 4 months later when they worked their way up the 3,000-foot, very 
nearly vertical, ice-glazed face of Riva Ridge in the northern Apennines with similar results. 36 

The value of large, technologically superior ground forces is less than on level land, 
where they can maneuver fluidly and bring tremendous firepower to bear. Most combat 
missions instead emphasize decentralized small unit actions by subordinate elements of 
standard infantry battalions. Success depends primarily on skilled junior leaders and self- 
eliant foot soldiers who are superbly conditioned and well schooled in the fundamentals of 
ountain warfare (untutored gunners shooting down hill, for example, tend to aim high, 
hile firing up hill has the opposite effect until training corrects those faults). Land 
navigation, scouting, patrolling, cover, concealment, survival, escape and evasion are topics 
that deserve close attention. So does local security, given the fact that mountains have been 
the natural habitat of guerrillas since human beings began to keep records. Dispersed 
command posts, airstrips, and logistic facilities necessarily located at wide spots along well- 
traveled roads make lucrative targets. 37 

Standard infantry divisions tailored for mountain warfare generally replace a good deal 
of heavy equipment with lighter loads that are easily transportable. They also add engineers 
to construct, improve, and maintain roads, trails, airfields, helicopter landing zones, and 
logistical tramways, install obstacles, and prepare field fortifications. Space satellites or 
multichannel relay stations airlifted to perches from which they have long-range views as a 
rule must retransmit FM radio messages that otherwise could not reach intended recipients 
because topographical features block line-of-sight paths. Strenuous activities moreover 
increase requirements for food and water; heavy reliance on helicopters expends aviation fuel 
at abnormally rapid rates; and rough usage calls for unusually large reserves of clothing and 
repair parts, of which tires, tie rods, transmissions, brake shoes, armored vehicle tracks, fuel 
pumps, and winch parts are typical. 38 

Bridges, tunnels, other transportation bottlenecks, and enemy traffic on narrow mountain 
roads are ideal interdiction targets for tactical aircraft armed with precision-guided munitions, 
providing weather permits. Close-air-support (CAS) sorties in tight terrain conversely are 
difficult to control, and crews may run fatal risks if hostile forces seed the most favorable 
approaches with a profusion of air defense weapons that are cleverly concealed and perhaps 
protected by bedrock. Low-level flights by high-performance fixed-wing aircraft and 
unmanned aerial vehicles almost always must follow constricted corridors that expose them 
to enemy weapons on both flanks. 30 



Massive mountains in many respects are very different than high hills, despite the common 
characteristics and interchangeable skills just discussed. Geographical phenomena associated 
with ever thinner air and colder temperatures at high altitudes are militarily more important 
than topographical distinctions. 

Rarefied Atmosphere. The Rockies, Andes, and the awesome Karakorum-Himalayan wall 
that separates China from the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent typify massive mountain chains. 
Nearly 150 peaks top 1 0,000 feet (3,000 meters): 45 in Asia, 33 in the United States, 25 in 
Latin America, 16 in Europe, and 12 in Africa. Antarctica, Greenland, and Oceana contain 
the remainder. Mount Everest, Godwin Austin (K2), and 1 4 other giants that exceed 25,000 
feet (7,600 meters) all dwarf imposing Mont Blanc, the loftiest spot in the Alps at a mere 
1 5,781 feet (4,810 meters). Those figures are significant, because rarefied atmosphere poses 
potentially life threatening problems for land forces transferred on short notice from near sea 
level to elevations much above 10,000 feet. Difficulties increase almost logarithmically 
between 10,000 and 20,000 feet, as 1 6th-century Spanish conquistadors discovered during 
their search for El Dorado on the Peruvian altiplano and as Indian troops reconfirmed in 
1 962, when they rushed from low-lying garrisons to block Chinese intruders knocking at their 
Himalayan door. 40 

Oxygen deprivation, clinically called hypoxia, causes almost all persons in such situations 
to suffer for several days from headaches, shortness of breath, pounding heartbeats, dizziness, 
nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and depression. Severe cases may lead to pulmonary 
congestion or cerebral edema, both of which culminate in early death if medics fail to 
evacuate stricken soldiers immediately to lower elevations (2,000 feet/600 meters or less) 
where they can rest, recuperate, and receive supplemental oxygen. Labored breathing in 
thin, dry air not only hastens dehydration but dangerously reduces the water content of 
human blood (from 15 to 50 percent in extreme cases) unless troops regularly replenish 
exhaled fluids. The rapid buildup of red cells at high altitudes encourages frostbite and 
hypothermia, because thickened blood becomes sluggish, especially in hands and feet. 

Even moderate "mountain sickness" inhibits sudden bursts of energy, such as lobbing 
hand grenades and heaving heavy gear onto truck beds. Such symptoms usually fade within 
a few days, but night vision disorders persist for weeks and it normally takes months before 
troops can fully perform duties that demand prolonged exertion or concerted attention to 
detail. Staged ascents that permit 2 to 4 weeks training at intermediate levels en route to 
higher elevations can alleviate if not eliminate most disabilities, but fast-breaking 
contingencies seldom allow such luxuries. The side that acclimatizes first thus enjoys great 
advantage. 4 ' 

Rarefied atmosphere also impairs the performance of air-breathing engines, which, like 
human beings, gasp for oxygen. Trucks overheat and lose 10 to 25 percent of rated 
horsepower at elevations above 7,000 feet (1,800 meters). Poorer than usual acceleration 
and grade-climbing capacities are among the most noticeable consequences. Fixed-wing 
aircraft need longer runways to take off and land with given loads, while helicopters struggle 
to get off the ground with gross weights they could easily lift at sea level. Smart crew chiefs, 
loadmasters, and others who calculate density altitudes therefore allow healthy margins for 
error at destinations as well as points of departure and, if necessary, plan two trips instead of 
one to prevent avoidable accidents. Pilots flying through thin air moreover must constantly 


be alert for vicious air currents and winds that variously blow down slopes after dark, reverse 
course after daybreak, curl over crests, bounce off valley walls, drop aircraft a thousand feet 
or more (300+ meters) in unpredictable down drafts, and whiplash them without warning. 42 
Nap-of-the-earth missions designed to avoid enemy air defense guns and missiles are 
extremely dangerous in mountainous terrain, especially at night under blackout conditions, 
but high-level flights can be equally hazardous. U.S. crews who repeatedly flew heavily 
laden transports 500 treacherous miles over the Himalayan "Hump" from India to China with 
supplies for Chiang Kai-shek, then back again through stormy skies, accomplished logistical 
miracles during World War II (map 1 7). 43 

Map 1 7. The Himalayan Hump 

100 200 Miles 

<p S I I ' 

100 200 300 Kilometers 

H ' V I, 

JoMandalay "j^J ^ \^ *l 

B U R M 


Avalanches. Massive avalanches pose additional dangers wherever deep snows cover steep 
mountains at high elevations (at least 40,000 Austrian and Italian alpine troops were buried 
ilive in Tyrolian territory during World War I, one-fourth of them on 2 terrible days in 1 91 6). 
"he worst avalanches occur on convex slopes, where successive layers of snow come under 
increasing tension until they fracture at the sharpest point on the curve (figure 1 9). 44 Slides 
itart spontaneously when snow banks collapse under their own weight, when rising 
temperatures weaken bonds, and when falling temperatures increase brittleness. Shearing 



actions by skis, even snow dropping out of trees, can start the process. Long-range vibrations 
from thunder, sonic booms, explosions, moving vehicles, even the sound of human voices 
can loosen tons of snow that accelerate almost instantaneously from to 60 miles an hour 
or more (1 00 kph) and pulverize everything in their path as they roar down gullies devoid of 
vegetation. Accurate forecasts are not yet possible, so wise commanders avoid suspicious 
spots to the extent possible consistent with their missions, preferably with assistance from 
residents whose first-hand knowledge of local avalanches dates back many years. 

Figure 19. Conditions Conducive to Avalanches 

Probable Line of Fracture 
(Poor Anchorage) 

Steepest Part 
of Slope 


Alexander the Great crossed and re-crossed Central Asia's Hindu Kush circa 329 B.C. through 
wind-swept, snow-covered mountain passes at altitudes between 10,000 and 1 1,000 feet 
(3,050 and 3,350 meters). Hannibal led armed forces over Europe's high Alps from west to 
east five centuries later, followed by Julius Caesar going in the opposite direction on his way 
to Gaul, but those famous warriors, like predecessors and successors ever since, won their 
most decisive victories at moderate elevations. 44 There is no evidence that innovative tactics 
or technologies will substantially increase the relative value of very high ground any time 




Mountainous terrain opens opportunities for numerically inferior but disciplined troops to 
establish defensive positions-in-depth with interlocking fields of fire, take advantage of 
abundant natural obstacles that are difficult to breach, blast field fortifications into bedrock, 
destroy bridges on high-speed enemy approaches, litter other routes with land mines, locate 
tanks and artillery in defilade, implement deception plans, and stockpile supplies 
conveniently. Offensive formations, less familiar with local terrain features, often attack 
across ground devoid of cover and so steep that foxhole digging is impossible. Multiple 
columns that proceed along parallel corridors seldom are mutually supporting, since they can 
neither see nor communicate effectively with each other and, if defenders have chosen 
positions wisely, must assault up hill. 

Celtic, Roman, Burgundian, barbarian, Austrian, Swedish, French, and Prussian warriors 
all failed to defeat defenders in the Vosges Mountains, which seldom exceed 4,000 feet 
(1,220 meters). The U.S. Seventh Army, assisted by strong air power, slugged it out on that 
ancient battleground with German Army Group G from mid-October 1 944 until mid-January 
1 945 before it became the first armed force in history to break through the Vosges against 
determined opposition. 46 Dogged Axis defenders who manned the Winter Line that ran 
across Italy from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adriatic blocked Allied routes to Rome for 7 
months, between November 1 943 and May 1 944. Monte Cassino, the most publicized cork 
in that bottle, is barely 1,700 feet high (520 meters), but tough German paratroopers 
ensconced on top resisted long after February 1 5th, when U.S. bombers pulverized the abbey 
on its summit with 600 tons of bombs. 47 Stalemated front lines see-sawed back and forth 
along Korea's mountainous spine for 2Vz years to gain dubious tactical advantage from early 
1 951 until July 27, 1 953, when both sides signed a cease-fire agreement. 48 


Carl von Clausewitz, in his great tome On War, justifiably called defensive combat in 
mountainous terrain "a true refuge for the weak for those no longer able to seek an absolute 
decision/' 4 Belligerents who deliberately elect that form of conflict may buy time with 
which to reinforce and refurbish, then resume the offensive, but can "win" in place only if 
rivals quit first because costs have become too high. The best they can do otherwise is defer 
eventual defeat. 


The Cradle of Western Civilization, which always has been largely arid aside from the Fertile 
Crescent that links the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates Valleys via the Levant, saw the earliest 
recorded warfare. Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian armies came 
first, followed by Persians, Macedonians, Parthians, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks, French, 
British, Americans, and Israelis, among others. Joshua, Ramases, Sargon, Ashurbanipal, 
Darius, Alexander, Khalid, Tamerlane, Allenby, and Lawrence of Arabia were a few among 
many who won military fame as desert warriors in that cockpit. 50 Deserts around the world 
remain hotbeds of armed combat (map 1 8). 

mmMMw J .VAv.v.v.^v.v/.v^ w ^ 


Map 1 8. Arid Regions 

All deserts are sun seared, wind scoured, and dry (average annual rainfall as a rule is less 
than 10 inches/25 centimeters), but great diversity nevertheless is evident. Some arid lands 
are immense, others are small by comparison; linear dimensions, elevations, relative 
humidity, and distance from sea water vary considerably; topographical features run the full 
range from monotonous plains to spectacular peaks. Three and a half million square miles 
of Sahara Desert stretch from east to west across all or part of 10 North African countries, 
while the lanky Atacama, which runs from north to south in Chile, measures more than half 
as long but covers only 4 percent as much area. Death Valley, California, the lowest point 
in North America at -86 feet (-30 meters) is blistering hot in summer, whereas Mongolia's 
Gobi Desert on an interior plateau far above sea level is bitterly cold when winter winds 
blow in from Siberia. Most desert air is uncommonly dry, but high humidity turns Persian 
Gulf and Red Sea coasts into sweat boxes. Stony ground, contrary to popular misconceptions, 
is more common than humongous sand dunes, such as those in Saudi Arabia's Rub al Khali 
and southern Chad. 51 


Climatic eccentricities such as irregular rainfall, intemperate heat, and gale force winds even 
so characterize deserts the world over. Military personnel consequently require special 
equipment, training, and acclimatization 



Irregular Rainfall. Unpredictable c loudbursts habitually replace prolonged, gentle, 
widespread rains that bless most well-watered regions. Downpours dump double or triple 
the average annual amount of precipitation in an hour or two, sink into sand or run off hard 
surfaces, provide brief respites from drought, then leave the land as barren as before. Dakla 
Oasis, located due west of Luxor, Egypt, is not atypical: it once went more than a decade 
without a drop of rain, although its yearly quota is about five inches (13 centimeters). 
Raging torrents without warning fill desiccated stream beds to overflowing, then sweep away 
bridges, buildings, military bivouacs, and other impedimenta that rashly block their paths. 
Roiling waters in southeast Tunisia turned Wadi Zigzaou into an impromptu moat that Field 
Marshal Bernard Montgomery's armored columns failed to breach on March 20, 1 943. Four 
Valentine tanks crossed after British sappers paved the bottom with bundles of brush, but the 
next tank in line sank up to its turret in muck. 52 

Intemperate Heat. Oven-like summers generally prevail, even in parts of the Gobi Desert 
and China's Taklimakan where mean winter temperatures remain below freezing for several 
months each year. Thermometers that commonly hover around 120 F (48 C) in mid- 
afternoon are "mild" compared with sand temperatures, which may exceed 165 F (73 C). 
The crew compartments of heavily armored vehicles that lack air conditioning can become 
unbearable, while thin-skinned truck cabs heat up faster and reach even higher 
temperatures 185 F (84 C) is not exceptional. Those figures are significant, because 
1 20 F is the threshold of human pain and readings as low as 1 40 F (60 C) may cause first- 
degree burns. 

Most British and German troops in the North African desert during World War II wore 
short-sleeved shirts and short pants or stripped to the waist, although clothing that provides 
better coverage not only prevents sunburn and sand blasting by violent winds but serves as 
a coolant when sweat-soaked. Savvy aircraft and vehicle mechanics also wear gloves. 
Aircraft payloads plummet in excessive heat, which reduces lift capacities, while sensitive 
computers, sensors, communications equipment, and other electronics malfunction. Batteries 
hold their charge less efficiently (one U.S. armored division requires 3,660 batteries to keep 
327 Abrams tanks and 283 Bradley fighting vehicles rolling, not to mention many additional 
tracked vehicles and trucks that swell the total severalfold). Bombs and missile warheads as 
well as artillery and tank ammunition are best stored in open pits protected by double sun 
screens, perishable food spoils quickly, and un refrigerated water left unattended in the sun 
becomes unpalatable before it vaporizes. Hot nights and high humidity on the order of 90 
to 1 00 percent make duty eternally hard to endure along some sea coasts, even for well- 
acclimated troops, but temperatures inland may drop 70 F (21 C) or more after dark. Armed 
forces skilled at night fighting thus enjoy a sharp edge. 53 

Gale Force Winds. Destructive gales that blow for days at a time also are desert 
trademarks. Windblown sand, powerful enough to amputate unprotected telephone poles 
over time, impartially abrades everything in its path for a few feet above ground level while 
towering clouds of silt as fine as talcum powder blacken the sky, inflame eyes, and make 
troops wish for respirators. Sand and dust storms together reduce visibility to near zero, 
infiltrate tents, jam weapons, clog machines, pit optical devices, contaminate food and drink, 


and generate enough electricity to drive magnetic compasses crazy (explosives apparently 
detonated at an ammunition dump near Tobruk, Libya, in 1942). Grit additionally blankets 
stockpiles, shortens the life span of equipment despite preventive measures, increases logistic 
loads commensurately, and otherwise makes life miserable for man and beast. Military 
operations slow, sometimes stop, during the worst wind storms. 54 

Acclimatization Problems. Most military personnel in fit condition take about 2 weeks 
to acclimate, but may never reach peak performance in oppressive heat. Commanders 
consequently schedule strenuous activities during the coolest parts of each day and allow 
longer than usual rest periods, consistent with mission accomplishment. Personal hygiene 
and sanitation problems moreover can become unmanageable unless troops practice 
prophylactic medicine, which is easier said than done. (Members of Field Marshal Rommel's 
Afrika Korps sometimes scrubbed sweaty uniforms with sand to keep them from rotting.) 
Prickly heat, which upsets sweating mechanisms, encourages heat prostration, while dirt and 
insect bites turn minor scratches into running sores unless treated promptly. Flies feed on 
garbage, human feces, and dead bodies that burst under the hot sun, batten in food and open 
wounds, then spread diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, and other intestinal disorders. 
Latrines are crucially important, but shifting sands fill slit trenches almost as fast as they can 
be dug in some regions, whereas rocky ground elsewhere makes excavations impossible 
without explosives. 55 


Water for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, use in military hospitals, and assorted other 
purposes is a priceless commodity in arid regions, more precious than any other natural 
resource, including petroleum. Sources, repositories, purification facilities, desalinization 
plants, tank trucks, water pipelines, and associated assets accordingly constitute prime 
military targets. 

Supplies. Large, reliable sources are limited to a few bodies of fresh water and perennial 
rivers, such as the Colorado, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Nile, which survive high 
evaporation rates only because far distant watersheds feed them copiously and consistently. 
Smaller streams run dry several months each year. Once famous oases such as Kashgar, 
Yarkand, and Khotan, which Marco Polo visited along Central Asia's Silk Route on his way 
to Cathay in the year 1 272, are barely able to supply current civilian populations. Neither 
they nor ribbon-like counterparts that stretch for miles across the otherwise waterless Sahara 
could long support large-scale military operations. (Lieutenant General Gus Pagonis, the 
chief logistician during U.S. and allied operations against Iraq in 1 990-1 991 , was appalled 
to find that XVIII Airborne Corps alone would need billions of gallons over the first few 
months. 56 ) Easily accessible reservoirs that lie beneath dry stream beds and some alluvial fans 
cannot supply such quantities. 

Drilling for water in open wastelands is at least as chancy as sinking wildcat oil wells, 
because precise locations are problematic, the most promising sumps often lie 500 to 800 
feet (1 50-250 meters) below the surface, some are brackish, and extraction in many cases 
would require high capacity pumps. Prudent users purify water regardless of its source to 
remove disease-bearing bacteria and minerals that might calcify inside military machines. 


Major armed forces in arid regions as a direct result often must import or desalinate most 
water supplies. 57 

Demands. Water rationing, once a popular but ill-conceived part of the acclimatization 
process, has been discredited because performance suffers and dehydration poses ever 
present dangers. Sweat evaporates so rapidly in dry desert heat that humans commonly lose 
about 1 pint of water per hour even at rest, yet never notice adverse effects or feel thirsty until 
the deficit reaches four times that amount (2 quarts, or 2 liters), by which time heat 
prostration may be imminent. Heavy exertion requires much greater intake, but Rommel's 
Afrika Korps in the summer of 1 942 carried only 1 5 quarts per day for trucks and tanks as 
well as personnel. His parched troops made every drop count, yet still ran dry during one 
offensive and survived only because they captured British water supplies. 58 U.S. military 
personnel in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who were much better endowed logistically, 
consumed approximately 11 gallons per day (42 liters), plus 10 to 12 gallons more per 
vehicle. Refrigerated vans kept a good deal of it palatable despite intense desert heat. 59 


Alan Moorehead, an Australian journalist during World War II, once compared combat on 
flat desert floors to warfare at sea, because both environments lack distinctive landmarks. 
Massive land forces, like opposing flotillas, can maneuver at will for favorable positions, 
remain over the horizon until they make contact, and concentrate on enemy forces rather 
than key terrain, except for occasional struggles to control transportation bottlenecks such as 
Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. 60 

Conventional Operations. Mounted operations that marked desert warfare before the 
advent of saddles and stirrups have done so ever since. 61 Motorized British forces, for 
example, took just 3 days to destroy three Italian divisions and capture 39,000 foot soldiers 
outside Sidi Barrani, Egypt in December 1 940. 62 Iraqi troops who dug in after they invaded 
Kuwait 50 years later took a worse walloping, first from coalition aircraft that severed all links 
with their homeland and pulverized static positions, then from airmobile, armored, and 
mechanized divisions that used vertical and horizontal envelopments to great advantage 
during the 1 00-hour ground phase of a 6-week war. 63 The victors in both cases suffered few 
casualties compared with the vanquished. 

Land transportation of all types must detour around steep slopes and deep gullies as well 
as huge dunes, such as those that sprawl across southern Iran, the Sahara Desert's Great 
Western Erg, and Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter. Soft sand, sharp rocks, and thorns as thick 
as thumbs inhibit cross-country movement by trucks, especially those that tow trailers (the 
1 st Brigade of the Saudi Arabian National Guard unhappily suffered 161 flat tires when it 
moved from Riyadh to blocking positions in August 1990). Tracked vehicles, however, can 
more easily traverse the gravelly plains, stony pavements, and stretches of shallow sand that 
characterize most deserts. 

Level to rolling desert landscapes, virtually devoid of vegetation, afford fine fields of fire 
for flat trajectory weapons, which usually are employable at maximum ranges. Skilled 
weather officers in possession of technologically advanced techniques can help air crews and 
ground-based gunners employ infrared sensors and lasers despite heat, haze, and dust by 
predicting which side of particular targets will be hottest at particular times each day. They 
also can calculate "thermal crossover" times that tell when the contrast between targets and 


surrounding territory will be greatest and least, given the thermal properties of various 
materials. Metals, for example, heat and cool quickly, whereas asphalt heats slowly and stays 
hot a long time. Aerial observers, who claim clear views as far as naked eyes and sensors can 
see, find it easy to identify many stationary targets and can track low-flying helicopters as 
well as vehicular columns, both of which reflect light from wind screens and raise telltale 
clouds of dust. Great visibility also facilitates the use of air-to-ground missiles from positions 
beyond the reach of enemy air defense weapons. The side able to establish air superiority 
early consequently gains a decided edge. 65 

The monotonously beige color of most desert soil nevertheless makes it difficult to 
distinguish different elevations, except during early morning and evening hours when terrain 
features cast long shadows. Ground-level observation in fact often is better on clear nights 
than at mid-day, when glare is intense, bright sunlight blinds all who face in its direction, and 
shimmering mirages not only distort depth perception but make images seem to float. Radar 
altimeters help pilots and navigators when the sun is high and on bright moonlit nights. 66 

Special Operations. Special operations forces can function independently or complement 
conventional formations in arid regions despite the presence of enemy air power and the 
paucity of vegetation. British Colonel David Stirling's nascent Special Air Service (SAS), 
assisted at times by the Long Range Desert Group, which excelled at reconnaissance, ran 
rampant in the northern Sahara between November 1 941 and January 1 943, often 1 00 miles 
or so behind hostile lines, where they destroyed aircraft on the ground, blew up motor pools, 
detonated ammunition stocks, set fire to petrol dumps, hijacked vehicles, mined roads, and 
derailed trains. 67 Nineteenth century guerrillas in Afghanistan gave British troops headaches, 
and their descendants so plagued technologically superior Soviet invaders in the 20th century 
that the Kremlin finally quit to preclude unacceptable losses in money, military manpower, 
and materiel after 1 frustrating years, from 1 980 to 1 989. 68 

Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Operations. Peacetime tests in lieu of practical 
experience suggest that nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons employed against 
troops widely dispersed in the desert would be less potent than usual in some respects and 
more dangerous in other regards. Overall usefulness would depend mainly on climatic 
patterns, local weather conditions, and topographic configurations. 

The radius of heavy damage from nuclear detonations on level to rolling terrain likely 
would be shorter than in cool climes, because heat reduces static overpressures that give 
shock waves their punch. Troops in gullies or foxholes and weapon systems protected by 
revetments consequently would be somewhat safer than on frigid flatlands. Less powerful 
blast effects rocketing through light desert air, however, could disable distant thin-skinned 
targets such as aircraft parked in the open, while thermal radiation and dazzle concurrently 
burned and blinded exposed personnel. The direction and duration of radioactive fallout 
from gigantic dust clouds would depend on the erratic behavior of desert winds and turbulent 
currents. 69 

High concentrations of toxic chemical warfare munitions designed to inflict mass 
casualties would be required whenever desert heat is intense, because sizzling temperatures, 
strong winds, and unstable air masses dissipate vapors and evaporate liquids rapidly. 
Perspiring personnel who shed protective clothing prematurely nevertheless would be 
extremely vulnerable to lethal and incapacitating agents that attain maximum effectiveness 
on sweaty skin. Even bogus threats and false alarms can undercut enemy capabilities if they 


make troops don impermeable gear repeatedly, perhaps for lengthy periods. Masks impair 
breathing and muffle oral communications, protective gloves degrade tactile dexterity, 
poreless suits act as portable saunas, time to accomplish routine tasks expands, and fatigue 
sets in fast. Bright sunlight, dry air, and heat would limit biological warfare aerosols to very 
small areas, provided they survived storage, but commanders and key subordinates at every 
level should take positive steps to prevent enemies from polluting water supplies, because 
deprivation could be disastrous. 70 


Arid regions that facilitate maneuver warfare on a grand scale may be a tactician's dream, but 
vast deserts that are hot, dusty, hard scrabble, and devoid of militarily useful resources give 
logisticians nightmares. Most supplies must be imported, consumption rates soar, 
maintenance requirements multiply, and extended mobile operations strain distribution 
systems. Troubles burgeon as distances from support bases increase. Painful consequences 
ensue whenever combat forces stall because rates of advance and other maneuvers outstrip 
logistical capabilities. 

Fleets of fuel tankers must make repeated round trips between supply points and 
customers, because long-distance, cross-country motoring over sand, loose gravel, and other 
surfaces that afford poor traction greatly decreases the gas mileage obtainable from wheeled 
and tracked vehicles. High mileage accrued in hot weather on rough terrain mainly in low 
gears moreover is hard on engines, radiators, springs, shock absorbers, transmissions, 
batteries, tank tracks, tires, and drivers. Constant vibrations crack and break metal. Gaskets 
and fan belts wear out quickly. Grit grinds assorted parts subject to friction, such as ignitions, 
brake shoes, bushings, bearings, water pumps, and carburetors, as well as microphones, 
switches, and circuit breakers. Air, fuel, and oil filters demand daily servicing and frequent 
replacement. Similar supply and maintenance problems afflict all other types of military 
materiel, as U.S. Lieutenant General Gus Pagonis graphically described after Operation 
Desert Storm in his unofficial report entitled Moving Mountains 7 ^ 


Tropical rain forests, which never are neutral, favor well-prepared forces and penalize 
military leaders who fail to understand that: 

Small unit actions predominate. 

Overland movement invariably is slow and laborious. 

Troops mounted on horseback and motor vehicles are less mobile than foot soldiers. 

Natural drop zones, landing zones, and potential airstrips are small and scarce. 

Visibility and fields of fire for flat trajectory weapons are severely limited. 

Land navigation requires specialized techniques. 

Tanks, artillery, other heavy weapons, and close air support aircraft are inhibited. 

Command, control, communications, and logistics are especially difficult. 

Special operations forces and defenders enjoy distinctive advantages. 

Quantitative and technological superiority count less than adaptability. 


A 1 941 pamphlet, Read This Alone and The War Can Be Won, indoctrinated Japanese 
divisions drawn from frigid Manchuria for duty in steamy Malaya and Singapore, where they 
quickly defeated untutored British defenders and their Indian allies. Analogous U.S. 
documents at that time conversely slighted jungle warfare or received scant attention from 
America's senior military officials. The U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars Manual (1940), 
predicated on long service in Haiti (1 91 5-1 934), the Dominican Republic (1 91 6-1 924), and 
Nicaragua (1 926-1 933), was only marginally related to combat in tropical rain forests, and 
in any event, most Marines on the eve of World War II found amphibious operations a far 
more entertaining topic. The U.S. Army largely ignored Field Manual 3 1-20: Jungle Warfare, 
which reached a very restricted audience after distribution in December 1 941 . Commanders 
as well as rank and file in both services accordingly received on-the-job training under trying 
conditions. 72 


Copious, year-round precipitation, torrid temperatures, and high humidity combine to create 
rain forests, which are dense, dripping, dank, and dark (map 1 9). Rain gauges often record 
as much as 7 inches a day (1 7.8 centimeters) in Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, but this 
may seem moderate compared with nearby New Britain, where monsoonal deluges 
sometimes dump more than double that amount. Lieutenant General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, 
the senior American commander in Burma during World War II, noted in 1944, 'The 'dry 
season' in this country is a joke . . . We have had rain in December, 1 2 days in January, 1 8 
in February, 1 in March, 1 in April, and now it's really going to rain." He was right; the 
summer monsoon started on May 1 st . Wall-to-wall foliage, always in full leaf, blocks any 
breeze, while rain forest floors turn into noxious mush. 73 

Virgin rain forests, such as most of those in the Amazon Basin and equatorial Africa, 
consist mainly of mature trees (the largest tower 200 feet/60 meters or more), the spreading 
branches of which interlock to form three or four overarching canopies high-above huge 
boles. Undergrowth is sparse, because little or no sunlight reaches the forest floor, although 
a latticework of giant lianas, some at least a foot thick, festoons from great heights to the 
bottom. Secondary jungles that sprout wherever nature or humans have cleared the land 
feature luxuriant undergrowth in the form of saplings, thickets, thorny vines, and ferns. Some 
species of bamboo that must be akin to Jack's beanstalk grow 3 feet (1 meter) a day and 
ultimately tower more than 1 00 feet. Dense stands of razor-sharp kunai grass taller than most 
men frequently cover open spaces not occupied by rice paddies, small farms, or park-like 
plantations where well-spaced rubber and coconut trees are planted in neatly kept rows. 74 

The world's largest rain forest lies on level to rolling terrain astride the Equator in South 
America from the foothills of the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. Most African jungles also rise 
above lowlands, but jungle shrouded mountains cover Central America, some Caribbean 
islands, India's west coast, most of southeast Asia, and archipelagos that stretch from Sumatra 
to Tahiti. Great environmental diversity is evident. Guadalcanal, for example, mingles plains, 
foothills, and mountains with varied vegetation that includes grassy patches, coconut groves, 
and forbidding jungles, whereas the tiny island of Tulagi, just 1 7 miles away across Sealark 
Channel, is a homogeneously wooded hill mass. New Guinea, which after Greenland is the 
second largest island on this globe, grows tropical rain forests on awesome slopes. 


Oppressive heat and humidity prevail there during daylight hours, but penetrating cold sets 
in after dark at high altitudes. 75 


Infantry squads, platoons, and companies grope slowly through jungles at reduced distances 
between elements with little or no direct assistance from adjacent units, because visual 
contact and natural fields of fire for flat-trajectory weapons seldom exceed a few yards 
(meters). Vehicles are road-bound with rare exceptions. Tense searches that culminate in 
fleeting fire-fights at point-blank range characterize up close and personal combat. Thomas 
Hobbes, in his 1651 treatise, Leviathan, inadvertently described the "solitary, poor, nasty, 
brutish, and short" life of many jungle warriors who experience "continual fear and danger 
of violent death." Armed conflict under such circumstances emphasizes needs for simple, 
centralized plans, standing operating procedures (SOPs) that anticipate unexpected 
contingencies, decentralized execution, and, above all, astute junior leaders. 

Map 1 9. Tropical Rain Forests 




Emphasis on Sixth Sense. Wrap-around rain forests intensify latent tendencies toward 
claustrophobia and paranoia, since belligerents can neither see nor hear well under best case 
conditions. Visibility is so limited, even by aerial observers and surveillance satellites, that 
cleverly concealed enemy fortifications are hard to spot. Thermal imagers work reasonably 
well despite thick foliage, but light amplification devices, infrared sensors, and radar are less 
effective. Wet vegetation also muffles sound, as Merrill's Marauders discovered when they 
hacked their way through rock-hard bamboo thickets in Burma they made a racket like 



spike-driving gandy dancers building a railroad, but men in the rear heard nothing. Dangers 
from "fratricide" are ever present, especially during pitch black nights filled with weird noises 
that prompt trigger-happy neophytes to shoot at every moving shadow until they become 
accustomed. The sound of jingling dog tags, rifle safeties snapping open, and bolts slamming 
shut nevertheless sends audible warnings at short-range. Frightened birds and wild animals 
that suddenly screech or fall silent may also indicate enemy activity. Senses of smell and 
touch can occasionally supplement or supplant sight and sound: shaving lotion, scented 
soap, insect repellent, cigarette smoke, and other non-indigenous aromas literally are dead 
giveaways; point men on patrol use fingers and twigs to feel cautiously for trip wires. Foot 
sloggers gifted with intuitive powers of perception called Sixth Sense enhance survival 
prospects for comrades as well as themselves. 76 

Land Navigation. Knotty land navigation problems persist, even when assisted by Global 
Positioning Systems (GPS). Military maps are much better than in 1 942, when U.S. Marines 
at Guadalcanal found that Mount Austen, one of their immediate objectives, was situated 
several miles rather than a few hundred yards behind the beach, but important shortcomings 
persist, partly because cameras aloft infrequently see the forest floor. Jungles moreover 
rapidly reclaim little used roads, rail lines, and other landmarks that appear prominently on 
outdated maps. Newcomers thus do well to emulate Merrill's Marauders who, whenever 
possible, employed Kachin guides to lead them through Burmese jungles, because they knew 
every wrinkle in their home territories. Australian-recruited "coastwatchers" performed 
admirably as scouts, porters, and spies throughout the Solomon Islands with such success that 
U.S. Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey claimed that they "saved Guadalcanal and 
Guadalcanal saved the Pacific/' The United States and Australia both decorated one such 
hero, Jacob Vouza by name, who later was knighted. 77 

Overland Movement. Overland travel in jungles averages about Vi mile an hour where 
the going is good and V2 mile a day where it is not, unless troops follow well-trodden trails 
that invite adversaries to install mines, booby traps, road blocks, and ambushes. Command, 
control, and communication (C 3 ) problems are particularly difficult in thick secondary 
growth, which weakens HF/VHF radio transmissions, makes wire circuits hard to install (not 
to mention maintain), invalidates most visual signals, and makes surface messenger service 
both risky and slow. Air mobility is unreliable, because local weather is uncooperative, 
adversaries often cover the best helicopter landing zones (LZs), which are scarce and small, 
and LZ construction from scratch in double, triple, or quadruple canopy rain forests is a 
costly, time-consuming process without assistance from explosives. 

The infamous Kokoda Track, still the only passable land route over the Owen Stanley 
Mountains between Port Moresby and Buna in Papua, New Guinea, saw extensive jungle 
warfare under aggrieved conditions during World War II (map 20). Australian, Japanese, then 
U.S. troops, drenched daily by rainfall that measured as much as an inch (2.5 centimeters) 
in 5 minutes, engaged in savage struggles over vertical terrain where maneuver room was 
virtually zero. The Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA) atop razor-backed Shaggy Ridge 
sometimes consisted of one Australian rifleman sniping at one Japanese counterpart while 
everyone else waited in line. Haggard heroes who clawed their way single file from one 
precarious perch to another through a tunnel of trees say the jagged Finisterre Range farther 

east was worse. 78 

v.v.i^.vsa J .v.v v.- 


Guerrillas and Undergrounds. Dian Fossey, author of the celebrated book, Gorillas in the 
Mist, might have written a sequel entitled Guerrillas in the Mist if poachers hadn't cut her life 
short, because jungle fringes offer ideal bases of operations for irregular forces, provided 
undergrounds in nearby communities help recruit, indoctrinate, and train personnel, raise 
funds, furnish information, provide supplies, and otherwise support rebel causes. Guerrillas 
who sally forth from and return to rain forests have repeatedly given pursuers fits with raids, 
ambushes, and acts of sabotage in tropical parts of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. 79 


Heavy, accurately aimed firepower delivered by aircraft, artillery, and tanks is almost an 
oxymoron wherever tropical rain forests rise from flatlands. Fire support in jungle covered 
mountains is even less effective. 

Map 29. The Kokoda Trail and Shaggy Ridge 


H Rii'e .\ 

^-^ *. <* ^v 


Finisterre Range 
and Shaggy Ridge 

\ Wandumii 

rbriand Ilands 

Allied forces 
Japanese forces 

10 20 30 40 50 Miles 

20 40 60 80 Kilometers 

Adapted from Rafael Steinberg, Island Fighting. 



Carpet bombing directed against sprawling targets concealed in rain forests inflicts 
psychological as well as physical casualties when bombardiers hit the right spot, but military 
benefits often are poor compared with ecological devastation and wasteful expenditures of 
ordnance. Aerial interdiction strikes against enemy supply lines that lead through jungles also 
demand huge efforts in return for modest results (see chapter 1 9, which discusses attempts 
to stop traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail). Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter gunships 
equipped with sophisticated target acquisition devices such as laser designators frquently fly 
close support missions for friendly troops in contact with enemy forces under dense foliage, 
but the danger of "fratricide" is great. 

Artillery units often are vulnerable to hit-and-run raids as well as counterbattery attacks, 
because suitable firing positions along scarce roads and trails rule out "shoot and scoot" 
tactics. Time-delay fuses that let munitions penetrate canopies before they detonate are 
preferable to proximity, mechanical, and electronic fuses that trigger harmless explosions 
among lofty branches. The range and direction of artillery fire moreover are difficult to 
adjust aerial spotters can tell where rounds strike treetops, but seldom see targets on the 
ground, while land-based forward observers, who depend on sound instead of sight to 
calculate corrections, are disadvantaged given the short distance that noises are audible in 
jungles. U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) maintained only one armored 
cavalry regiment and no armored or mechanized divisions on its trooplist, essentially because 
opportunities to employ tanks in jungles and swamps generally are confined to clearings, 
plantations, and improved trails. 80 

Astute commanders, however, occasionally can make good use of artillery and tanks 
despite restrictions just delineated. Lieutenant General Slim, the senior British commander 
in Burma during World War II, concluded that "tanks can be used in almost any country 
except swamp." He used them to engage enemy strong points with infantrymen "riding 
shotgun," as did U.S. Army and Marine counterparts who conducted island-hopping 
campaigns in the South Pacific. 81 Vietnamese divisions under General Vo Nguyen Giap 
manhandled artillery, other heavy weapons, and perhaps 8,000 tons of supplies many miles 
over mountains and through presumably impenetrable jungles, established firing positions 
on high ground that dominated Dien Bien Phu, then dealt defenders a decisive defeat that 
drove France from Indochina. 82 


Staying power, a key requirement during protracted conflicts, is elusive in rain forests where 
ammunition, uniforms, maps, rations, medical supplies, and all other military materiel not 
safeguarded or immediately consumed are subject to rotting and rust. Maintenance problems 
coupled with the paucity of supply routes makes replenishment a laborious process. 
Debilitating diseases, medical evacuation (medevac) difficulties, and rapid rates of decay 
make life miserable for all concerned, including casualties, litter bearers, burial details, and 
graves registration personnel. 

Maintenance and Replenishment. Jungle logisticians work under demanding conditions, 
because roads, trails, inland waterways, drop zones, landing zones, and fixed-wing airstrips 
suitable for large-scale supply and evacuation purposes not only are scarce but are hard to 
secure and maintain. Check points, roving patrols, convoy escorts, mine clearance crews, 


and engineering gangs soak up personnel like sponges. Pack mules and porters often are the 
best (sometimes the only) reliable means of transportation. Allied forces on the Kokoda Track 
in New Guinea in fact employed more than 10,000 barefoot Papuans, who lugged 
backbreaking loads over the Owen Stanley Mountains. Costs and times required to construct 
new land lines increase dramatically with distance it took 28,000 combat service support 
troops, 35,000 indigenous laborers, $150 million in World War II dollars, and 2 years to 
build the 1,100-mile (1,770-kilometer) road that led across Burma from Ledo in Assam to 
Kunming in China. That primitive avenue, which traversed jungles, gorges, rapids, and 21 
closely spaced hairpin turns along one short stretch, was hardly an arterial highway but 
qualified as an engineering masterpiece nonetheless (see chapter 1 1 for details). 83 

Medical Miseries, jungles are filled with animate and inanimate objects that bite, sting, 
and stick, a host of microorganisms that are harmful to humans, fungus infections that troops 
affectionately call "jungle rot/' and steamy atmosphere that encourages profuse perspiration, 
body rashes, and heat exhaustion. Many tropical maladies traceable to insects include 
dengue fever, scrub typhus, and allergic reactions to bee stings. More casualties could be 
traced to malaria than to hostile fire during World War II campaigns in the South Pacific. 
Blood-sucking leeches, whose saliva contains an anticoagulant, leave sores that turn into 
ulcers unless properly treated. Typhoid fever, cholera, hepatitis, diarrhea, and amoebic 
dysentery thrive in contaminated food and water. Immunizations and scrupulous field 
sanitation practices can dramatically reduce most resultant nonbattle casualties which, like 
nonwalking wounded, must be evacuated to aid stations or hospitals. Patients and medical 
personnel both prefer air medevac whenever feasible, because stretcher bearers struggle 
through jungles, even for a few hundred yards. 84 

Cadavers don't last long in the heat and high humidity of tropical rain forests, whether 
they lie in the open or occupy shallow graves. The pervasive stench of putrefying flesh, as 
one veteran put it, "sticks to your . . . eyebrows, your gum line and the balls of you feet" 
before flies, ants, maggots, beetles, birds, and animals pick all bones clean. Personnel whose 
primary job is to retrieve remains face a revolting task. Positive identification of corpses that 
lack dog tags frequently awaits confirmation from dental records, skeletal scars, or DMA 
samples. 8 


Wetlands, which strongly compete for the title "Least Trafficable Terrain," are saturated with 
and partially, completely, perennially or intermittently inundated by salty, brackish, or fresh 
water. Some are collocated with dense forests, others lie on open lands at high and low 
elevations in almost every clime including deserts, where they occasionally parallel streams 
and permeate river deltas. The generic term "swamp" subsumes wet woodlands; marshes 
feature tall grass, rushes, reeds, and cattails; bogs comprise spongy, poorly-drained soils 
variously covered with sedges, heath, mosses, lichens, and other stunted plants. 


The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1 939-40 is the only large-scale armed conflict ever fought 
on the tundra or in the taiga (Russian for "swamp forests"), which overlie most of the frigid 
flatlands in Canada, European Russia, and Siberia (map 12, page 94). Wetland warfare in 


those sparsely settled, geographically forbidding regions could never last long in any case, 
because summers are short and moisture-soaked soil is frozen solid most of each year. 

Seasonal swamps are militarily more significant in poorly drained regions a bit farther 
south, where summers are longer and warm weather is wetter. Brigadier General Francis 
Marion made a name for himself as the "Swamp Fox" when his guerrilla bands ran British 
redcoats ragged in the Carolinas during the American Revolution, then disappeared into 
sodden sanctuaries. 86 The Pripet Swamp, currently located in parts of Belarus, Ukraine, and 
European Russia, has channelized mass migrations and military operations for centuries. That 
formidable morass, which intersperses dense woods with countless ponds, moors, 
treacherous meadows, and shifting streams, extends 300 miles (480 kilometers) west to east 
and 140 miles (225 kilometers) north to south astride the Pripet Rivier, not counting two 
discontinuous offshoots that lead to Lakes Peipus and Lagoda near the Gulf of Finland (map 
21 ). The entire complex expands twice a year, once in springtime when melting snows raise 
water levels and rivers overflow, again in the fall for about 4 weeks from the onset of autumn 
rains until the first hard frost. Permanent inhabitants are scarce, except along the fringe and 
in a few local centers such as Pinsk. 

Cross-country movement is slow for foot soldiers and impossible for motor vehicles in 
most places. Roads in the region are widely spaced, mainly unimproved, largely of local 
importance, and, like all rivers save the Pripet, run north-south at right angles to 
topographical corridors between Russia and Poland. Many lanes are so narrow that military 
vehicle columns can neither detour nor turn around. German engineer troops during World 
War II used readily available logs to build mile after mile of "corduroy" roads in the absence 
of gravel and stone trucks, tanks, and kidneys suffered incessant concussions as convoys 
bumped along at 5 miles per hour, but there was no better way to breach swampy 
obstacles. 87 

The Pripet Swamp, which created a great gap between German Army Group Center and 
Army Group North soon after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, made it 
impossible for large military formations to conduct mutually supporting operations. Attempts 
to bypass such extensive wetlands proved perilous, because outflanked Soviet stay-behind 
forces and partisans pounced on logistical troops as soon as German spearheads 
disappeared. 88 Commanders and staffs committed to combat in other high-latitude swamps 
should anticipate similar problems. 


Perennial swamps, all in the tropics or subtropical lands, share many characteristics with 
seasonal wetlands but never freeze, are refilled constantly, and tend to be deep. Three 
distinctive categories with significantly different military implications are discernible: 
Category One emphasizes grassy wilderness; Category Two mingles rice paddies and 
plantations with primeval swamps; Category Three features tidewater forests. 

Category One: Grassy Wilderrress. The Everglades have seen more warfare than any 
other wetlands in Category One. That immense marsh, between Lake Okeechobee and the 
tip of Florida, is 40 miles wide (65 kilometers) and more than 100 miles long (160 
kilometers). Head-high saw grass and other aquatic plants emerge from an alligator-infested 
solution of water and muck that seems almost bottomless in some places. Moss-draped 


Map 21 . The Pripet Swamp and Its Offshoots 






WarsavA Bres^^g 
: if* 



V^ JK 

Visti^X --^"^ 








gumbo limbo, strangler fig, bald cypress, mahogany, and eight species of palm trees in 
assorted combinations adorn dry ground, which is at a premium. 

General Andrew Jackson defeated, but did not demoralize, Seminole Indians under Billy 
Bowlegs in 1817-18. Superb guerrilla warriors simply melted into marshlands that then 
covered more than 3 million acres. Chief Osceola, who resisted subsequent U.S. efforts to 
resettle his tribe west of the Mississippi River, played tag in the Everglades with U.S. Army 
troops for 8 exasperating years (1 835-42) during the Second Seminole War. Inconclusive 
operations not only cost the United States more lives and money than any other counter- 
Indian campaign but left several hundred recalcitrant tribesmen in control of ancestral lands. 
The U.S. Government paid them to move after the Third Seminole War (1 855-58) failed to 
root them out, but a few resisted until 1 934, 1 1 7 years after General Jackson entered the 
Everglades. 89 

"Scorched earth" programs took precedence over search and destroy missions in the early 
1 990s, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sought to exterminate, control, or chase Muslim 
Shiite "Marsh Arabs" from their homeland at the head of the Persian Gulf, along with army 
deserters and additional dissidents. Actions to drain the swamps and divert the Tigris- 
Euphrates Rivers drastically reduced water levels, increased pollution-related diseases, and 
disrupted age-old life styles. Iraqi troops then set widespread grass fires. Those 
compassionless steps coupled with aerial bombardments and artillery barrages quickly 
depleted the despised populations. 90 

Map 22. The Mekong Delta and Rung Sat Special Zone 

Gulf of 



Category Two: Paddies, Plantations, and Primeval Swamps. No region represents 
Category Two more ably than the Mekong Delta, where regular and irregular armed forces 
battled from 1945 until 1975 to control its overflowing rice bowl and huge population. That 
strategically crucial property, bounded by the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, 
spreads 1 6,000 square miles or so (40,000 square kilometers) southwest of Saigon, which 
later became Ho Chi Minh City (map 22). 

About one-third of those flatlands are unreclaimed jungles or marshes, such as the Plain 
of Reeds, a sprawling prairie west of Ho Chi Minh City that is waterlogged during the wet 
season but dry enough to burn when rain-bearing winter monsoons stop blowing. Many 
vulnerable bridges and ferry sites mark Route 4, the only hard surface road to Ca Mau via 
Can Tho and other agricultural centers. The best of the rest are mainly paths of convenience 
rather than militarily useful lines of communication. Cross-country movement is laborious 
for foot troops and, in many places, impossible for vehicles even during the dry season. 
Wall-to-wall settlements and farmlands on scanty high land leave little room for airfields and 
permanent helicopter pads. 91 The scarcity of suitable materials moreover makes construction 
an expensive and time-consuming process. It took U.S. Army Engineers 6 months and 
approximately $20 million to dredge and deposit 5,295 cubic yards (4,045 cubic meters) of 
sand per acre over a 600-acre artificial island, erect buildings on site, and provide essential 
amenities in 1 967 for a brigade-sized Mobile Afloat Force near My Tho. 92 

Swamp-style riverine warfare, a specialized form of amphibious operations, became a fine 
art in that watery environment dominated by more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) of 
navigable rivers and streams. "Brown water" sailors emulated Commodore Daniel T. 
Patterson, who established a U.S. precedent during the War of 1 812 when his gunboats in 
Mississippi River bayous briefly delayed British redcoats on their way to New Orleans. The 
U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps employed more advanced techniques and a "mosquito 
fleet" of schooners, flat-bottom boats, bateaux, and canoes in the Everglades a few years later; 
20th-century successors in Nicaraguan and Philippine wetlands produced additional 
refinements. 93 

U.S. riverine forces in the Mekong delta, who had superior technologies at their disposal, 
devised innovative concepts, doctrines, tactics, organizations, weapons, equipment, and 
modes of transportation. Their flotillas contained a motley assortment of "pocket battleships," 
amphibious landing craft, armored troop carriers, mine sweepers, air-cushion vehicles, patrol 
boats, and rubber rafts, all well-adapted for warfare in shallow waters where tight turns, 
islands, sand bars, swamp grass, fish traps, low bridges, mines, and enemy-installed obstacles 
restricted maneuvers. Support forces afloat provided command, control, and integrating 
communications, air-conditioned barrack ships replete with sick bays, surgery wards, and 
water purification plants, plus supply, maintenance, repair, and salvage facilities. Web- 
footed infantrymen fervently wished for man-portable bridges, individual water wings, and 
similar amenities that were nonexistent or in short supply, but they benefited from flexible 
tactics that creative thinkers concocted explicitly for close combat where stream banks were 
slick as well as steep and adversaries concealed in dense vegetation could see and hear 
assault troops well before they arrived. 94 

Category Three: Tidewater Forests. Veterans of combat in tidal forests near Buna on 
Papua New Guinea's Coral Sea coast recall towering trees that made it impossible to see the 
sun during daylight hours or the stars at night. Creeks constituted tunnels through mangrove 


swamps where gnarled buttress roots rose from black, sucking mud, and Japanese machine 
gun nests concealed in those natural abatis seemingly blocked every route. 95 

Vietnam veterans believe the Rung Sat Special Zone, a tidewater forest in the northeast 
corner of the Mekong Delta (map 22), made Buna and other wetlands look like picnic 
grounds. High tides there, which run as fast as 8 knots, raise and lower water levels as much 
as 16 feet (5 meters), drastically change channel directions and depths, and inundate most 
"dry" land twice daily. Mangrove and banyan trees protrude from brackish, polluted waters 
that, give or take a couple of percentage points, cover eight-tenths of the Zone. Nipa palms, 
brambles, brush, and serrated grass adorn hundreds of small islands, few of which were 
cultivated or inhabited. Boat crews along with U.S. and South Vietnamese troops ashore 
were constantly subject to ambush, because chemical defoliants, liberally applied, failed to 
dislodge insurgents or significantly disrupt their activities. Leeches couldn't tolerate such 
salty water, but that was about the only good news insects swarmed; tight-tolerance 
weapons, ammunition powder trains, and primer cords often malfunctioned; mortar base 
plates sank in soggy soil unless they rested on sandbags; foxholes and bunkers turned into 
outdoor bath tubs. American soldiers and SEALs sloshing around in that dank region led such 
debilitating lives that medics recommended, and policymakers approved, repeated returns 
to dry ground after no more than 48 to 72 hours, lest foot infections, jungle rot, strain, and 
fatigue dangerously reduce proficiency. Rung Sat missions continued nonetheless, because 
the main commercial shipping channel and military supply line between Saigon and the sea 
ran through that region, along with other major waterways of local importance. Severe 
consequences would have ensued if U.S. Armed Forces and their allies had allowed Viet 
Cong insurgents to stop traffic. 96 


Naval conflicts began in coastal waters and small seas when organized warfare was in its 
infancy. Combatant ships subsequently ranged far and wide but, for technological and 
tactical reasons, conflicts occurred fairly close to shore until World War I. Carrier battle 
groups, attack submarines, and antisubmarine warfare forces during World War II conducted 
"blue water" campaigns on a grand scale never seen before or since. The United States Navy 
thereafter reigned supreme on the high seas until Soviet adversaries under the guidance of 
Fleet Admiral Sergei G. Gorshkov began to challenge U.S. preeminence in the mid-1960s. 
The Cold War, however, wound down a quarter of a century later without a shot fired in 
anger at sea and most observers at this writing generally agree that naval conflicts far from 
land seem a remote possibility for the foreseeable future. Naval strategists in countries large 
and small accordingly concentrate once again on littorals and small seas, where problems 
not only are different from those they must solve in mid-ocean but are infinitely more 
complex than those that predecessors faced a few years ago. 


Webster's Dictionary defines littorals as "the shore zone between high and low water marks," 
whereas the United States Navy and Marine Corps, perhaps playing interservice politics, see 
a much broader region that reaches from the "open ocean" (undefined) to the shore, thence 
overland 650 nautical miles (1,200 kilometers). 97 This document, in search of a realistic 
compromise, addresses littorals that extend seaward from the shoreline no more than 100 

MK.v. .:.s^Av. 


nautical miles (185 kilometers) and an equal distance inland, which affords enough depth 
in each direction to stage, conduct, and support coastal operations, including amphibious 

The Adriatic, Aegean, Black, and Red Seas, Bo Hai and Korea Bay (northwest and 
northeast arms of the Yellow Sea), and the Persian Gulf typify small seas, the centers of which 
lie less than or little more than 100 miles from land. The Baltic, Bismarck, Caribbean, Coral, 
North, Mediterranean, and South China Seas, the Gulf of Mexico, the Seas of Japan and 
Okhotsk, and comparable oceanic offshoots are too large to qualify. 


Littorals and small seas invariably include seashores, offshore approaches, and exits inland. 
The geographic features in each environment are strikingly different and infinitely more 
numerous than those associated with "blue water" (figure 20). 98 

Figure 20. Typical Coastal Topography 

BHB = bayhead beach 
BHD = bayhead delta 
BMB = bay-mouth bar 
BSB = bayside beach 
CB = cuspate bar 
CD = cuspate delta 

CH = cliffed headland 
CS = complex spit 
CT = complex tombolo 
DT = double tombolo 
HB = headland beach 
I = inlet 

L = lagoon 

LB = looped bar 

MBB = mid-bay bar 

RS = recurved spit 

S = spit 

T = tombolo 

Adapted from Arthur N. Strahlen, Physical Geography, 2d ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1963), 419 

Offshore Approaches. 

Hydrodynamic conditions: tidal range great or slight; cross-currents and surf weak or 
strong; distance between low and high water marks measured in 10s or 100s of yards 

Water temperatures and salinity: stable or unstable 

Inshore sea bottoms: level or incised, gentle or steep, soft or solid 



Channels: few or many, deep or shallow, wide or narrow, well or poorly marked 

Assorted obstacles: sand bars, spits, hooks, mud flats, shoals, reefs, tombolos (natural 
causeways), lagoons, seasonal ice, sea weeds, ship wrecks, and trash 

Ambient noise: loud or muted; localized or universal; sounds caused by ships, 
recreational boats, fish, and fowl. 


Beaches: wide or narrow, short or long, sand, shingle, or mud 

Trafficability: good or poor 

Human habitation: dense, sparse, or absent 

Harbor and port facilities: many or few; antiquated or modern. 

Exits Inland. 

Natural obstacles: cliffs, terraces, promontories, pinnacles, grottoes, caves, and 
caverns; sand dunes, marshes, swamps, and forests 

Cities, towns, villages, and isolated dwellings: large or small, many or few, flimsy or 
solid construction 

Roads and railways: many or few; high or low capacity; unobstructed or bottlenecked 

Airfields and landing zones: large or small, conveniently or inconveniently located, 
few or many modern facilities. 


Self-preservation takes precedence over other naval missions whenever hostile armed forces 
convert littorals into combat zones, because enemy guns and guided missiles aloft, afloat, 
and concealed ashore expose slow-moving surface ships to high-density, high-intensity, 
short-range surprise attacks (grottos and caves make grand hiding places). Assorted surface 
combatants, amphibious ships, cargo/troop transports, oil tankers, and auxiliaries in cramped 
quarters all make tempting targets. Egyptian Styx surface-to-surface antiship missiles that were 
primitive by modern standards set a precedent during the 1 967 Arab-Israeli War when they 
sank the Israeli destroyer Eilath in shallow water. Moored and floating mines, the "weapons 
that wait," are cost effective as well as devastating. Italian frogmen, for example, 
surreptitiously planted limpet mines that put two British battleships on the harbor bed outside 
Alexandria, Egypt, in 1 941 . Fifty years later the U.S. Navy spent $17 million and 2 months 
to repair the billion-dollar Aegis guided missile cruiser Princeton after it rammed one Iraqi 
mine worth about $3,500." 

Littoral warriors who lack split-second reflexes and state-of-the-art computers are out of 
luck, because reaction times often are measured in a minute or two at most. Subsonic, sea- 
skimming cruise missiles flying 600 miles per hour (965 kph) hit targets 25 miles (40 
kilometers) away 150 seconds after launch. Half that time likely elapses before missile 
defense crews can detect hostile projectiles with head-on radar cross-sections roughly 
equivalent in size to cormorants, leaving 75 seconds in which to confirm threats, track them, 
compute altitudes, ranges, and velocities, then fire. Saturation attacks, supersonic missiles, 
enemy evasive actions, false images caused by coastal clutter, and restrictive rules of 
engagement designed to safeguard friendly forces and neutrals are further complications. 10 


Effective countermeasures are hard to conceive. Stealthy ship designs could reduce visual, 
acoustic, electronic, infrared, and radar "signatures," but skeptics contend that such 
advantages would be far from foolproof, because laws of physics make it impossible for large 
surface combatants to "disappear" within small search areas. Budgetary constraints probably 
limit applications to a few high-value surface combatants other than huge aircraft carriers, 
which would be very costly to convert. 101 Some students of littoral warfare consequently are 
convinced that submarines able to sit quietly on muddy sea bottoms and maneuver well in 
shallow water may be the most effective countermeasures, because adversaries that lack an 
astonishing array of ASW sensors and weapon systems would be hard pressed to find them 
and finish them off (figure 21). Others advocate an influx of fast boats. 102 


Power projection missions along littorals and in small seas prominently feature sea control 
and amphibious assaults. Shallow water mines figure positively in the first instance and 
negatively in the second. 

Shallow Water Sea Control. Sea control in some respects is more difficult to achieve 
along littorals than on open oceans, because enemy forces can bring land-based as well as 
naval combat power to bear. Shallow waters, however, simplify the accomplishment of less 
demanding sea denial missions, which seek to suppress enemy maritime commerce and limit 
options open to enemy naval commanders. 

Blockades customarily are considered acts of war under international law, but they also 
are the most economical way to bottle up opposing navies and merchant marines in port, 
prevent enemy ships at sea from returning for rest, recuperation, maintenance, and 
replenishment, seal off seaborne support by sympathizers, and generally deny foes freedom 
of the seas. Cordons sanitaire that employ men-of-war to deter, deflect, stop, board, search, 
seize, or sink blockade runners expose implementing crews to considerable risk. A cheaper, 
equally or more effective technique relies on bottom, floating, or tethered mines that 
variously activate on command, on contact, or in response to magnetic, acoustic, or pressure 
stimuli. They are easy to install and hard to avoid in coastal channels, but only if seeded en 
masse. Mines that Iran deposited piecemeal in the Persian Gulf to impede petroleum tankers 
and their escorts (1987-88) therefore proved to be more of a nuisance than a menace, 
whereas traffic into and out of Haiphong harbor ceased for 1 months after U.S. carrier-based 
aircraft laid 8,000 influence mines across its entrance in April 1972. ' 

Transit from Sea to Shore. The transit from ships onto heavily defended shores is a 
traumatic experience in large part because geographic features favor defenders and oppose 
waterborne assault forces who must fight rough surf, long-shore currents, and occasionally 
strong winds on their way to designated beaches over routes devoid of natural cover or 
concealment. Mine hunters and mine sweepers whose dangerous duty is to detect, mark, and 
clear lanes through the "foam zone" need one set of implements for use where shifting sands 
or soft mud bury bottom mines, another set where sediments suspended in breaking waves 
act as obscurants, and yet another where rocky approaches cause sonar signals to bounce 
about. Some naval inventories already include sizable helicopter fleets and a few ship-to- 
shore vehicles that ride on or above rather than in the water, but unmanned submersibles and 
remote control systems that eventually may be able to elude shallow water mines are still in 
early stages of development. 1 



Figure 21 . Shallow Water Antisubmarine Warfare Suites 

w o> c c o jS 

llflll 1 


Source: Nathaniel French Caldwell, "Are We Shortchanging ASW?," Armed Forces Journal, July 1996, p 25. 




Every geographical region displays singular characteristics that demand specialized 
military plans, operations, and programs. 

Armed forces that are organized, equipped, and trained to function in any given 
geographical environment perform less well elsewhere until they complete essential 

Preparations can be complex, costly, and time-consuming, because each of the seven 
distinctive regions described herein contains subdivisions such as hot-wet, hot-dry, cold- 
wet, cold-dry, sandy deserts, rocky deserts, and so on. 

Each region requires tailored strategies, tactics, and techniques. 

Each region uniquely influences the capabilities of military personnel, weapons, 
munitions, and telecommunication systems. 

Each region uniquely influences requirements for food, clothing, shelter, maintenance, 
and medical support. 


1 . Nine Principles of Preparedness are available in John M. Collins, Military Preparedness: 
Principles Compared with U.S. Practices, Report No. 94-48 S (Washington, DC: Congressional 
Research Service, January 21 , 1 994), 41 -49. 

2. Charles M. Daugherty, City Under the Ice: The Story of Camp Century (New York: 
Macmillan, 1963); Trevor Hatherton, ed., Antarctica (New York: Praeger, 1965), references to Little 
America 1 , 2, 3, and 4: 35-39, 68-69, 91 , 1 93, 205-206, 211-216, 233-235, 248-249, 280, 443, 
469, 474-478, 484-486, 501 . 

3. For a few historical examples, see A. W. Abbott, "Lapland 1918-19, The British Army's 
Farthest North," Army Quarterly 84 (1962): 236-243; Charles S. Stevenson, 'The 40-Below-Zero 
Campaign" [U.S. forces in European Russia and Eastern Siberia, 1918-19201, Army 19, no. 2 
(February 1 969): 49-50; Charles O. Lerche, Jr., "Norway (1 940-1 945)," in Challenge and Response 
in Internal Conflict, vol. 2, The Experience in Europe and the Middle East, eds. D. M. Condit, Bert H. 
Cooper, Jr., et al. (Washington, DC: Center for Research in Social Systems, American University, 
March), 225-249; Alex Bruckner, "Attack in the Tundra," Military Review 36, no. 1 (April 1 956): 98- 

4. Robert W. Service, "The Cremation of Sam McGee," in The Spell of the Yukon (New York: 
Dodd Mead and Co. 1 907), 66. 

5. Personal survival problems are described in The Arctic Basin, coordinated by John E. Slater, 
(Centerville, MD: Tidewater Publishing for The Arctic Institute of America, 1963), 278-289; FM31- 
70: Basic Cold Weather Manual (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, April 1 968, 43-50; Robert D. 
Cheney, "Cold Weather Medicine: An Ounce of Prevention," Marine Corps Gazette, February 1 981 , 
43, 44-45, 47. 

6. FM 31-70: Basic Cold Weather Manual, chap. 2 and appendix E; Carl W. Riester, "Cold 
Weather Operations," Special Warfare, January 1 994, 9-10. 

7. Rowan Scarborough, "High-Tech Clothing Gives GIs Weather Protection," Washington 
Times, December 28, 1 995, 1 . 

8. FM 31-70: Basic Cold Weather Manual, 1 6-1 7, 22-27, 29-35. 

9. Ibid., 36-39, 42-43; Jonathan D. Thompson, "Infantry Company Operations in an Extremely 
Cold Environment," Infantry (September-October 1 995): 31-32; "Cold Weather Operations," part 2, 
Infantry (November-December 1 980): 29. 


1 0. FM 9-209/Technical Order 36-1 -40: Operation and Maintenance of Equipment in Cold 
Weather (0 to -60) (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army and Dept. of the Air Force, August 1 0, 
1 989, 1 -2 through 1 -5, 1 -7 through 1 -9, 5-1 and 5-2, 6-1 through 6-4; FM 31-70: Basic Cold Weather 
Manual, 1 77; "Cold Weather Operations," part 3, Infantry (January-February 1 981 ): 23-24. 

1 1 . Guy Murchie, Song of the Sky (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1 954), 238. 

12. FM 31-70: Basic Cold Weather Manual, chapter 4, plus 105-115 and appendix C; 
Thompson, "Infantry Company Operations in an Extremely Cold Environment," 29-31 . 

13. FM 31-70: Basic Cold Weather Manual, 115-121; Francis King, "Cold Weather Warfare: 
What Will Happen?," Military Review 57, no. 11 (November 1977): 86, 92; "Cold Weather 
Operations," part 3, Infantry, 24, 25. 

1 4. William P. Baxter, "Soviet Norms for Driving Tanks," Military Review 60, no. 9 (September 
1980): 5-8; Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941-1945 (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1964), 321-335. 

1 5. Guy Murchie, Song of the Sky, 233-234, 238-239; Francis King, "Cold Weather Warfare: 
What Would Happen?," 87, 90-91; Lewis E. Link, "Cold Regions Impacts on Army Operations," 
Readings in Military Geography, vol. 1 , Tactical (West Point, NY: Dept. of Geography, U.S. Military 
Academy, 1990), 80,82. 

1 6. Rudolph M. Tamez, who was Operations Officer for the composite battalion of the 504 th 
Parachute Infantry Regiment that participated in Operation Arctic Night. 

1 7. John C. Scharfen, "Cold Weather Training: the Absolute Necessity." Marine Corps Gazette, 
February 1981, 66, 67, 68, 69; Francis King, "Cold Weather Warfare: What Would Happen?" 87, 
90; The Arctic Basin, 237-249, 263-277. 

1 8. Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 1 2, 1 962, 41 -42. 

1 9. U.S. Navy Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships (Washington, DC: Chief of Naval 
Operations, Surface Ship Survivability Office (OP O3C2), May 1 988), 2-2, 2-3, 2-1 2, 3-1 , 3-8 and 
3-9, chap. 5, appendices B, D, F. 

20. Ibid., 2-8, 3-7. 

21. Ibid., chapters 2 and 3. 

22. Brian Garfield, The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians (Garden 
City, NY: Doubleday, 1969), 119-120. 

23. Thomas B. Curtain, Norbert Untersteiner, and Thomas Callahan, "Arctic Oceanography", 
Oceanus (Winter 1 990/91 ): 58-66; U.S. Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships, 4-4 through 4-1 0, 
6-5 and 6-6. 

24. Barrie Pitt, The Battle of the Atlantic (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1 977), 1 57-1 59, and 
John R. Elting, Battles for Scandinavia (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1981), 146-148. 

25. John R. Hale, Age of Exploration (New York: Time Inc., 1966), 101-102, 1 18-126; William 
D. Smith, Northwest Passage (New York: American Heritage Press); Constantine Krypton, The 
Northern Sea Route and The Economy of the Soviet Union (New York: Praeger, 1956). 

26. William R. Anderson with Clay Blair, Jr., Nautilus 90 North (Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB 
Books, 1959), 212-239. 

27. Waldo K. Lyon, "Submarine Combat in the Ice," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 1 1 8, no. 
2 (February 1 992): 33-40; U.S. Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships, 1 -6. 

28. Ibid., 38-39; H. A. Jackson et al., "Bottom Bounce Array Sonar Submarines," American 
Society of Naval Engineers Journal (September 1 989): 59. 

29. Lorus J. and Margery Milne, The Mountains, Time-Life Nature Library, rev. ed. (New York: 
Time Inc., 1967); FM 90-6: Mountain Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, June 30, 
1980, l-ii, 1-1 through 1-3, and appendix G 

30. John Heins, "Cuba (1 953-1 959)," in Challenge and Response in International Conflict, vol. 
3, The Experience in Africa and Latin America, eds. D. M. Condit, Bert H. Cooper, Jr., et al. 
(Washington, DC: Center for Research in Social Studies, American University, April 1968), 435-461. 


31 . Field-Marshal Viscount Slim, Defeat into Victory (New York: David McKay, 1961), 6. 

32. FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, 1 -1 4 and 1 -1 5, 3-2, 3-3, D-1 , D-3; Morgan B. Heasley, 
"Mountain Operations in Winter," Military Review 32, no. 6 (June 1 952): 1 0, 1 1 , 1 2, 1 4, 1 5, 1 6. 

33. FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, 1 -6 through 1 -8. 

34. Julie Kim and Steven Woehrel, Bosnia Former Yugoslavia and U. 5. Policy, Issue Brief 
91089 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, July 23, 1996), updated periodically. 

35. FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, 4-1 , 5-2, 5-3; Heasley, "Mountain Operations in Winter," 
14, 15. 

36. Robert Wallace, The Italian Campaign (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 978), 1 08-1 09, 1 84- 
1 85. For military mountaineering equipment and techniques, see FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, 
B-4, B-5, B-7, and appendix C. 

37. FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, chapter 2. Challenge and Response in International Conflict 
addresses 20th-century mountain operations by irregular forces: vol. 1, The Experience in Asia, 
February 1 968, Burma (1 942-1 945), Indonesia (1 946-1 948), Jammu and Kashmir (1 947-1 949), Korea 
(1948-1954), Tibet (1951-1960); vol. 2, The Experience in Europe and the Middle East, March 
1 967,Greece (1 942-1 949), Italy (1 943-1 945), Norway (1 940-1 945), Yugoslavia (1 941 -1 944); vol. 
3, The Experience in Africa and Latin America, April 1 968, Ethiopia (1 937-1 941 ), Nicaragua (1 927- 
1 933), Colombia (1 948-1 58); Supplement, September 1 968, Dominican Republic (1 91 6-1 924), Haiti 
(1 91 8-1 920, 1 958-1 964), Laos (1 959-1 962). 

38. FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, 4-8 through 5-5. 

39. Ibid., 4-5, 4-6, and appendix D. 

40. Neville C. A. Maxwell, India's China War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1 970). 

41. Wayne O. Evans and James E. Hansen, "Troop Performance at High Altitudes," Army 
(February 1966): 55-58; James R. Pulver, "Fight Against Mountain Sickness," Army Digest (June 
1970): 45-46; FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, 1-9, 5-6 through 5-9. 

42. DA Pamphlet 95-8: Mountain Flying Sense (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 1 962); 
Will F. Thompson, "Airmobile Warfare in the Mountains," Military Review 50, no. 7 (July 1 970): 57- 
62; FM 90-6: Mountain Warfare, 1-15. 

43. William H. Tunner, Over the Hump (Washington, DC: Office of the Air Force Historian, 
1 985); Otha Cleo Spencer, Flying the Hump: Memories of an Air War (College Station, TX: Texas 
A&M Press, 1992); and Don Moser, China-Burma-India, "Vaulting the Himalayas" (Alexandria, VA: 
Time-Life Books, 1978), 78-91 . 

44. FM 90-6: Mountain Operations, appendix F. 

45. See, for example, John Warry, Warfare in the Classical World (New York: St. Martin's Press, 
1 980), which covers 2,400 years from 1 ,600 B.C. to 800 A.D. 

46. Keith E. Bonn, When the Odds Were Even: The Vosges Mountains Campaign, October 
1944-January 1945 (St. Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1994). 

47. Wallace, The Italian Campaign, 100-117, 130-145, 151-164. 

48. Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1 85-225; and T. R. 
Fehrenbach, This Kind of War (New York: Macmillan, 1 963), 478-645. 

49. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, eds. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, 
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 417-432, 537-539. The quotation is on 427. 

50. For overviews of wars in the Cradle of Western Civilization, see Yigal Yadin, The Art of 
Warfare in Biblical Lands (Norwich, England: Jarrold and Sons, International Publishing, 1963); a 
broader view of combat in arid regions is contained in Bryan Perrett, Desert Warfare: From Its Roman 
Origins to the Gulf Conflict (New York: Sterling Publishing, 1988. 

51 . A. Starker Leopold, The Desert, Life Nature Library (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 961 ); FM 
90-3/Fleet Marine Force Manual 7-27: Desert Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 
August 1 9, 1 977), 2-3 through 2-5 and appendix A. 



52. Richard Collier, The War in the Desert (New York: Time-Life Books,1977) ; 171-172; 
Leopold, The Desert, 101-102, 105, 108-109; FM 90-3: Desert Operations, 2-7. 

53. Winning in the Desert, Newsletter No. 90-7, Special Edition (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. 
Army Combined Arms Training Activity, Center for Lessons Learned, August 1 990), 12,21; Kendall 
L. Peterson, "Automotive Testing in the Desert," Military Review 50, no. 1 1 (November 1 970): 56-61 ; 
William G. ("Gus") Pagonis, Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leadership and Logistics from the Persian 
Gulf War (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1992), 86, 96; Leopold, The Desert, 13-14; 
FM 90-3: Desert Operations, 2-21 and 2-22. 

54. Collier, The War in the Desert, 50, 52-53; Glenn R. Locke, "Dust," U.S. Army Aviation 
Digest (August 1970): 34-35. 

55. FM 90-3: Desert Operations, 2-20, 2-22 and 2-23; Pagonis, Moving Mountains, 86; 
Infantry, July-August 1 981 , 1 68-1 69. 

56. Pagonis, Moving Mountains, 108. 

57. FM 90-3: Desert Operations, 2-9 and 2-1 0, 4-20; Leopold, The Desert, 31 , 1 02, 1 46-1 50. 

58. Richard Collier, The War in the Desert, 54. 

59. FM 90-3: Desert Operations, 2-15 through 2-18, 5-9, 5-10, F-6, appendix G; Pagonis, 
Moving Mountains, 96, 205; Leopold, The Desert, 32, 128. 

60. Martin Blumenson, Kasserine Pass (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1967); Moorehead's 
analogy is quoted in Collier, The War in the Desert, 21 . 

61 . Fluid maneuvering throughout history is typified in Sir John Bagot Glubb, The Great Arab 
Conquests (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963); Leo de Hartog, Genghis Khan: Conqueror of 
the World (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1 989),78-1 48; T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (New 
York: Dell Publishing, 1962); Edgar O'Ballance, Afghan Wars 1839-1992 (New York: Brassey's, 
1 993); Robert H. Scales, Jr., Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War (Washington, DC: Office 
of the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, 1 993). 

62. Collier, The War in the Desert, 1 2-29. 

63. Gulf War Air Power Survey, vol. I-5, Eliot A. Cohen, Director (Washington, DC: 
Government Printing Office, 1993); Frank N. Schubert and Theresa Kraus, eds., The Whirlwind War 
(Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1 995). 

64. Leopold, The Desert, 1 8-1 9, 32, 34; Winning in the Desert, 1 6-1 7. ^ 

65. William Matthews, "Forecaster Helps Pilots Find Targets," Air Force Times, July 1, 1996, 
1 6; FM 90-3: Desert Operations, 2-8, 4-4 and 4-5; Winning in the Desert, 1 8, 23; "The Desert: Its 
Effect on Soldiers," part 2, Infantry (September-October 1 981 ): 31 . 

66. Ibid. 

67. Virginia Cowles, The Phantom Major (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1 958). 

68. Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars (New York: Harper and Row, 1972); Charles 
Miller, Khyber, British India's Northwest Frontier: The Story of an Imperial Migraine (New York: 
Macmillan, 1977); David C. Isby, War in a Distant Country: Afghanistan Invasion and Resistance 
(London: Arms and Armor, 1989). 

69. FM 90-3: Desert Operations, appendix D. 

70. Ibid. 

71. Pagonis, Moving Mountains; Winning in the Desert, 12-13, 16-20; FM 90-3: Desert 
Operations, 2-20 through 2-25, 5-1 , 5-6 through 5-1 1 . 

72. Masanobu Tsuji, Singapore: The Japanese Version (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1960), 
appendix 1; U.S. Marine Corps, Small Wars Manual (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 
1 940); FM 31-20: Basic Field Manual, Jungle Warfare (Washington: U.S. War Department, December 

73. Eric Bergerud, Touched With Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific (New York: Viking, 
1 996), 62-68; Joseph W. Stilwell, The Stilwell Papers (New York: Schocken Books, 1 972), 293. 



74. FM 90-5: Jungle Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, August 1 6, 1 982), 1 -3 
through 1-6. 

75. John. L. Zimmerman, The Guadalcanal Campaign (Washington, DC: Historical Division, 
Hqtrs., U.S. Maine Corps, 1949), 15-17; Bergerud, Touched With Fire, 69-83. 

76. FM 90-5: Jungle Operations, 5-2 through 5-4, 5-10, 5-15: Winning in the Jungle (Fort 
Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Center for Army Lessons Learned, May 1995), 
1-1, I-5, I-8, II-2, III-2 through III-4, III-8. 

77. Rafael Steinberg, Island Fighting (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 978), 20, 38-45 (Admiral 
Halsey is cited on 38); FM 90-5: Jungle Warfare, 5-6, 5-14, appendix B (Navigation and Tracking); 
Winning in the Jungle, I-2; Zimmerman, The Guadalcanal Campaign, 1 6. 

78. Steinberg, Island Fighting, 46-71, 82, 134-136; Bergerud, Touched With Fire, 80-84; 
Winning in the Jungle, I-2 through I-5, I-9; FM 90-5: Jungle Operations, appendix C. 

79. Ian Henderson, Man Hunt in Kenya, with Philip Goodhart, portrays counterinsurgency 
problems in jungle-like terrain (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1 958). See also Challenge and 
Response in International Conflict, vol. 1 , Philippines (1 899-1 902, 1 942-1 945, 1 946-1 954), Burma 
(1 942-1 945), Malaya (1 942-1 945, 1 948-1 960), Indochina and South Vietnam (1 946-1 954, 1 956- 
1 963), Indonesia (1 946-1 949, 1 958-1 961 ); vol. 3, Nicaragua (1 927-1 933), Madagascar (1 947-1 948), 
Portuguese Guinea (1 959-1 965); Supplement, Dominican Republic (1 91 6-1 924), Haiti (1 91 8-1 920, 
1958-1964), Laos (1959-1 962). 

80. FM 90-5: Jungle Operations, 6-5 through 6-1 7 and appendix I, Adjustment of Fire by Sound; 
Winning in the Jungle, 1-14 through 1-17. 

81 . Field-Marshal Viscount Slim, Defeat Into Victory, 1 1 9-200, 275. 

82. Bernard Fall, Hell in a Very Small Place (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1 958). 

83. FM 90-5: Jungle Operations, chapter 7 ', Combat Service Support; Don Moser, China-Burma- 
India (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 978), 1 96-203; Steinberg, Island Fighting, 64-67. 

84. FM 90-5: Jungle Operations, 2-2 through 2-8; Bergerud, Touched With Fire, 90-1 01 , 452- 

85. Bergerud, Touched With Fire, 72, 84, 85,86, 41 8, 420, 467-468. 

86. W. Gilmore Simms, The Life of Francis Marion (New York: H. G. Langley, 1 844). 

87. Former German generals and staff officers prepared four pamphlets for publication by Dept. 
of the Army in Washington, DC: DA Pamphlet 20-201 , Military Improvisations During the Russian 
Campaign, August 1951, 53-55; DA Pamphlet 20-231, Combat in Russian Forests and Swamps, July 
1951, 1-3, 5, 7-8, 13, 32-33; DA Pamplet 20-290, Terrain Factors in the Russian Campaign, July 
1951, 30, 38; DA Pamphlet 20-291, Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia, February 
1952,29, 49, 50. 

88. Combat in Russian Forests and Swamps (all); Terrain Factors in the Russian Campaign, 28- 
45; Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia, 29-35, 49-55. 

89. David and Jeanne Heidler, Old Hickory's War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire 
(Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996); John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole 
War, 1835-1842 (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1 967); Soldiers of Florida in the Indian, 
Civil, and Spanish American Wars (Tallahassee, FL: Board of State Institutions, undated). 

90. Kenneth Katzman, Iraq: Marsh Arabs and U.S. Policy, Report No. 94-320F (Washington, 
DC: Congressional Research Service, April 13,1994); "Once a Wetland, Now a Desert," Boston 
Globe, September 8, 1 994, 20. 

91 . William B. Fulton, Riverine Operations, 7966-7969 (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 

92. Ibid., 47-49, 57-58, 68-71; Engineering Concepts for Construction in the Mekong Delta 
Region of the Republic of Vietnam, U.S. Army Engineer Command, Vietnam (Provisional), undated 


(1967). James H. Nash, Special Projects, Engineering Division, U.S. Army Vietnam Engineer Section, 
orally furnished Dong Tarn cost figures in 1 968. 

93. Richard M. Meyer, "The Ground-Sea Team in River Warfare," Military Review 46, no. 9 
(September 1966): 54-61. 

94. Fulton, Riverine Operations, 21 , 26-67, 89-1 02; FM 90-5: Jungle Operations, appendix D; 
John B. Spore, "Floating Assault Force: Scourge of the Mekong Delta," Army (February 1958): 28-32; 
"Paths Across the Mekong" and "Monsters That Float on Air," Army Gune 1 968): 72-73, 80-81 ; John 
W. Baker and Lee C. Dickson, "Army Forces in Riverine Operations," Military Review 47, no. 8 
(August 1967): 64-74. 

95. Jay Luvaas, "Buna, 19 November 1942-2 January 1943," in America's First Battles, eds. 
Charles E. Heller and William A Stofft (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1986), 201, 209- 
210; Bergerud, Touched With Fire, 73-74. 

96. S. L. A. Marshall, Ambush (New York: Cowles,1 969), 1 86-1 99; Area Wide Analysis of the 
Rung Sat Special Zone, U.S. Army Vietnam, undated (1 967), twenty-one 2-1 x 26-inch sheets of text, 
maps, and photographs; recollections of Edwin W. Chamberlain, Jr., a Rung Sat veteran, July 10, 

97. ... From the Sea: Preparing the Naval Service for the 21 st Century (Washington, DC: 
Department of the Navy, September 1 992), 6. 

98. Charles H. Sinex and Robert S. Winokur, "Environmental Factors Affecting Military 
Operations in the Littoral Battlespace," Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest 1 4, no. 2 (1 993): 1 1 2- 
1 24; Charles W. Koburger, Jr. Narrow Seas, Small Navies, and Fat Merchantmen (New York: Praeger, 
1990), 137-145. 

99. For some cost-benefit figures, see George R. Worthington, "Combat Craft Have a Role in 
Littoral Warfare," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 120, no. 8 (August 1994): 24-25. 

100. John W. McGillvray, Jr. "Stealth Technology in Surface Warships," Naval War College 
Review 47, no. 1 (Winter 1994): 29-30; Yedidia "Did!" Ya'ari, "The Littoral Arena: A Word of 
Caution," Naval War College Review 48, no. 2 (Spring 1 995): 9, 1 0, 1 2, 1 7; Ronald O'Rourke, Navy 
DD-51 Destroyer Procurement Rate: Issues and Options for Congress, Report No. 94-343 F 
(Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, April 25, 1994), 25-26. 

101. McGillvray, "Stealth Technology in Surface Warships," 33-39; Ya'ari, "The Littoral Region," 

102. Norman Friedman, "Littoral Anti-Submarine Warfare: Not As Easy As It Sounds," 
International Defense Review (June 1 995): 53-57; Worthington, "Combatant Craft Have a Role in 
Littoral Warfare." 

1 03 . Koburger, Jr., Narrow Seas, Small Navies, and Fat Merchantmen, 43-44, 46-48, 69, 89-90, 
107, 112-113; Maurice Griffiths, The Hidden Menace (Greenwich, CT: Conway Maritime Press, 
1981), 127. 

1 04. Arthur P. Brill, Jr., "The Last Twenty Feet," Sea Power (November 1 995): 43-46; Sinox and 
Winokur, "Environmental Factors Affecting Military Operations in the Littoral Battlespace," 114, 115- 
117, 121. 



Icarus was a brave boy, 
feathered wings his pride and joy. 
He flew high and had fun 
'til he neared the hot sun, 
which melted his fragile toy. 

The First Space Flight 
A Cautionary Limerick 


confine their activities to inner space, where they perform crucially important 
reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, tracking, communications, navigational, 
meteorological, missile warning, and verification missions in a medium quite different than 
land, sea, or air. 1 Combat operations eventually may occur 2 but interplanetary warfare seems 
far in the future for political, economic, military, and technical reasons. Round trips to Mars, 
for example, would take 2 or 3 years. The following discussions therefore concentrate on 
four distinctive regions within the Earth-Moon System: Aerospace Interfaces, Circumterrestrial 
or Inner Space, the Moon and Its Environs, and an amorphous Outer Envelope, beyond 
which outer space begins (map 23). 


Air, water, weather, climate, and vegetation within the Earth-Moon System are exclusively 
indigenous to this planet. 3 Land forms and natural resources are restricted to the Earth, 
Moon, and asteroids. Cosmic radiation, solar winds, micrometeorites, and negligible or 
neutralized gravity are unique properties of space. Near vacuum is present everywhere 
except on Earth and vicinity. 

Space and the seas are superficially similar, but differences are dramatic: 

Continents bound all five oceans, which are liquid and almost opaque, whereas space 
has no shape and little substance. 

Earth's curvature limits sea surface visibility to line-of-sight, whereas visibility as well 
as maneuver room are virtually limitless in space. 


Map 23. The Earth-Moon System 

Region IV / 

Outer Envelope / 

Region II 

Region I 
Earth and 

Region III 
Moon and 
\ Environs 



Region IV 
Outer Envelope 

(1000 miles) 

Distance in Miles 

From Earth 

From Moon 

Region I 

Lunar Orbit 

Surface to 60 
60 to 50,000 
50,000 to 240,000 
240,000to 480,000 

L1 45,000 

L2 42,000 

L3 480,000 

L4 60 ahead of moon 

L5 60 behind moon 

NOTE: Regions I, II, and IV are globe-shaped. Region III is like a quarter slice of pie, with little depth 
in comparison. L1 through L5 are lunar libration points. 



Acoustics, an antisubmarine warfare staple, play no part in space, because sound 
cannot survive in a vacuum. 

Space welcomes electromagnetic radiation, whereas water is practically impervious 
to radio and radar waves. 

Day-night cycles and shock waves, which are prevalent everywhere on Earth, are 
nonexistent in space. 

Atmospheric phenomena and salt water interfere with light and focused energy rays 
on Earth, but neither refract in space. 

Space moreover has no north, east, south, or west to designate locations and directions. 
A nonrotating celestial sphere of infinite radius, with its center at Earth's core, is the reference 
frame. Declination, the astronomical analog of latitude, is the angular distance north or 
south of the celestial equator, right ascension is the counterpart of longitude, and the 
constellation Aries, against which spectators on Earth see the sun when it crosses Earth's 
Equator in springtime, defines the prime meridian. Angular positions in space are measured 
from that celestial counterpart of Greenwich Observatory. 

Distances in space are meaningful mainly in terms of time. Merchant ships en route from 
the U.S. Pacific coast to the Persian Gulf typically take about a month to sail 1 2,000 nautical 
miles (22,240 kilometers). Apollo 1 1 flew to the Moon, 20 times as far, in slightly more than 
3 days. Real time communications, transmitted at 1 86,000 miles per second (the speed of 
light on Earth and in space) are possible despite great distances the delay between Earth and 
Moon amounts to about 1 second. 


Four geographic factors in Region I influence transits to and from space: atmosphere and 
gravity, together with Earth's rotation and inclination. Some effects are militarily adverse, 
whereas others are advantageous. 


Half of Earth's atmosphere is located less than 3 miles above sea level (4.6 kilometers), in the 
bottom of the troposphere (figure 22). 4 Most humans need supplemental oxygen to sustain 
efficient performance well before they reach that elevation. Pressurized suits or cabins 
become obligatory at about 9 miles, because crew members, unable to expel carbon dioxide 
and water vapor from their lungs unassisted, otherwise would suffocate. Their blood literally 
would boil above 12 miles in the absence of such protection. Military aircraft and space 
vehicles depend on pure air produced in a sealed environment after they approach altitudes 
that approximate 1 5 miles, where heat transfer is excessive and poisonous ozone is present. 
Turbojet engines refuse to function much above 20 miles; ramjets sputter and stop when 
altimeters register 28 miles (45 kilometers); rockets are required beyond that point. 

High winds, extreme turbulence, lightning, and ice often cause launch and landing 
delays, even for remotely-piloted aircraft and unmanned space vehicles on tight military 
schedules. The top-heavy U.S. piggyback space shuttle, which often transports sensitive 
cargo for the U.S. Department of Defense, might capsize if it tried to take off 


Figure 22. Aerospace Interfaces 



Hard Vacuum 



-Aerodynamic Drag Still Determines Orbit Life 











Ends Where 

..-.. . tnas wnere 
.* . '^ functional Heat Strongly Affects Reentry"-^ 
.'.'.." ** Astronaut Wings Authorized 



NOTE: Alt altitudes are approximate. Latitudes, seasons, and solar activities cause significant deviations. 



when crosswinds exceed the currently permissible 1 5 miles per hour (24 kph). Thunderbolts, 
such as the one that destroyed a U.S. Atlas-Centaur rocket laden with a multimillion dollar 
communications satellite in March 1 987, pose similar hazards. 

Spacecraft must overcome strong aerodynamic drag immediately after launch, but 
resistance becomes progressively weaker as they rise through the troposphere, because 
thinner air bears down with less pressure and the amount of fuel expended lightens the load 
they must lift. They break free for practical purposes where the mesosphere and 
thermosphere merge at an altitude that averages about 60 miles (95 kilometers). Frictional 
heat consumes space vehicles of all kinds when they reenter Earth's atmosphere at high 
velocities unless a shield protects exteriors and insulation keeps crews (if any) and other 
contents acceptably cool. Apollo command modules returning from the Moon, for example, 
had to offset 5,000 "F (1 ,900 C), four times that of blast furnaces. 

Friction nevertheless exerts some positive effects. Aerodynamic drag at the interface 
where atmosphere and space imperceptibly merge can act as a brake or alter orbit 
configurations without burning fuel, provided computers calculate reentry angles correctly. 
Spacecraft skip or bounce back erratically when trajectories are too shallow and incineration 
results when they are too steep, but reentry windows as a rule open wider for powered 
vehicles than for those that glide. 


Propulsion systems must be powerful enough to boost military spacecraft into orbit, despite 
atmospheric drag and gravity (g), which keeps objects on Earth without an anchor and pulls 
unsupported bodies from atmosphere or space toward the surface. 5 Astronauts and payloads 
both experience enormous stress during vertical liftoffs, because net force, acceleration, and 
velocity all increase rapidly when engines consume propellants (about 90 percent of the 
original weight) and expel mass in the form of exhaust. Gravitational attraction decreases 
with altitude, but is still 1 full g at 100 miles (160 kilometers), well beyond the upper 
boundary of Region I. 

Spacecraft in orbit maintain constant speeds that are little affected by atmospheric drag 
or gravity. Those that follow circular paths fall the same distance every second that Earth's 
curved surface seems to recede and thus stay in proper position, aided only by minor 
adjustments to prevent drifting (figure 23). Braking enables them to attain lower orbits or 
return to Earth, whereas additional energy propels them farther out. All spacecraft and 
contents not battened down become "weightless" unless slow rotations create artificial 
gravity, because they free fall constantly at the same rate. 


The entire Earth-Moon System, with its center of mass 1,000 miles beneath Earth's surface, 
completes one elliptical orbit around the sun every 365.25 days at a mean linear velocity 
of 666,000 miles per hour (1+ million kph)/ 1 The Earth, tipped on its axis 23 degrees 27 
minutes with respect to that orbit, rotates (spins) west to east 1,040 miles per hour at the 
Equator (1 ,675 kph), half as fast at the 60 th parallels, and remains stationary only at the North 
and South Poles. One complete turn equals one day. Military spacecraft launched due east 
get a flying start from Earth's rotation, which makes it easier to attain orbital velocities. 
Benefits are greatest for vehicles near the Equator and progressively less toward each pole, 


Figure 23. Gravity Versus Space Vehicle Velocity 

Path A: Suborbital; vehicle velocity too slow 
to overcome gravity. 

Path B: Earth orbit; vehicle velocity and 
gravity equal. 

Path C: Escape; vehicle velocity overcomes 
gravity pull. 

5 mi. 

The Earth's curvature, on the average, dips 16 feet in a little less than 5 miles. Spacecraft circling the globe 
fall that same distance in the first second, wherever gravitational pull is 1g. A velocity of 5 miles per second 
(18,000 mph) therefore produces perpetual orbit, unless perturbations prohibit. The 100-mile altitude displayed 
is exemplary. It could be higher or lower, as long as gravity is about 1g. 

where advantages are nil. Rotation neither assists nor resists launches that point 
north or south. 

Orbital altitudes determine the time it takes to complete one circuit around Earth. The 
period is 90 minutes for circular orbits at 1 25 miles (200 kilometers), less at lower altitudes, 
and longer higher up where paths are lengthy and less velocity is needed to counteract 
gravity. The period of elliptical orbits averages the nearest and farthest distances from Earth. 
Spacecraft achieve geosynchronous orbits at a mean altitude of 22,300 miles (35,885 
kilometers), where their 24-hour flight around the world corresponds precisely with the time 
it takes Earth to rotate once on its axis. Geosynchronous orbits that are circular and 



equatorial are called geostationary, because they seemingly hover over a single spot, while 
other Earth orbits make figure eights from center lines over the Equator. Sun synchronous 
orbits pass over prescribed spots at the same local time every day, come winter, summer, 
spring, or fall. Such options are useful for many military purposes, especially intelligence 
collection and communications. 


Circumterrestrial or inner space, as defined herein, 7 is a harsh region that begins about 60 
miles above Earth, where aerodynamic drag and frictional heat lose most of their significance. 
Asteroids and meteoroids that weigh many tons hurtle through the void at 30,000 to 1 60,000 
miles per hour. Catastrophic collisions with spacecraft seem improbable, although manmade 
"trash" is potentially troublesome and high-speed particles that pepper capsules and space 
suits over long periods not only pit optical lenses but chip temperature control surfaces. The 
latter are particularly important, because surface temperatures of objects in the thermosphere 
sometimes exceed 2,500 F (1,400 C). Sunlit sides anywhere in circumterrestrial space 
figuratively fry, while shady sides freeze, unless reflectors and insulating shields protect them. 
Moreover, systems must be designed to expel excessive heat generated on board. 

Space, which lies beyond "the wild blue yonder," is absolutely black because light cannot 
scatter in very thin air or hard vacuums. Total silence also prevails, and there are no shock 
waves or sonic booms, regardless of vehicle velocities. Earth's gravity, in combination with 
other perturbations such as solar winds, electromagnetic forces, and lunisolar gravitation 
above geosynchronous levels, radically warps spacecraft orbits over time unless corrected. 
"Cold welding" can occur if metals touch accidentally, because no film of air separates 
exposed surfaces, while structures that are frigid on one side and torrid on the other undergo 
great stress. 

X-rays, ultraviolet light, and infrared flood the ionosphere and magnetosphere. Two Van 
Allen radiation belts, separated by a low-density slot, girdle the globe with magnetic fields 
between latitudes 45 degrees north and south. The inner belt begins between 250 and 750 
miles above Earth and tapers off at about 6,200 miles. The outer belt expires at 37,000 to 
52,000 miles, depending on solar activity. Adequate shielding, coupled with prudent flight 
planning that reduces time in the most dangerous zones, is the best way to avoid overdoses 
and electronic disruptions that could interfere with important military missions. 

Cosmic rays beyond the Van Allen belts pose additional problems. Sporadic solar flares 
cause proton storms that project high-energy, high-charge, high-density, long-range flux a 
million times more powerful than particles in routine solar winds. Less potent doses can 
damage or destroy human cells, including components of the central nervous system, cause 
communication blackouts, and discombobulate poorly protected guidance systems. 
Forecasts that defer flights or recall them in time to avoid solar flares consequently 
are crucial. 



The voyage from Earth to the Moon averages 240,000 miles (386,000 kilometers) of cislunar 
space that is environmentally much the same as circumterrestrial space above the Van Allen 
belts (map 24). Lunar attributes and the significance of lunar libration points, however, merit 
special mention. 


Military space forces at the bottom of Earth's "gravity well" need immense energy to leave 
launch pads and climb quickly into space. Adversaries at the top, in positions analogous to 
"high ground," have far greater maneuver room and freedom of action. Put simply, it is 
easier to drop objects down a well than to throw them out. Gravitational pull on the Moon 
is one-sixth as strong and related launch problems consequently are miniscule in comparison, 
as figure 24 shows. 8 


The Moon's square mileage is essentially the same as Africa's. The diameter at its Equator is 
2,160 miles (3,475 kilometers), a little more than one-fourth that of Planet Earth. That bleak 
orb rotates once on its axis in 27.3 days, the same time it takes to complete one revolution 
around our world, so lunar days and nights each last 2 weeks, and the Moon eternally 
presents the same face to observers on Earth. Temperatures at a depth of 3 feet or so 
consistently register about -46 F, but sunlit equatorial surfaces sizzle well above the boiling 
point on Earth, 21 2 F (86 C), and dip below -245 F (-1 04 C) after dark. 9 

Lunar terrain, devoid of atmosphere, vegetation, and water (except perhaps for ice at the 
poles), features rough highlands on the far side, while huge shallow saucers predominate on 
the side we see Galileo called them maria, because they looked like seas through his 
telescope. Ridges and canyons known as rilles cross-hatch to form a lunar grid. Bowl-shaped 
craters, some of which have extremely steep sides, boulders, blocks, dimples, and hummocky 
debris make smooth topography hard to find. Lunar dust, called fines, mantles most of the 
level land, but abundant natural resources such as iron, titanium, aluminum, manganese, 
calcium, and silicon lie just beneath the surface. Construction materials also are accessible. 

Map makers and armed forces lack any criterion comparable to sea level from which to 
define elevations and depths. Each molehill and mountain therefore must be measured from 
base to crest, each canyon and crater from top to bottom. Pike's Peak in the Colorado 
Rockies would loom slightly less than 9,000 feet instead of 14,110 if calculated in that 
fashion, because its base is more than a mile above sea level. 


Five so-called lunar libration points are not points at all, but three-dimensional positions in 
space, shaped somewhat like kidney beans 10,000 miles (1 6,000 kilometers) long (map 24). 10 
Spacecraft theoretically could linger there indefinitely without expending much fuel if 
calculations are correct, because Earthly and lunar gravitational fields seem to cancel each 
other. Mathematical models and computer simulations conclude that free-floating objects at 
semistable L1 through L3, on a line with Earth and Moon, would gradually wander away, 
while substances at stable L4 and L5, which are 60 degrees ahead and behind the Moon in 


Map 24. Cislunar Space 

(Three-Dimensional Perspective) 










Distance in Miles 

From Earth 

Lunar Orbit 


From Moon 








60 ahead of moon 


60 behind moon 

Figure 24. Earthly and Lunar Gravity Wells 

(Not to scale) 

Distance ' 
in Miles 



Energy ***N x x L4 %f L5 

required \ t Moon 

\ ' 

40% | 

j ! 

^T"^i i no 


; 60% ^ 


Low earth orbits, near the bottom of Earth's gravity well in terms of distance (60-250 miles), are more than half 
way up in terms of energy required to reach that altitude. Spacecraft velocity must be about 4.5 miles per 
second (mps) to attain LEO. A mere 2.4 mps more is enough to reach the top, nearly 240,000 miles higher. 



its orbit, would resist drift more vigorously and thus remain in the general region. Those 
hypotheses, however, have not yet been verified. There are no known counterparts of the 
Trojan Asteroids that inhabit areas similar to L4 and L5 along Jupiter's orbit, nor have captive 
particle clouds been proven. 


Region IV, which radiates from Earth in all directions, shares most characteristics of cislunar 
space. Its immense volume affords valuable maneuver room devoid of sizable matter, except 
for small asteroids (some rich in raw materials) that cross Earth's orbit. Region IV terminates 
at twice the distance to the Moon, beyond which solar and other planetary influences 


Orbital options, which are virtually limitless, hypothetical ly could connect all points in the 
Earth-Moon System, but atmospheric interfaces, gravity, and radiation in fact confine 
flexibility. 11 Aerodynamic drag and gravitational pull rule out high-speed Earth-to-space 
launches with currently envisioned vehicles, even in perfect weather. Enemy land-based 
defenses may straddle well-known launch trajectories that take advantage of Earth's rotation. 
Routes in space are relatively easy for opponents to predict, sharp altitude and inclination 
changes are costly to make in terms of fuel and time, and even minor deviations demand 
fine-tuned activation by auxiliary thrusters. Loop-the-loops, barrel rolls, violent evasive 
actions, and other flamboyant tactics popularized in movies like Star Wars will remain 
science fiction until technologists develop new ways to maneuver in a vacuum. Polar orbits 
could bypass both Van Allen radiation belts, which further restrict the choice of routes for 
manned flights, but in so doing would encounter parts of the magnetosphere that serve as 
funnels for intermittent solar flares that could cripple military operations in the absence of 
better shielding than currently is available. Reentry angles that avoid excessive frictional heat 
when spacecraft hit Earth's atmosphere also canalize approaches, and thereby reduce 
prospects for strategic or tactical surprise. 


A few fixed orbits confer valuable advantages in space. Three geostationary communications 
satellites positioned equidistantly around the circular track that runs 22,300 miles (35,885 
kilometers) above our Equator can receive signals from, and relay them to, any place on Earth 
except the poles. Reconnaissance and surveillance satellites that make north-south great 
circles around the world sooner or later get a good look at every place on this globe. 

All five lunar libration points constitute strategic locations in space. L1 , the lowest energy 
transfer site for 230 million mile trips between Earth and Mars, could be fitted with military 
facilities as well as the "motel/gas station/warehouse/restaurant/garage" that the U.S. National 
Commission on Space once envisaged. 12 L2 is a potentially important clandestine assembly 
area, since cislunar and Earth-based sentinels cannot see it. L3 could become a semi-stable 
staging base for military operations directed against Earth or spacecraft in orbit around it 
Nature, however, has reserved decisive advantages for L4 and L5, the two stable libration 


points, which theoretically could dominate Earth and Moon because they look down both 
gravity wells. No other location is equally commanding. 

Occupying armed forces would possess great strategic leverage with which to mount 
operations from the Moon. Offensive and defensive warfare on the Moon, however, would 
be a catch-as-catch-can proposition until technologists produce the equivalent of a Global 
Positioning System (GPS) for lunar use or cartographers develop large-scale maps that identify 
precise elevations and include a military grid upon which to plot ranges and pinpoint 


Geographic influences on nuclear, directed energy, chemical, biological, and conventional 
weapon effects are far-reaching and fundamental. Atmospheric interfaces, gravity, and 
vacuum are the most important factors. 

Nuclear Weapon Effects. Nuclear weapons detonated in Earth's atmosphere create shock 
waves, violent winds, and intense heat that inflict severe damage and casualties well beyond 
ground zero. 13 No such effects would occur in space, because winds never blow in a 
vacuum, shock waves cannot develop where no air, water, or soil resists compression, and 
neither fireballs nor superheated atmosphere could develop more than 65 miles (105 
kilometers) above Earth's surface. Consequently, it would take direct hits or near misses to 
achieve required results with nuclear blast and thermal radiation. 

Initial nuclear radiation from beta particles and gamma rays would radically alter the 
ionosphere, warp or weaken radio and radar waves, and cause lengthy high frequency (HF) 
blackouts over vast areas on Earth (the megaton-range TEAK test shot, detonated in the 
mesosphere over Johnson Island on August 1, 1958, degraded HF radio traffic for several 
thousand miles in every direction from shortly after midnight until sunrise). X-rays, which 
Earth's atmosphere absorbs within a few feet, travel thousands of miles at the speed of light 
in space. Strong doses can peel spacecraft skins and destroy delicate mechanisms. 
Electromagnetic pulse (EMP), widespread and potentially paralyzing to electronics on land, 
at sea, or in the air, would occur if a cascade of gamma rays from any high altitude nuclear 
explosion collided with Earth's upper atmosphere (figure 25). A prodigious surge that peaks 
100 times faster than lightning would bolt toward ground, then attack unshielded 
electronics. Solid state circuitry would be especially vulnerable, because miniature 
components cannot tolerate high currents and immense voltages able to melt semiconductors 
would instantaneously turn sophisticated systems into trash. 

Directed Energy Weapon Effects. Directed energy weapons, if and when perfected, will 
project energy at or near the speed of light over great distances, but none now under serious 
consideration could perform equally well on Earth and in space. Problems consequently 
will arise if they try to cross the interface. 14 

Space is a nearly perfect environment for high-energy lasers, because light propagates 
unimpeded in a vacuum. Power output is the principal range limitation. Diffraction is 
significant over long distances, but is controllable. High-powered microwave weapons in 
experimental stages reportedly would work well in space, but break down dielectrically in 
atmosphere at relatively low energy levels, which would fatally impair space-to- Earth or 
Earth-to-space lethality. Particle beams suffer from similar shortcomings, because charged 
particles propagate well only in Earth's atmosphere and neutral particles only in a vacuum. 



The boundary between will remain a barrier to both unless scientists and technologists 
facilitate better conduction. Vehicles designed to survive intense reentry heat, however, 
would be vulnerable in space, where charged particle beams could penetrate hardened 
exteriors without burning a hole, then successfully attack components, propellants, and 
explosives not specifically protected. 

Figure 25. Electromagnetic Pulse Propaga tion 


Gamma energy is converted, 
through compton recoil 
electrons, to a downward- 
moving electromagnetic wave. 

Mean altitude 25-30 
miles; up to 50 miles 

affect all soft systems 
and air within 1000s 

Chemical and Biological Weapon Effects. Self-contained biospheres in space afford a 
superlative environment for chemical and biological warfare compared with Earth, where 
weather and terrain virtually dictate delivery times, places, and techniques. 15 Most spacecraft 
and installations on the Moon, which must rely on closed-circuit life support systems that 
continuously recirculate air and recycle water, are conceivable targets for special operations 
forces armed with colorless, odorless, lethal, or incapacitating agents that would be almost 
impossible to spot before symptoms appear. Cumbersome masks and suits could protect 
individuals only if worn constantly. Sanctuaries comparable to the toxic-free citadels that eat 
up precious room on some ships would be infeasible for most spacecraft and safeguard only 
a few selected personnel. Any vehicle or structure victimized by persistent chemicals 
probably would become permanently uninhabitable, because vast quantities of water and 
solvents required for decontamination would be unavailable. 

Conventional Weapon Effects. Tanks, cruise missiles, and other systems with "air- 
breathing" engines would be inoperative on the Moon's airless surface. 16 Alternatives 
currently under exploration include battery-powered motors and rocket-propelled engines 



that oxidize fuel on board. Newton's Third Law of Motion (to every action there is an equal 
and opposite reaction) establishes requirements for recoilless weapony in the vacuum of 
space, because blast otherwise would propel spaceborne firing platforms backward with 
momentum equal to that of the ammunition in flight. Newton's First Law of Motion (bodies 
in motion move in a straight line until another force intervenes) would basically regulate 
projectile trajectories on the Moon, where velocity and low lunar gravity unopposed by 
atmospheric drag make "fire-and-forget" systems attractive. Conventional explosives would 
have to hit targets directly or detonate nearby, because no shock waves amplify blast effects 
in a vacuum, but even bird shot-size fragments could easily puncture the thin walls of 
pressurized lunar facilities built to repel nothing much larger than micrometeoroids. 


Humans in space need support systems that not only provide air, food, and water but 
regulate temperatures, humidity, pressures, light, noise, vibrations, and radiation. Such 
requirements would be difficult to satisfy for armed forces on extended deployments. 17 

Subsistence and Sanitation. A one-month supply of oxygen, food, and drinking water just 
for a crew of three amounts to more than a ton stored at the expense of precious propel lant 
and military payloads. Each crew member in turn would deposit an equal amount of waste 
in the form of feces, urine, perspiration, internal gases, carbon dioxide, and other exhalation 
vapors that could quickly reach toxic proportions in a sealed capsule unless quelled, 
expelled, or sterilized. Life support systems currently dump or stow organic waste on short 
missions, but such practices do little to alleviate long-term resupply problems. High-priority 
research projects consequently emphasize alternative techniques. 

Radiation Risks. Military space forces would enter a perilous realm of radiant energy as 
soon as they leave Earth's protective atmosphere. Risks would be least in low Earth orbits but 
rise rapidly in the Van Allen belts and beyond, where high-energy, high-charge cosmic flux 
poses persistent hazards, while solar flares and other eruptions on the sun, always of concern, 
reach peak intensities every eleven years. Human central nervous, blood, digestive, and 
reproductive systems are particularly vulnerable to such radiation, which assaults 
reproductive cells. Delayed effects that could include leukemia, solid tumors, cataracts, and 
infertility might retard military recruitment and retention programs. Flight plans that limit 
time in the Van Allen belts and forecasts that warn of acute solar activity would reduce 
military flexibility along with radiation dangers, but permissible exposure may have to fit on 
a sliding scale, because personnel under age 35 apparently can tolerate higher levels and 
recuperate more quickly than older persons, who seem better able to withstand moderate 
overloads for longer periods. 

Motion Sickness and Weightlessness. Motion sickness, somewhat like an aggravated form 
of sea sickness, afflicts about half of all space travelers whose responses to medical 
suppressants are unpredictable. It conceivably might undermine mission proficiency enough 
during the first few days of each flight to mark the difference between military success and 
failure, depending on which crew members suffer worst from symptoms that variously 
include drowsiness, indifference, and severe vomiting. 

Weightlessness impairs response times, precision movements, and the work capacities of 
the best-trained, best-conditioned spacecraft crews. Dehydration occurs when the brain tells 
bodily organs to discharge fluids that pool in the chest. Blood, which thereafter thickens and 


flows less freely, supplies needy tissues with smaller than usual amounts of fresh nutrients and 
oxygen. Reduced abilities to exercise in turn cause muscles to lose mass and tone. Evidence 
so far suggests that most physically fit humans tolerate weightlessness reasonably well and 
recover completely after they return to a 1-g environment, although irreversible bone 
demineralization may be a significant exception. Artificial gravity may some day alleviate 
or eliminate the most debilitating aspects of weightlessness in large, slowly rotating space 
stations, but not in small, tactical space vehicles. 

Group Proficiency. "Cabin fever" might affect teamwork adversely during very long 
military deployments, unless commanders took positive steps to limit and control 
psychological stresses caused by close confinement in space vehicles where the absence of 
identifiable days and nights deranges work-rest schedules like jet lag magnified many times. 
Manifestations range from emotional instability, fatigue, and short attention spans to impaired 
vital functions such as heartbeat, pulse, brain activity, body temperature, and metabolism. 
Some individuals perform best before breakfast, others after supper. Optimum unit efficiency 
therefore is possible only if crews contain a beneficial mix of biorhythms and schedules 
assign each member duties during his or her period of peak proficiency, because many 
military tasks make it impossible for all to work and relax simultaneously. 


The term "aerospace" is a misnomer, because air and space are distinctively different 
geographic mediums. 

Military space activities currently are confined to unmanned reconnaissance, 
surveillance, target acquisition, tracking, communications, navigational, meteorological, 
missile warning, and arms control missions in support of armed forces on Earth. 

Many items needed to mount and sustain large-scale, extended military operations on 
the Moon and elsewhere in space remain to be invented, but could soon become 
technologically feasible. 

Few strategies, tactics, organizations, weapon systems, equipment, and little training 
designed for use by armed forces on Earth would be suitable for military operations in space. 

Orbital options will remain predictable until technologists devise innovative ways to 
maneuver spacecraft in a vacuum. 

The Moon, lunar libration points L-4 and L-5, and the geostationary orbital path above 
Earth's Equator are strategic locations within the Earth-Moon System. 

Military space operations of any kind will demand extensive Earth-based command, 
control, communications, logistical, and administrative support for the foreseeable future. 



1 . Chapter 7 modifies the text and consolidates source notes in John M. Collins, Military Space 
Forces: The Next Fifty Years (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, October 1 2, 1 989), 
especially 3-36, reprinted by Pergamon-Brassey's, same title, 1989, 5-39. 

2. William B. Scott, "Pentagon Considers Space As a New Area of Responsibility," Aviation 
Week and Space Technology, March 24, 1 997, 54. For war fighting in and from space, see G. Harry 
Stine, Confrontation in Space (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981); Daniel O. Graham, High 
Frontier (Washington, DC: High Frontier, 1982). 

3. Curtis D. Cochran, Dennis M. Gorman, and Joseph D. Dumoulin, eds., Space Handbook 
(Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, January 1985), 2-27 through 2-29. 

4. Ibid., 1 -3, 1 -4, chap. 8, and appendix A; G. Harry Stine, Handbook for Space Colonists 
(Holt, Rinehart and Winston,1 985), 47-79; Robert G. Fleagle, "Atmosphere," Encyclopedia 
Americana (International Edition, 1978). 

5. 5pace Handbook, 3-1 through 3-12; William M. Kaula, "Earth, the Gravitational Field of," 
and Jesse M. Beams, "Gravitation," in New Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 5 th ed.; Handbook for Space 
Colonists, 81-95. 

6. Frederick C. Durant," Space Exploration," New Encyclopedia Britannica; David Baker, The 
Shape of Wars to Come (New York: Stein and Day, 1 982), 35-39. 

7. Space Handbook, 1-5 through 1-14 passim, 2-41 through 2-47, and chapter 7; Isaac 
Asimov, "Sound" and N. C. Gerson, "Van Allen Radiation Belts," in Encyclopedia Americana. 

8. Confrontation in Space, 56-58, 86; Pioneering the Space Frontier: Report of the National 
Commission on Space (New York: Bantam Books, 1 986), 60-61 . 

9. Gilbert Fielder, "Moon," and Victor G. Szebehely, "Mechanics, Celestrial," New 
Encyclopedia Britannica; James D. Burke, "Moon," Encyclopedia Americana. 

10. Pioneering the Space Frontier, 131-132; Gerard K. O'Neill, The High Frontier: Human 
Colonies in Space (New York: Morrow, 1 977), 1 28-1 30. 

11. Ashton B. Carter, "Satellites and Anti-Satellites," International Security 10, no. 4 (Spring 
1 986): 48-66; Robert B. Giffen, U.S. Space System Survivability: Strategic Alternatives for the 1990s 
(Washington, DC: National Defense University Press,1982), 6-8,12; Space Handbook, 2-37 through 

12. Pioneering the Space Frontier, 1 33-13. 

13. Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, eds., The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, 3 d ed. 
(Washington, DC: Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Energy, 1977). 

1 4. Dietrich Schroder, Directed Energy Weapons and Strategic Defense: A Primer, Adelphi Paper 
221 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, Summer, 1987); Space Handbook, 9-1 
through 9-21, 9-25 through 9-42, 9-50, 9-51, 9-54. 

15. Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks (Washington, DC: 
Government Printing Office, August 1993); The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, vol. 
2, CB Weapons Today (New York: Stockholm International Peace Institute, 1 973), 37-43, 61 -72; FM 
21-40: NBC Defense (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, October 14,1977), chapter 5 and 
appendix B. 

1 6. Confrontation in Space, 78-80, 95-6; O'Neill, The High Frontier, 138-1 40. 

17. Roy L. DeHart, ed., Fundamentals of Aerospace Medicine (Philadelphia, PA: Leas and 
Febiger, 1985); Arnold E. Nicogossian and James F. Parker, Jr., Space Psychology and Medicine 
(Washington, DC: National Aeronautical and Space Agency, 1982). 



In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth 
was without form, and void. . . . And Cod said, "Let the waters under 
the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land 
appear": and it was so. And Cod called the dry land Earth; and the 
gathering together of the waters called he Seas; and God saw that it 
was good. 

Genesis 1 :1 


Everything since then has been created from something. Natural resources are the basic 
ingredients of all raw materials which, in turn, are the building blocks of all finished 
products, including military arms, equipment, and supplies. Sources, shortages, and 
compensatory programs are relevant to every nation. So are vulnerabilities to economic 
warfare and armed interdiction. 


The world community is divided inequitably into "have" and "have not" nations with regard 
to natural resources and raw materials. Even the best endowed countries suffer deficiencies 
that adversely affect military capabilities, but the criticality of any given shortage depends on 
the technological sophistication of armed forces in question, expansion and replenishment 
requirements, relationships with foreign suppliers, alternative providers, and the security of 
long-haul transportation lanes between sources and consumers. 


More than 90 minerals, metals, and materials are critically useful for military purposes. 1 
Relative importance depends on present and projected needs, but iron plus the dozen items 
listed on table 1 1 possess properties that are universally in demand. Most of them form 
ferrous and/or nonferrous alloys of great utility. 


Table 1 1 . One Dozen Militarily Useful Minerals and Metals 

Minerals and Metals 

Representative Properties 

Typical Military Products 












Light Weight 

Corrosion Resistance 
Oxidation Resistance 

Heat Resistance 
Abrasion Resistance 

Acid Resistance 


Corrosion Resistance 

Catalytic Abilities 
High Melting Point 

Corrosion Resistance 
Acid Resistance 

High Strength 
Light Weight 

Heat Resistance 


Aircraft Frames 
Hydraulic Cylinders 

Gun tubes 
Landing Gear 

Jet Engine Alloys 
Cutting Tools 

Petroleum Tankers 
Jet Engines 

Electric Wiring 
Cartridge Brass 

Ship Propellers 

Electroplated Aircraft Parts 
Axles, Gears, Valves, Rods 

High Octane Fuels 

Armor Penetrators 

Armor Plate 
Space Capsules 

Spark Plugs 
Electrical Contacts 

Nuclear-Powered Naval Ships 
Nuclear Weapons 


Hardness, toughness, and lightness of weight are highly valued properties. Aluminum, which 
weighs one-third less than steel, is a mainstay of military aircraft manufacturers. Like stainless 
steel, which amalgamates iron with chromium, it resists corrosion. Manganese is among the 
most important of all metallic elements, because no other substance so effectively controls 
oxidation and sulfur content during steel production processes. Manganese also strengthens 
iron alloys, helps aluminum ward off rust, and combines with copper or nickel to make 
marine propellers, fittings, gears, and bearings that wear well in salt water. Copper 



additionally is in demand for telecommunication wires of great tensile strength and high 
conductivity, while nickel alloys make first-class electroplated aircraft parts and air frames. 
Cobalt alloys tolerate high temperatures that jet engines generate and furnish the metal matrix 
for carbides in cutting tools, bulldozers, shovels, and scrapers that must keep sharp edges 
despite abrasion. High strength-to-weight ratios make titanium useful for space capsule skins, 
aircraft fire walls, jet engine components, and landing gears. Super hard tungsten, which 
boasts the highest melting point of any metal (6,1 70 F, 3,410 C), is the basic constituent of 
tenacious steel alloys, spark plugs, and electrical contact points. 2 

Properties in addition to or other than hardness and toughness make several minerals and 
metals quite valuable. Scarce platinum, noted for extraordinary catalytic activity and high 
melting points, not only raises octane ratings during petroleum refinement but makes 
sensitive electronic relay switches. Versatile tantalium, which resists corrosion more 
effectively than platinum, is the basic ingredient of many electronic components and, in 
oxide form, mingles with other materials that make sharp aerial camera lenses. Acid-resistant 
columbium alloys are ideal for gasoline and oil tankers. 3 Radioactive uranium, in a class by 
itself, fuels reactors that furnish nuclear power for high-performance naval surface ships and 
submarines. Nuclear bombs, missile warheads, and demolitions all contain highly enriched 
isotope U-235 or weapon-grade plutonium at their core. 4 


Comparative U.S. and Soviet sources of supply and shortages in the mid-1 980s graphically 
illustrate relative strengths and weaknesses when competition between those two 
superpowers was at its zenith (figure 26). Both nations had sufficient uranium for military 
purposes, but the United States was far from self-sufficient in many other respects. Widely 
scattered suppliers provided 90 percent or more of nine important minerals and metals that 
included bauxite, cobalt, columbium, manganese, and tantalum. Chromium, nickel, and 
platinum imports exceeded 75 percent. 5 Major U.S. allies in NATO Europe and the Far East 
were worse off. The Federal Republic of Germany, for example, relied entirely on outsiders 
for 1 6 industrial minerals, while japan drew on distant sources for nine-tenths of its total 
mineral needs/ 1 The Soviet Union, in contrast, was reasonably well off, because Warsaw Pact 
partners supplied most demands. Flourspar, bauxite, tin, silver, and tungsten were the only 
commodities available solely or in large part from sworn enemies or countries whose 
assistance was by no means assured. 7 Moscow in fact exported large amounts of titanium 
in exchange for hard cash until Alfa class attack submarine hulls consumed so much of that 
metal that shipments ceased. 

Bureaucratic bungling and technological obsolescence nevertheless reduced Soviet 
advantages considerably. Vast reserves, depleted at abnormally rapid rates, not only were 
(and still are) far removed from industrial centers but underlay harsh climatic regions that 
made extraction expensive. Molybdenum from Noril'sk, above the Arctic Circle in central 
Siberia, traveled more than 4,000 miles (6,435 kilometers) by river, road, and rail to reach 
metallurgical furnaces in Donetsk 600 miles (965 kilometers) farther than the land route 
from Miami, Florida, to Seattle, Washington. Norsk, an immense mining complex near 
northeastern Siberia's "Cold Pole," was even more isolated. 


Figure 26. U.S. and Soviet Mineral and Metal Imports 




Diamond (industrial stones) 
Graphite (natural) 
Mica (sheet) 
Bauxite & Alumina 
Platinum-group metals 
Iron Ore 
Iron & Steel 
Nitrogen (fixed) 


Bauxite & Alumina 


%, 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 
I I I I 

Brazil, Canada, Thailand 
Rep. of South Africa, Zaire, Belg.,-Lux., U.K. 
Mexico, Rep. of Korea, Madagascar, China 
India, Brazil, Madagascar 
Rep. of South Africa, France, Gabon, Brazil 
Australia, Jamaica, Guinea, Suriname 
Zaire, Zambia, Belg.,-Lux., Finland 
Thailand, Canada, Malaysia, Brazil 
Rep. of South Africa, U.S.S.R., Philippines, Turkey 
Mexico, Rep. of South Africa, Italy, Spain 
Rep. of South Africa, U.S.S.R., U.K. 







Canada, Norway, Botswana, Australia 
Canada, Rep. of South Africa 
Malaysia, Thailand, Bolivia, Indonesia 
Canada, Israel 
Canada, Australia, Mexico, Rep. of Korea 
Canada, Mexico, U.K. 
Canada, Peru, Mexico, Spain 
China, Peru, Chile, Morocco 
Canada, Japan, Fed. Rep. of Germany 
Canada, Bolivia, China, Thailand 
Rep. of South Africa, Bolivia, China, France 
Canada, U.S.S.R., Switzerland 
Spain, Japan, Italy, Algeria 
Canada, Mexico, Spain 
Canada, Venezuela, Brazil, Liberia 
Europe, Japan, Canada 
Canada, Norway, Brazil, Rep. of South Africa 
Rep. of South Africa, Chile, Canada 
U.S.S.R., Canada, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago 
Chile, Canada, Peru, Zambia 























i i i i 

/o 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 

China, Mongolia, Thailand 
Bulgaria, North Korea, Yugoslavia 
Guinea, Hungary, India, Jamaica, Yugoslavia 
Malaysia, Singapore, U.K. 
Canada, France, Switzerland 
China, Mongolia 








'/o 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 




Petroleum in various forms currently propels most aircraft, ships, tanks, trucks, and other 
military machines. Countries and cartels that produce crude oil and possess large proven 
reserves thus can exert strong political and economic leverage, particularly if they ship 
refined products as well. Table 1 2 lists oil owners who pumped more than 1 ,000 barrels per 
day from subterranean reservoirs that contained more than 8 billion barrels in 1990, when 
Iraq occupied Kuwait and threatened to overrun Saudi Arabia. 

It is easy to understand why the Persian Gulf War caused shudders throughout the 
industrialized world: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 
furnished more than half of Japan's petroleum imports, almost one-fifth of Western Europe's 
requirements, and enough to satisfy well over one-tenth of stated U.S. needs. Not all was 
replaceable from other sources, and most crude oil from other countries was somewhat 
heavier. The latter fact was significant, because Saddam Hussein's takeover coupled with a 
retaliatory embargo denied former recipients access to several sophisticated Iraqi and Kuwaiti 
refineries that specialized in such light products as gasoline, jet fuel, and distillate fuel oil. 8 
Intolerable situations, in short, demanded strong counteractions. 

Table 1 2. Crude Oil Producers and Proven Reserves 



Barrels per 

Percent of 

Proven Reserves 
(billions of 

Soviet Union 




United States 




Saudi Arabia 




















United Arab Emirates 








United Kingdom 

































The U.S. Army and Navy Munitions Board listed natural rubber as a strategic and critical 
material as of January 30, 1 940, with good reason: every military service on the Axis as well 
as the Allied side was heavily dependent on sources concentrated in southern Asia from India 



and Ceylon to Indonesia and Indochina. U.S. imports from the Far East increased at such a 
frenzied pace after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor that virtually all readily available supplies 
had been shipped before British Armed Forces in Singapore surrendered on February 15, 
1 942. Attention thereafter turned to rubber plantations in Liberia, along with underdeveloped 
stands in Central and South America, none of which proved adequate. 9 


Several avenues short of military operations to seize supplies are open to nations that need 
more natural resources than they possess. Recycling and conservation reduce import 
requirements; stockpiles hedge against shortages if crises should arise; synthetics and 
substitutes sometimes relieve nature's stinginess or render it irrelevant. Strong countries, 
however, may also choose to take what they want by force of arms. 


U.S. national stockpile programs started in 1939, but domestic politics, special interest 
groups, inconsistent policies, and costs made efficient administration almost impossible for 
the first 40 years. Backup supply goals slumped from 5 years to 1 during the 1 970s. Congress 
then passed the Strategic and Critical Minerals Stockpiling Act of 1 979 which, among other 
provisions, earmarked reserves specifically for national defense contingencies and prescribed 
selected items "sufficient to sustain the United States for a period of not less than 3 years in 
the event of a national emegency." 1 Proper management concurrently became a pressing 
mission, because U.S. stockpiles at that time were rife with wasteful excess, especially silver 
and tin, which tied up several billion dollars that could have been put to better use. Some 
reserves had lolled in the inventory for so long that original rationales were invalid. Bauxite, 
chromium, manganese, and other ores would have been more readily usable if converted to 
primary metals and alloys. 11 The moral is clear: untended stockpiles are apt to disappoint 
when owners need them most. 

Congress further established the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve after a brief Arab oil 
embargo from mid-October1973 to mid-March 1974 showed how susceptible the United 
States and many other nations were to what Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger called 
possible "strangulation of the industrialized world/' 12 Caverns in Texas and Louisiana 
contained more than 580 million barrels when Iraq overran Kuwait 1 7 years later, but all was 
crude oil that required refining before it could fuel armed forces or defense industries. 13 
Fortunately, very little had to be withdrawn, because Saudi Arabia increased its production 
considerably as long as the crisis lasted. 


Neither synthetics nor substitutes currently can replace petroleum as a fuel and lubricant for 
most military purposes. Nuclear reactors currently propel selected surface ships and 
submarines, but serious attempts to produce nuclear-powered aircraft ceased several decades 
ago. Navies early in the 21st century likely will still rely mainly on fossil fuels, military motor 
vehicles will still burn gasoline or diesel, oil and lubricants likely will remain in demand. 
Manmade materials, however, already supplement or supplant natural rubber and many 
mineral resources. 


Recycled rubber was prized in the United States after Japan seized or blocked access to 
all plantations in Southeast Asia during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 
1 942 asked patriotic Americans to turn in "old tires, old rubber raincoats, old garden hose, 
rubber shoes, bathing caps, gloves." A carload of chorus girls in New York City donated 
girdles as their contribution to 450,000 tons of scrap rubber collected during the next month, 
but most submissions had previously been reclaimed at least once and proved unsuitable for 
further processing. Synthetics, however, sufficed. Fifty-one new factories produced 800,000 
tons annually by 1 944, an output roughly equivalent to the harvest from 1 50 million rubber 
trees. 14 

All manmade materials, like natural minerals and metals, possess weaknesses as well as 
strengths, but many prospects appear promising. Experimental composites, alloys, and fibers 
that possess revolutionary properties are becoming ever more important. Some are stronger, 
lighter, and more durable than the best steel. 15 Carbon-carbon polymers can tolerate 
temperatures up to 3,000 F (1,650 C) without expanding or weakening significantly. 16 
Super-hard ceramics mold readily into complex shapes. The search for superconductor 
materials that can function at room temperatures without constant bathing in costly liquid 
helium may benefit fairly soon from ceramics mixed primarily with off-the-shelf bismuth and 
thallium (a metal used in rat poison) rather than expensive rare-earth metals like lanthanum, 
strontium, yttrium, and barium. 17 Halide glass fibers, which are far superior to copper wires, 
combine immunity to electromagnetic interference with great tensile strength. 


Resource deprivation occurs whenever requirements exceed stocks on hand plus readily 
available replenishments and resultant problems can be excruciating if sources dry up at 
inopportune moments. Two dissimilar cases are instructive in both regards: retaliatory 
resource warfare in East Asia and the Pacific between 1941 and 1945 destroyed Japan's 
abilities to project military power far beyond her borders well before atomic bombs hit 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki; anticipatory operations by a U.S. -led coalition in 1990-1991 
relieved widespread anxieties that renegade Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might use ill- 
gotten Persian Gulf petroleum as an economic weapon against opponents whose livelihood 
depends on that resource. 


Japan in the early 1930s consisted of four mountainous islands, crowding more than 70 
million people onto less arable land than the State of Iowa then contained, and the 
population was increasing at the rate of one million each year. Scarce natural resources 
made industrial progress expensive and restricted military capabilities, partly because 
foreigners supplied most minerals and all petroleum at higher prices than self-sufficient 
competitors paid, and partly because shipping costs were considerable. 

Remedial Measures. Japan began to augment home-grown resources in 1910 when it 
acquired Korea, which opened access to hydroelectric power along with rich deposits of 
coal, iron ore, and other minerals. The Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands, German 
possessions that the League of Nations mandated to Japan after World War I, brought 
phosphates and phosphorite. The 1 931 march into Manchuria, followed shortly by suzerainty 


over northern China and bits of the littoral from Shanghai as far south as Hainan Island, 
netted more iron ore, coking coal, some tin, and aluminous shale. 18 

Tokyo's quest for natural resources received its first serious setback in September 1 940, 
when Japan signed a tripartite pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. President Roosevelt 
in response embargoed U.S. scrap metal and petroleum shipments to Japan, then froze all 
Japanese assets in the United States 10 months later after troops flying the Rising Sun flag 
swarmed over Indochina with Vichy French acquiescence. The British and Dutch 
Governments soon imposed similar sanctions. 19 Those body blows hurt, because some 
Japanese stockpiles, including oil, were sufficient for little more than a year, others for less. 
Resource deprivation hence dictated Japanese strategy to a high degree. The mission in 
December 1941 was to grab what they needed, throw a cordon around the gains, and 
tenaciously hang onto territory that map 25 depicts. 20 

Map 25. Japanese Territorial Holdings in 1942 

iSSffiBSteiSx'S.:;:;: ; 



/>:' " ;-''-: :, : ;>*; ':-:-:-^^x-:-:T'T f ;-:'x':-x : 







Indian Ocean 

Adapted from Arthur Zich, The Rising Sun. 

Ruinous Results. Japan initially enjoyed great gains. Burma, Malaya, and Siam provided 
bauxite, cobalt, tungsten, and tin. Southeast Asian plantations were lucrative sources of 
rubber, New Caledonia contributed nickel, and the Philippines furnished chromium. Oil 



from Tarakan in northeast Borneo, Banjermasin farther south, and Palembang in Sumatra 
lubricated Japanese machines after bloody but brief fights. Dutch Shell employees torched 
some facilities and British General Harold Alexander did likewise to 1 50 million gallons of 
Burmah Oil Company products outside Rangoon, but most installations remained intact, and 
Japanese technicians restored capacities so rapidly that output exceeded expectations within 
a few months. 21 

Japan nevertheless died the Death of a Thousand Cuts, beaten by a U.S. naval and air 
blockade that devastated its fragile economy. Submarines sank merchant transports faster 
than Japanese shipyards could build them. Cargoes increasingly substituted salt, soy beans, 
and cereals for the sinews of war. Aircraft industries, strapped for minerals, metals, and coal, 
turned out fewer airframes, engines, motor mounts, landing gears, and fittings of such poor 
quality that performance fell sharply while accident rates rose. Petroleum tanker losses, 
which exceeded 750,000 tons in 1944, outstripped construction. The octane ratings of 
aviation fuel dropped dramatically (some batches were alcohol blends), pilot training was 
cut to 30 hours in 1 944 (less than half the previous allocation), and formations played follow- 
the-leader after navigation schools closed. Kamikaze flights became popular, partly because 
one-way missions cut gasoline consumption in half. Japanese fleets, which required 
prodigious amounts of petroleum, were in even worse shape. Several major surface 
combatants were confined to home ports, only one battleship had enough fuel to help defend 
Okinawa in March 1945, and U.S. aircraft sank or heavily damaged at dockside four "sitting 
duck" battleships, three aircraft carriers, and two heavy cruisers during final months of the 
war. 22 The United States Strategic Bombing Survey summarized overall results as follows: 
"The insufficiency of Japan's war economy was the underlying cause of her defeat. Before the 
air attacks against [Japanese] cities began, war production had been steadily declining 
because of the ever-increasing shortages of raw materials... This resulted in a growing margin 
of unused plant capacity. Thus, even substantial bomb damage to plant structures and 
equipment frequently had little, if any effect on actual production/' 23 Resource warriors had 
already wreaked such havoc that direct assaults merely administered a coup de grace. 


Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in January 1991 unleashed an immense oil spill (100,000 
barrels a day) at the head of the Persian Gulf, apparently to foul potential invasion beaches 
and forestall U.S. amphibious landings. Currents shortly carried slicks all the way to the Strait 
of Hormuz, with environmentally disastrous consequences. 24 His henchmen later set 650 
Kuwaiti oil wells afire when Iraqi Armed Forces withdrew in February 1991, perhaps to 
ensure that Saddam's opponents could take less comfort from his defeat and reap fewer early 
financial benefits. Sixteen international fire fighting companies and 10,000 men worked 
round-the-clock for more than 8 months to extinguish those flames at a cost of about $1 
billion (much faster than first predicted), while estimates placed reclamation and 
reconstruction costs at twenty times that figure. 25 

Saudi Arabian Petroleum Facilities. Possibilities for infinitely greater mischief were 
present in Saudi Arabia, which Saddam Hussein might have seized had that nation remained 
undefended by a formidable coalition. Petroleum-dependent nations everywhere would have 
been at his mercy as long as he controlled so much productive capacity and exploited it for 
his own purposes. 


Outsized Saudi Arabian petroleum infrastructure would have been hard to replace if 
badly damaged or destroyed. The main complex sprawls over an area 350 by 250 
miles 5,630 by 3,220 kilometers (map 26), and many wells lie under water along the 
Persian Gulf littoral. Extraction, collection, processing, and distribution systems illustrated 
schematically in figure 27 contain many one-of-a-kind components that would be hard to 
replace: 50 gigantic gas-oil separators; many huge pumping stations (2 million barrels each 
per day); the world's biggest water injection plants (400 million cubic feet daily for the 
Abqaiq field alone); the world's biggest storage tanks, 72 feet high, 352 feet in diameter, 
capacity 1 .25 million barrels apiece; the biggest oil port; a monster desalinization plant. Drill 
pipes, casings, tubing, bits, blowout preventers, valves, pressure gauges, engines, and 
compressors plus indispensable starches, caustic sodas, alcohols, organic chemicals, and 
construction steels would be instantaneously insufficient if enemies sabotaged major 
elements. Shipping requirements would strain oceangoing transports. 26 

Sabotage Potential. Ballistic missile defense systems available to the allied coalition in 
1 991 might best be described as "porous," but Iraqi Scuds were too inaccurate to do much 
damage except by chance, and the Iraqi Air Force was too timid to cause serious concerns. 
Opportunities for sabotage on a grand scale, however, would have been wide open to Iraqi 
ground forces before they abandoned positions in Saudi Arabia, provided personnel in charge 
possessed sufficient expertise. Wells, pipelines, pumping stations, power plants, storage 
tanks, refineries, and loading facilities all were vulnerable in varying degrees. 

It would be easy to punch holes in welded steel pipelines half an inch or so thick, 
although oil field workers could repair punctures with relative ease even if demolition experts 
tore great gaps. Heavy crude oil would be hard to ignite in giant storage tanks with walls 1 .7 
inches (4.3 centimeters) thick at the base, because shaped charges would sputter in the thick 
liquid. Flares would shoot from containers full of high-octane fuel, but distances between 
tanks would confine spreads even if saboteurs found ways to kindle full-fledged fires. 

Demolition specialists who concentrate on separators, stabilizers, power packs, and 
pumping stations conversely could produce paralytic effects. Free-flowing Saudi wells, like 
those in Kuwait, are extremely flammable. Fires in offshore facilities would be especially 
fearsome. It took 1 36 days to smother flames at just one Shell Oil platform off Louisiana's 
coast after 1 1 wells blew in 1 970. Sixteen private companies and three U.S. Government 
agencies committed 650 men to fight another offshore fire at Bay Marchand. Two barges 
sprayed sea water on the platform superstructure to keep it from melting. Five mobile drilling 
rigs, two "jack-up" rigs, and eleven mud barges working in concert sank new shafts, pumped 
water into the producing layer to prevent subterranean oil reservoirs from feeding fires, and 
then blocked burning wells with mud. A derrick barge with a 500-ton crane cleared 3,000 
tons of debris before new well heads could be connected to new platforms. A special shore- 
based control center replete with communications, power sources, fuel supplies, a helipad, 
seaplane dock, and living quarters was constructed to accommodate supervisors. 27 

Additional difficulties would develop in Saudi Arabia if prevailing Persian Gulf winds 
swept burning oil slicks south from Berri to port facilities at juaymah and Ras Tanura, where 
explosions could level installations ashore, just one supertanker laden with gasoline or 
naphtha would have devastating effects (70 tons of liquefied natural gas destroyed 80 square 
blocks in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1945; the contents of a 100,000-gallon tanker would be 
catastrophic in comparison). 28 


Map 26. Saudi Arabian Oil Fields and Facilities 




ft Nariya 






Umm Bab 



Saudi Core 
Other Fields 
Gas-Oil Separator 
Pump Station 
Marine Terminal 


& Gas Injection 
Water Injection 

Central Electric 

10 20 30 40 50 

1 i i i i i 





Figure 27. Oil Fields and Facilities 



Niccolo Machiavelli explained the problem nicely in The Prince (1514 A.D.): "One must 
never allow disorder to continue so as to escape a war. One does not escape. The war is 
merely postponed to one's disadvantage." The Allied coalition that blocked Iraqi Armed 
Forces at the Kuwaiti border in August 1 990, then drove them out the following February, 
performed an internationally valuable service when seen from that perspective. The price 
in lives lost and money expended was minuscule compared with penalties that might have 
been paid if Saddam Hussein had launched a ruthless resource war while withdrawing under 
pressure from Saudi Arabia. 


National interests in natural resources and raw materials shape international 
relationships, incur enmities, and underpin defense industries without which armed forces 
could not function. 

Competition for some commodities is intense, because few countries are entirely self- 

Prudent national leaders therefore seek to establish strong ties with foreign suppliers, 
safeguard essential supply routes, and stockpile reserves for use in emergencies. 

How much of what each country needs depends on the technological sophistication of 
its armed forces, together with present and projected requirements. 

Sensible degrees of reliance on foreign providers depend on international relationships 
at any given moment, alternative sources, and the security of shipping lines. 

Stockpiles should emphasize resources and raw materials in order of importance. Steel 
production, for example, will demand manganese and coking coal until technologists 
identify substitutes or devise different methods. 

Poorly attended stockpiles deteriorate rapidly and soon become obsolescent unless 
supervisors recorrelate them with changing requirements at realistic intervals. 

Continued reliance on fossil fuels, for which no suitable substitutes now are available, 
leaves industrialized nations and their armed forces vulnerable to devastating resource 

Synthetic materials are rapidly altering the value of many other natural resources. 

Resource warfare can threaten modern societies and damage military capabilities just 
as surely as nuclear weapons. 


1 . Alfred R. Greenwood, On Issues Relating to the National Defense Stockpile, briefing before 
the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, March 8, 1 994, Attachments 

2. Ewan W. Anderson, Strategic Minerals: The Geopolitical Problems for the United States (New 
York: Praeger, 1988); Marc D. Lax, Selected Strategic Minerals:The Impending Crisis (New York: 
University of America Press, 1 992). 

3. Ibid. 

4. Congress, House, Joint Committee Print, Nuclear Proliferation Factbook, 99 th Congress, 1 st 
sess., August 1985, 299-499; Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks 
(Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, August 1993), 33, 35-36, and Technologies 


Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, December 
1993), 131, 147-148. 

5. Alfred R. Greenwood, The Availability of Strategic and Critical Minerals for the United States 
Economy (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, November 1 6, 1983). U.S. updates are 
contained in Mineral Commodity Summaries, 1996 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the 
Interior, Geological Survey and Bureau of Mines). See also Kent Hughes Butts, Strategic Minerals in 
the New World Order (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 
November 30, 1993). 

6. Michael Shafer, "Mineral Myths," Foreign Policy, no. 47 (Summer 1 982): 1 54-1 71 . 

7. Greenwood, The Availability of Strategic and Critical Minerals, 6, 7. 

8. Joseph P. Riva, Petroleum Status of the Western Persian Gulf, Report No. 90-378 SPR, 
November 1 3, 1 990, and Bernard A. Gelb and Dario Scuka, Oil Flows, World Reserves, and the Iraq- 
Kuwait Situation, Report No. 90-374E, August 7, 1990 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research 

9. Yuan-li Wu, Economic Warfare (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1 952), 277-280. 

1 0. Greenwood, The Availability of Strategic and Critical Minerals, 1 4-1 8. 

1 1 . Ibid. U.S. updates are contained in Inventory of Stockpile Material (LZ-1), Defense National 
Stockpile Center, September 30, 1996; Greenwood, On Issues Relating to the National Defense 
Stockpile, March 8, 1994. 

1 2. "Exclusive Interview by Business Week, December 23, 1 974," Department of State Bulletin, 
January 27, 1975, 101. 

13. Robert Bamberger, The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, IB87050 (Washington, DC: 
Congressional Research Service, August 14, 1990). 

1 4. Ronald H. Bailey, The Home Front: USA (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 977), 84. 

1 5. Advanced Materials by Design (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, June 1 988). 

1 6. Howard G. Maahs, "Carbon-Carbon Composites," World & I, June 1 989. 

1 7. Commercializing High-Temperature Superconductivity (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, June 1988). 

1 8. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBSj, with intro. by David Maclssac, vol. 8, 
The Effects of Strategic Bombing on Japan's War Economy (New York: Garland Publishing, 1976), 
chapter I; Arthur Zich, The Rising Sun (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 977), 1 8-27. 

1 9. Jerome B. Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction (Minneapolis, MS: University 
of Minnesota Press, 1 949), chapter 3. 

20. Ibid; Zich, The Rising Sun, 119-1 29. 

21 . Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, chapter 4. 

22. USSBS, vol. 9, The Effects of Air Attack on Japanese Urban Economy, Summary, v-vi. 

23. "Huge Oil Spill Fouls Persian Gulf," Facts on File Yearbook 7997, Indexed Record of World 
Events, vol. 51 (New York: Facts on File, January 31, 1991), 57-58, 92-93; M. Lynne Corn, Persian 
Gulf Oil Spills and the Biology of the Persian Gulf, Report No. 91-123 ENR (Washington, DC: 
Congressional Research Service, January 30, 1991). 

24. Jennifer Parmalee, "Kuwaiti Emir Snuffs Out Last Iraqi-Lit Oil Fire," Washington Post, 
November 7, 1991, 1. 

25. Congress, House, Oil Fields As Military Objectives, prepared for the Special Subcommittee 
on Investigations of the Committee on International Relations by the Congressional Research Service, 
94 th Congress, 1 st sess., August 21,1 975, 1 7, 71 ; Ismail I. Nawwab et al., eds., ARAMCO and Its 
Wor/of(Dhahran, Saudi Arabia:1980), 214-217. 

26. Oil Fields As Military Objectives, 45, 70. 


27. "How Shell Rejuvenated Fire-Damaged Bay Marchand Wells" Ocean Industry (October 
1973): 47-50; R. F. Nelson, "The Bay Marchand Fire/' Journal of Petroleum Technology (March 
1972): 225-249. 

28. Oil Fields As Military Objectives, 1 7 ', 44-46, 69-71 . 



Top: Amphibious assault troops wade across a coral reef through hip deep water on their way to Yellow Beach 
Two on Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. All eyes face right, where a Japanese machine gun has just opened 
fire. Smoke rises from oil storage tanks ignited by naval gunfire (U.S. Army photograh). 
Bottom: Gnarled tree roots above ground and under fetid black water typify tidewater swamps, where 
observation and fields of fire extend a few feet at most in any direction. Close combat by foot troops is a nerve- 
wracking proposition under such conditions (U.S. Army photograph). 


Top: Deep, sticky mud that acts like a suction cup turns unsurfaced roads into quagmires during rainy seasons 
and precludes cross-country movement by motor vehicles. Frozen mud can cement truck convoys in place like 
Creek friezes (U.S. Army photograph). 

Bottom: Wary, well-dispersed troops look for enemy ambush sites as they advance along a tropical road that 
runs between thick stands of "elephant grass," which excludes the slightest breeze, is stifling hot, and restricts 
observation to less than one arm's length (U.S. Marine Corps photograph). 


T; > 

* *.- f * 


J~ at 1 wr' 

The small castle in the foreground and the 1 ,400-year-old Benedictine monastery on the skyline both offered 
fine observation posts and defensive positions during the battle for Cassino, Italy, early in 1945. German 
paratroopers, who avoided the abbey until Allied bombers blasted it flat, fought tenaciously in the debris below 
(U.S. Army photographs). 


A truck convoy on the Burma Road above the Salween River gorge creeps around 2 1 switchback curves with 
slippery surfaces, precipitous slopes on both sides, and no guard rails. Men, mules, and motor vehicles 
sometimes slipped into the abyss (U.S. Army photograph). 


Manpower and mules must replace motor vehicles wherever rude tracks and trails supplant roads, unless 
helicopters are available. Heavy mortar crews like the one depicted found the going difficult whether they 
moved up or down steep slopes in Italy's Apennine Mountains (U.S. Army photograph). 

The bridge over the Rhine River at Remagen became the most important piece of property in Western Europe 
when German demolition teams failed to destroy it completely before U.S. troops raced across on March 7, 
1 945. The tenuous bridgehead that they seized initially expanded for 1 days before the weakened structure 
collapsed (U.S. Army photograph). 


The pontoon bridge in the foreground 
supported foot traffic after Viet Cong 
sappers during the Tet offensive of 
February 1968 dropped the sturdy steel 
truss that spanned the Perfume River at 
Hue, but motor vehicles and trains could 
no longer cross (U.S. Marine Corps 

Subzero weather and wicked winds near 
North Korea's Changjin Reservoir made 
life miserable for U.S. Marines, the Army's 
32d Infantry Regiment, and British Royal 
Marine Commandos in mortal combat 
with Chinese Communist "volunteers" 
who streamed south from Manchuria in 
November 1950 (U.S. Marine Corps 

Front line medics find it much easier to 
treat stretcher cases while the weather is 
warm and dry than in winter, when 
freezing rain and wet snow soak casualties 
who lie in the open. Hypothermia, which 
is common under such conditions, can kill 
almost as fast and just as surely as lethal 
weapons (U.S. Army photograph). 


Top: Close air support is a sporty proposition when valleys experience clear weather while heavy clouds 
shroud hilltops, a condition that commonly prevails between Vietnam and the Laotian panhandle near Khe 
Sanh. Route 9 runs diagonally from left to right along the valley floor in this photograph (U.S. Marine Corps 

Bottom: Underway replenishment is a complex task even under placid conditions. Skilled destroyer skippers 
and crews are required to transfer supplies safely during stormy weather, when roiling water washes across 
rolling, pitching decks, slams against bulkheads, creates instability that magnifies every cargo-handling 
problem, and increases risks of collision (U.S. Navy photograph). 


Top: Submarines under arctic ice packs that often are 1 feet (3+ meters) thick must surface before they can 
safely launch ballistic or cruise missiles. They also must be able to break through in emergency, because crews 
otherwise would suffocate if air supplies failed for any reason (U.S. Navy photograph). 
Bottom: A string of ships play "follow the leader" through a narrow lead in Antarctic ice so that only one has 
to force its way. Opportunities to do so near either pole are limited to short summer seasons, because pack ice 
is frozen solid most of each year (U.S. Navy Photograph). 


Top: Heavy coatings of thickly frozen salt water spray can block air intakes and add tons to ship bulkheads, 
superstructures, hatches, masts, rigging, exposed machinery, antennas, and weapon systems. Results reduce 
the operational capabilities and endanger the stability of ice breakers (shown) as well as surface combatants 
and transports in the absence of effective countermeasures (U.S. Navy photograph). 

Bottom: Water always is the staff of life during military operations in deserts. U.S. troops that deployed to Egypt 
during Exercise Bright Star in 1985 reconfirmed that flexible hoses can transfer large quantities over long 
distances faster and more cost-effectively than fleets of tanker trucks (U.S. Army photograph). 




There is the so-called theory of "weapons mean everything/' . . . Weapons are an important 
factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not material that counts. The contest 
of forces is not only a contest of military and economic power, but also one of the power and 
morale of humans. 

Mao Zedong 
On Protracted War 


March from Jiangxi Province to the Shaanxi caves near Bao'an (map 3, page 1 9). He also 
meant the Chinese people, peasantry in particular, whose sturdy stock was his primary source 
of strength. Mao still planned to "drown [invaders] in a hostile human sea" even after the 
nuclear-armed Soviet Union turned against him a quarter-century later, steadfast in his belief 
that "modern long-range weapons, including atomic bombs/' would be "helpless and 
ineffective" in any protracted war when opposed by industrially backward but ideologically 
indoctrinated masses who were not afraid to die for their homeland. 1 

Soviet leaders never put Mao's premise to the test, but most authorities generally agree 
that the human element in military affairs is huge. Strategists and tacticians who concoct 
plans and conduct operations in the absence of sound knowledge concerning the 
demographics, cultural characteristics, and social structures of coalition partners as well as 
opponents are on shaky ground. Sun Tzu, who was Mao's mentor many times removed 
(circa 500 B.C.), took that contention one step further: "Know the enemy and know yourself," 
he counseled, "in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the 
enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of 
your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril." 2 Population patterns, 
the racial-ethnic-tribal mix, languages, religions, customs, tempers, attitudes, and loyalties 
are everywhere important. 



Demography deals with the size, density, geographic distribution, composition, and other 
vital statistics of populations the world over. Military practitioners concentrate on 
demographic conditions that influence current plans, programs, and operations. Birth rates, 
life expectancies, the practice of polygamy, and percentages of married persons, for example, 
are less important than sex and age profiles that determine the number of individuals eligible 
for military service and the size of local labor pools. Relationships between minorities and 
majorities are more important than relative percentages of the population that each 


Approximately 5.8 billion people populated Planet Earth in 1997, of which four-fifths lived 
in the least developed countries (figure 28). China and India alone contributed two billion, 
while the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Europe, and Central Asian states that belonged to the 
former Soviet Union divided most of the remainder. Populations in the poorest regions will 
expand disproportionately before the year 2025, most of them in Asia and Africa, if 
projections prove correct, which is by no means a foregone conclusion considering the 
unpredictable impact of AIDS, widespread starvation, and wars. 3 

Militarily important statistics include total populations in any given country, the number 
of men and women of military age (generally ages 1 5 to 49), and percentages that are fit for 
active service. Israel (population 5.7 million, of which 1 5 percent are Palestinians 4 ) cannot 
maintain large active forces in "peacetime," must mobilize reserves from the civilian work 
force to meet military emergencies, could ill afford extensive casualties, and would face 
economic collapse in a protracted war of attrition. Armed services fed by much larger 
societies are better able to replenish heavy losses before they become combat ineffective, 
as several major powers demonstrated during two World Wars in the 20th century. Even the 
winners, however, paid a higher price than table 1 3 reflects, because figures therein exclude 
civilian casualties, military personnel rendered permanently ill or disabled, horrendous 
Chinese losses from 1 937 through 1 941 , and incalculable deprivation of latent talent. 5 

Table 1 3. Military Dead and Missing, World Wars I and II 
























British Commonwealth 




United States 





A few favored nations ideally distribute many cities, towns, and villages over large land 
masses and keep a high percentage well removed from unfriendly frontiers. Countries cursed 



Figure 28. Present and Projected World Populations 



By 2050, 9.8 billion people will inhabit Earth, an increase of 73 percent from the current 5.7 
billion. The population of developing countries is expected to grow by 80 million people each 
year, on average, doubling by about 2050. Africa alone will almost triple its current population 
by 2050. While the growth rate is declining almost everywhere, the population increase 
continues, reflecting high birth rates in past decades. 


Number of births per minute, 1996 
Developed countries 
Developing countries 



|~~3 Population in 1996 ( *~ 
~| Projections for 2050 ^ 



v 29 46 

million million 

Oceania includes Australia, New Zealand ^ /p 

and Pacific islands 







Oceania 0.5% 


World population in selected years, In millions 




Oceania 0.5% 




Oceania 0.4% 




A.D. 1 



1600 610 
1500 545 |L 


SOURCES: Population Reference Bureau, World Bank "World Population Projections" 

By Dita Smith and Laura Stanton-The Washington Post 



with population patterns that afford fewer safeguards are more vulnerable to invasion unless 
blessed with benign neighbors (as Canada is) or topographic barriers (such as those that 
shelter Switzerland). Russia's territory, for example, is immense, but its people are 
predominantly located on flatlands west of the Ural Mountains in positions that have been 
overrun repeatedly. Syria, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran are even 
more vulnerable, because most residents occupy capital cities Damascus, Tel Aviv, Amman, 
Cairo, Riyadh, Kuwait City, Baghdad, and Teheran plus a sprinkling of other centers such 
as Hama, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Jiddah, Basra, Meshed, and Isphahan. Even one well-placed 
tactical nuclear weapon delivered by an aircraft, missile, motor vehicle, or other means might 
instantaneously put any of those countries politically, economically, and militarily out of 
commission. No amount of dispersion could provide any nation with complete protection 
against such attacks, but population patterns that require enemy marksmen to hit many 
targets instead of one or two increase the costs of aggression and reduce dangers that 
accompany excessive concentration. 


Overpopulation can lead to armed conflict if pressures cause intolerable spillovers or internal 
combustion. Real or imagined inabilities to support preferred life styles often act as catalysts, 
as Adolph Hitler confirmed early in World War II when he seized Slavic lands partly to satisfy 
Germany's alleged need for Lebensraum (literally "living space"). Japan invaded Manchuria 
in 1 937 and later established a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere for much the same 
reason. 6 Spontaneous overflows may inadvertently instigate strife that no one intended, 
which happened in 1971 when nine million refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) 
flooded into already overcrowded India to escape massacres by West Pakistanis and thereby 
precipitated a brief three-way war. Population pressures also can cause or contribute to civil 
wars contained within national borders. Prominent observers of Burundi, for example, 
contend that wholesale slaughters in that country twice occurred because too little room 
exacerbated political and class rivalries between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, first in 1 972 and 
again in the 1990s. 7 


National and regional populations consist of individuals who differ considerably with regard 
to strength, endurance, hardiness, and health. Military commanders and staffs function most 
effectively only if they fully understand the collective implications of such characteristics, 
which may be positive, negative, or neutral. 


Not many militarily significant physical attributes distinguish one people from another. 
Heavily built, lightly built, and moderately built men and women perform equally well 
under most circumstances, whether they are tall or short, dark or light skinned, blond, 
brunette, or red-headed, given proper equipment, equal training, and periods of 
acclimatization when shifted from familiar to unfamiliar geographic regions. Two exceptions 
seem to stand out. 

Military personnel whose skin or hair color is different than those of opponents find it 
difficult to operate behind enemy lines if the civilian population is hostile and, if caught and 


incarcerated, rarely elude recapture. Every U.S. prisoner of war (ROW) who slipped out of 
a North Korean stockade between 1 950 and 1 953 was apprehended, as was every fugitive 
from a permanent camp in North Vietnam (1 965-1 972), partly because black and white faces 
were conspicuous in hostile territory. Only one made it home from Laos and very few 
escaped from Viet Cong cages in Communist-controlled territory within South Vietnam. 8 

Operations at very high altitudes comprise the second exception. Lowlanders seldom 
(some say never) seem to attain the same stamina in rarefied atmosphere as mountaineers 
born and raised above the tree line, no matter how long they remain. 9 Few battles, however, 
have been fought at extreme elevations since Francisco Pizarro defeated the Incan Emperor 
Atahualpa early in the 16th century and Peruvians ousted Spanish forces 300 years later. 
Chinese regulars and Tibetan resistance groups clashed sporadically in the 1950s before 
Beijing crushed a hopeless revolt. 10 Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani troops have periodically 
skirmished along Himalayan heights since then, most notably over control of jammu and 
Kashmir, but never have conducted sustained campaigns despite repeated threats to do so. 11 

Troops that descend from lofty homelands to do battle near sea level experience no 
adverse effects, if the legendary Gurkha Rifles of Nepal are anywhere near typical. They have 
served the British Crown well since 1 81 7 under every geographic condition from steaming 
jungles to the frigid Falkland Islands. 12 


Poor public health conditions and endemic diseases can undercut military capabilities just 
as surely as enemy actions. Potentially fatal maladies such as malaria, typhoid fever, typhus, 
cholera, plague, and influenza, together with nonlethal miseries that drastically reduce 
proficiency, have taken a terrible toll on armed forces throughout history. Serious problems 
remain despite intensive and extensive searches for solutions, as U.S. statistics from World 
War II, Korea, and Vietnam illustrate: 13 

Table 1 4. Causes of U.S. Wartime Casualties 

World Warll (1944) 

Combat Casualties 


Disease Casualties 




Southwest Pacific 








Korea (1950) 




Vietnam (1 969) 





U.S. medical intelligence specialists catalog diseases in 1 40 countries according to short 
(less than 15 days) and long incubation periods. Anthrax, AIDS, and ebola are relatively 
recent additions to an already long list that runs from African trypanosomiasis (sleeping 
sickness) to yaws and yellow fever. Acute respiratory diseases as well as penicillin-resistant 
strains of syphilis and gonorrhea are rampant worldwide. Mosquito-borne Rift Valley fever, 
tick-borne hemorrhagic fever, and leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease deposited by sand flies, 
are a few among many tropical afflictions. 14 Countermeasures emphasize immunizations 
and sanitation, with particular attention to purified water for drinking, cooking, shower 
facilities, even field laundries; vermin-free kitchens, chow lines, and living quarters; 
disinfected latrines; periodic "debusing" whenever appropriate; insect and rodent control; 
and proper waste disposal. 


Some large populations are nearly homogeneous, but most mingle majorities and minorities 
with assorted languages, religions, traditions, customs, mores, likes, dislikes, and lifestyles 
that create internal or international tensions. Former Yugoslavia, for example, is a crazy quilt 
of ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural animosities. Serbs, who are Orthodox Christians, 
and Roman Catholic Croats are the most prominent entities, followed by Slovenes, Slavic 
Muslims, Albanians, Macedonians, and perhaps 15 smaller groups. Serbo-Croatian is 
considered one language, although Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet while Croats prefer Latin 
letters. Slovene and Macedonian are two other official tongues. 15 


Heterogeneous nations generally contain genetically dissimilar racial stocks and culturally 
distinct ethnic groups that sometimes subdivide into clans or tribes. Table 15 displays 
representative relationships that commonly are complex. Racial, ethnic, and tribal factions 
that enjoy a marked quantitative majority do not necessarily dominate, as relatively few 
European colonists long demonstrated in heavily populated Asian and African countries. 
Minorities may mesh well (witness the former U.S. "melting pot") or be anathematized 
(witness the former pogroms against Jews in Europe). Military strategists and tacticians should 
study racial, ethnic, and tribal connections in assigned areas of responsibility, because root 
causes of conflict, potentials for escalation, countermeasures, and probabilities of success are 
situationally specific from place to place and case to case. 16 Racial tensions, for instance, 
precipitated irreconcilable troubles in Black Africa as long as whites held the upper hand, 
while religious and cultural factors presently predominate in Bosnia, where all belligerents 
are essentially Slavic, and in the Middle East where Arabs as well as Israelis are Semitic. 

Three waves of racial, ethnic, and tribal conflict have caused incalculable suffering in the 
20th century. The first onslaught began shortly before, accompanied, and followed World 
War I, when Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian rulers lost control. Atrocities against "starving 
Armenians" were among the most terrible. 17 An anticolonial wave washed across southern 
Asia and almost all of Africa in the wake of World War II. The third wave hit the Third World 
wherever weak replacement governments seemed vulnerable or strong ones were repressive. 
The bloodletting in Biafra (southeastern Nigeria) that pitted powerful Fulani and Hausa tribes 
against the Ibo minority between 1 967 and 1 970 took more than a million lives and briefly 
made banner headlines, 18 as did genocidal operations that the Khmer Rouge 


Table 1 5. Representative Racial, Ethnic, and Tribal Relationships 








Indians of 





North America 
Meso- America 
South America 








Ethnic Croups 











Arctic, Sub-Arctic 
Northwest Pacific 
West, Southwest 
Intermountain, Plateau 
Eastern Woodlands 



Dakota Sioux 

conducted against city dwellers in Cambodia (1 975-1 979). 19 Former Yugoslavia caught fire 
a few years after Tito's death, largely because successors were unable to keep the lid on 
ancient animosities. Other collisions traceable to racial, ethnic, or tribal rivalries have 
occurred since 1990 in hot spots such as Peru, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Liberia. 
Motivations include communal violence, various abuses, secessionist movements, 
irredentism, actions to retrieve lost territory, and hypersensitivity, often in combination. 20 


Linguistic cohesion tends to solidify societies whereas fragmentation pulls them apart. Small 
wonder, therefore, that inability to communicate effectively often leads to armed conflict. 
Nine language families currently exist: Indo-European (Slavic, Germanic, Romance, Iranic, 



Indie); Hamito-Semetic; Altai; Niger-Congo; Malayo-Polynesian; Uraic; Sino-Tibetan; Austro- 
Asiatic; and a miscellaneous family that includes Aborigine, Amerind, Dravidian, Eskimoan, 
Khoisan, Nilo-Saharan, Paleosiberian, Papuan, and Tai. Perhaps 6,000 tongues were 
recognizable at the end of the 20th century, of which only a dozen boasted more than a 
hundred million speakers (table 16). 21 

Many lesser languages at that time numbered a few million to a few thousand adherents 
(a few hundred for some primitive tribes), sometimes clustered so tightly that they form 
"shatter zones" similar to the Caucasus, where 51 languages persist in an area roughly the 
size of Florida (table 1 7). 22 Russian troops deployed to keep that volatile region under control 
found it hard to communicate effectively with the local populace. Native Americans (mainly 
Navaho "Code Talkers") transmitted messages in their arcane languages during World War 
II, confusing enemy cryptologists, to whom Amerind variants were unfamiliar. 23 

Armed forces deployed in foreign countries must be able to participate in peacetime 
training with indigenous troops, interrogate prisoners of war, eavesdrop electronically on 
enemies, communicate with refugees, and interact with coalition partners. U.S. Special 
Forces reasonably fluent in Arabic accompanied more than 100 Middle Eastern formations 
during the Persian Gulf War of 1 991 to facilitate coordination with English speaking units on 
their flanks, arrange U.S. artillery and air strikes, and reduce the likelihood of casualties from 
"friendly fire." 24 Textbook command of any language seldom is sufficient, because dialects, 
slang, local idioms, and argot abound, along with arcane military lingo. Figures of speech 
moreover are subject to frequent change few in the United States still refer to marijuana as 
"grass" or police as "pigs," although "flower children" and "hippies" found both terms 
fashionable in the 1 960s. Pidgin, which is popular in the South Pacific, rules out all but the 
most rudimentary conversations. Military "visitors" in foreign lands find reading and writing 
less important than spoken words wherever most people are illiterate or semi I iterate. 

U.S. citizens as a rule are reluctant linguists, partly because many officials, shop keepers, 
and hotel employees in foreign lands understand English, which additionally is the official 
language of NATO and air traffic controllers everywhere. Needs for expertise in Native 
American tongues are next to negligible throughout Latin America, where most people speak 
Spanish, except for Brazil where Portuguese takes precedence although Quechua, which 
is common in Columbia, Peru, and Equador comes in handy for armed forces engaged in 
counternarcotics operations. 

Proficiency in foreign languages nevertheless is useful in most places. U.S. Central 
Command currently covers 16 countries in northeast Africa and southwest Asia, plus 
Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashtu, Dari, Amharic, Somali, and 
Swahili prevail. U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility, which embraces East Asia, 
most of the Indian subcontinent, Australia, and adjacent islands, contains 30 million people 
who speak 18 main languages and countless dialects. Strict priorities based on the best 
possible requirement forecasts are essential, because no command could possibly muster 
enough well-qualified linguists for every occasion (only 1 6 U.S. military linguists on active 
duty had studied Iraqi dialects before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990). Somali 
speakers were in such short supply when Operation Restore Hope erupted in December 
1992 that warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed's son, a U.S. Marine corporal, served as a 
translator until his presence became impolitic. Foreign language specialists, produced at 
great expense in time and money, consequently should be considered prized possessions. 25 


Table 1 6. Ten Leading Languages (1990s) 






Mandarin Chinese 


China, Taiwan, Singapore 




United States, British Common- 

wealth, former British colonies 




Northern India 




Spain, most of Latin America, 

Southwest United States 




Former Soviet Union 




Mid East, North Africa 




Bangladesh, Eastern India 




Portugal, Brazil, 




Angola, Mozambique, 









Germany, Austria, 

Switzerland, Luxembourg, 

France, Northern Italy 




France, Belgium, Switzerland, 

Quebec, New Brunswick, 

former French and Belgian 


Source: L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, ed, The History and Geography of Human C.enes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University 
Press, 1994), 162. 

Table 1 7. Linguistic Clutter in the Caucasus 































Arc hi 





















Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which first appeared in that sequence, constitute "global 
religions" whose adherents spread far beyond their original regions. Buddhism, Taoism, 
Confucianism, and Shinto are confined largely to East Asia, Hindus and Sikhs concentrate in 
India, and various traditional religions (ancestor worship, animism, shamanism, and voodoo) 
are most prominent among Haitians and in Black Africa (table 1 8). 2(5 



Table 1 8. Principal Religions and Selected Denominations 

(1.7 billion) 

(1+ billion) 

(13 million) 

Roman Catholic 



Mainly East Asian Religions 

Mainly Indian Religions 


(300 million) 


(700 million) 

(1 6 million) 

Ancestor Worship 

Every religion tends to unify its followers, whereas "we against the world" syndromes tend 
to tear societies apart whenever they pit gentiles against Jews, Muslims against infidels, 
Christians against pagans, and "true believers" against agnostics. 27 Religious conflicts in fact 
can be incredibly cruel. Christian Crusaders between 1 095 and 1 270 were just as merciless 
toward nonconformists close to home as they were toward Muslims in the Holy Land. When 
Simon IV de Montfort asked the emissary of Pope Innocent III how he might identify heretics 
in the French city of Beziers the response was, "Kill them all. God will know his own/' 28 The 
Thirty Years' War, which devastated Western Europe between 1 61 8 and 1 648, began as a 
Roman Catholic backlash against the Protestant Reformation in Germany. 29 Christian officers 
employed by the British East India Company in Bengal precipitated the Sepoy Mutiny of 1 857 
through failure to respect religious taboos newly issued Enfield rifles furnished the catalyst, 
because indigenous troops had to bite paper cartridges that allegedly were greased with fat 
from cattle, which Hindus consider sacred, and fat from swine, which Muslims consider 
unclean. 30 British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon later crushed the theocratic Taiping 
Rebellion in China, but not before 20 million people perished between 1850 and 1864. 
Sudanese dervishes devoted to Muhammad Ahmad Ibn Assayyid, a self-proclaimed Mahdi 
(messiah) who sought to "purify" Islam, inflicted widespread casualties and slew Gordon two 
decades later before reinforcements reconquered Khartoum. 31 

One need not delve so deeply into the past to discover religious atrocities with profound 
military implications: 32 

Peacekeepers must separate Christian Greeks from Islamic Turks on Cyprus, Jews from 
Muslims in the Sinai, and Muslims from Christians in Bosnia. 

Christian Armenians and Azerbaijani Muslims cannot seem to coexist in the Caucasus. 

Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka profess little interest in peace. 



Interdenominational disputes spill blood by the barrel in Northern Ireland, where 
Catholics and Protestants are at each other's throats, and in Iraq where President Saddam 
Hussein prompts the Sunni majority to slaughter Shiite minorities. 

Religious warfare repeatedly desecrates hallowed grounds: hundreds have perished 
at the Sikh's Golden Temple in the Punjab; rioting at the temple where Rama reportedly 
was born left 2,000 Hindus and Muslims dead in 1 992; and jews battled Palestinians on 
Jerusalem's Temple Mount in 1 996. 

Military commanders and staffs who overlook religious traditions and temperaments risk 
wrong moves in at least two regards. First, they may inadvertently offend friends and neutrals 
who might mistakenly interpret their behavior as intentional disrespect (U.S. troops in Saudi 
Arabia abstain from alcoholic beverages because Islam forbids imbibement). Second, they 
may miss opportunities to exploit religious practices. Egyptian troops, for example, caught 
Israeli defenders flatfooted when they crossed the Suez Canal in 1 973, because the attack not 
only coincided with Yom Kippur, a Jewish high holy day, but occurred during the month of 
Ramadan, which Muslims normally reserve for fasting and prayer. 33 North Vietnamese 
soldiers and their Viet Cong accomplices took similar advantage the following year when 
they triggered the Tet offensive while lunar New Year festivities with religious overtones were 
in full swing south of the demilitarized zone. 34 


Moods of the masses play a pivotal role in political-military affairs, regardless of the size, 
distribution, density, and cultural characteristics of any population. Loyalties, morale, 
temperaments of the moment (aggressive, pacific, neutral, apathetic), discipline, laws, ethics, 
and values all are relevant. 


Armed forces that hope to influence friendly, enemy, or neutral populations favorably in 
peacetime as well as war must understand where primary loyalties lie, because nations, 
regions, races, religious preferences, ethnic groups, tribes, political parties, social castes, and 
other affiliations may stake first claim when interests conflict and the chips are down. 
Communism currently dominates in North Korea, Canadians of French extraction cling to 
their ethnic heritage, and Somalis coalesce around clans. Predilections, moreover, may 
change over time. Stephen Decatur's stirring words, "Our country . . . may she always be 
right; but our country right or wrong" currently resonate less in the United States than they 
did when delivered in 1 81 6. Allegiances, in short, strongly condition popular responses to 
external stimuli and strengthen tendencies to solidify or crack under pressure. 


General George C. Marshall, speaking at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 
1 5, 1 941 , described public morale as 

a state of mind. It is steadfastness, courage and hope. It is confidence and zeal and loyalty. 
It is elan, esprit de corps, and determination. It is staying power, the spirit which endures 


to the end the will to win. With it, all things are possible, without it everything else, 
planning, preparation, production count for naught. 

Leadership, discipline, community ties, and group self-respect commonly buttress morale. 
So can pain and privation coupled with steadfast belief in a worthy cause, provided they 
encourage civilians as well as uniformed personnel to produce more, consume less, and 
stand fast in desperate situations. That happened during the Battle of Britain in 1 940, later 
in Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Berlin, and later still in heavily populated parts of Vietnam, 
where courage persisted despite a rain of bombs. Fascist Italy, in contrast, capitulated early 
in World War II because the urge to compete expired. 35 

Moods of the masses may be consistent or vacillate from liberal to conservative, hawkish 
to dovish, idealistic to realistic, rational to irrational. Shifting opinions sometimes create a 
pendulum effect similar to that experienced by the United States during the Vietnam War: 
indifference in the early 1960s; avid involvement in the mid-1960s; disillusionment in the 
late 1960s; and return to indifference after the last U.S. ground forces withdrew in 1972. 
Political-military leaders attuned to such trends are best able to exploit resultant enemy 
weaknesses and limit their own vulnerabilities. 


Legal, ethical, and moral codes of conduct designed to limit the way armed forces wage war 
were nearly nonexistent in olden times, when life belonged to the meat eaters. Every man, 
woman, and child, male or female, young or old, combatant or bystander who owed 
allegiance to or merely resided in rival territory was an enemy to be eradicated. Triumphant 
troops commonly slaughtered prisoners of war or sold them into slavery. Entire civilizations 
disappeared. Bloodthirsty Assyrians under Sennacherib obliterated Babylon in 689 B.C. 
Medes and Chaldeans shortly thereafter sacked Ninevah, the Assyrian capital, and sowed the 
site with salt. 

Tighter ground rules apply today. Most nations, in principle if not in practice, approve 
controls contained in two Hague Conventions (1899, 1907), as well as the Geneva 
Conventions of 1864, 1906, 1929, and 1949, which, taken together, distinguish between 
uniformed combatants and bystanders, proscribe inhumane techniques, and prescribe 
humane treatment of POWs. 3b Dictators, firm in their conviction that might makes right, 
routinely match ends with military means as they see fit without much regard for legality, but 
leaders in free societies seldom can conduct sizable military operations for any purpose 
without the consent or passive acquiescence of people they represent. Fingers on the public 
pulse at home and abroad consequently can furnish useful clues concerning courses of action 
that either or both sides might adopt or discard. 


Political scientists eternally debate degrees to which (even whether) any nation possesses a 
collective "personality" that military planners and operators can safely include in their 
calculations. Disputants might well apply similar arguments to large racial and ethnic groups 
within any given society. 


One school of thought insists that national personalities not only set peoples apart and 
condition the way they behave but strongly resist change. Patience, stoicism, and dogmatic 
devotion to the homeland, for example, remained dominant Russian attributes despite huge 
upheavals that wracked national institutions and values at every level of life after Communist 
dictators replaced tsars in 1917 and again after glasnost (openness) and perestroika 
(restructuring) programs started to transform that closed society in the late 1980s. 
Cambodians as a society consider themselves to be warriors, whereas Lowland Laotians, their 
next door neighbors, are gentle; many in mortal combat seek to scare off enemy spirits with 
near misses rather than shots aimed to kill. Disciples of this school, who contend that nearly 
every nation displays equally distinctive characteristics, see Germans as group-oriented, 
industrious, disciplined, and amenable to governmental authority while U.S. citizenry, in 
contrast, is individualistic, innovative, violent, generous, gullible, and protective of personal 
rights. 37 

A second school scoffs at these generalizations as stereotypes, challenges the permanence 
of national personality traits, and cites historical examples to support its contentions. 38 The 
German General Staff, headed by Prussian generals who prided themselves on "a genius for 
war" for 200 years, disappeared after World War II. 39 Japan, which long honored Bushido 
(the way of Samurai warriors), still subscribes to a 1946 Constitution that renounces war 
forever. 40 U.S. sentiments switched from isolationism in the 1930s to international 
involvement the following decade and have remained so ever since. Consistency, in short, 
is less characteristic than change, according to skeptics. 

Spokespersons for school three see a middle ground. Different peoples, they assert, do 
"tend to be more like each other than they are like members of any other nation," members 
of a given culture do "tend to respond in similar ways," cultural pressures will "impose a 
more or less common direction on individual differences and mitigate them to some extent," 
and "large areas of near uniformity" will emerge. 41 Thoughtful statesmen and military 
commanders who seek to reconcile ambiguities tread carefully, because none of those 
three schools seems entirely correct or erroneous. 


Military personnel who work closely with counterparts in foreign countries must be familiar 
with local folkways and possess cross-cultural communication skills that include reasonable 
fluency in prevalent languages and dialects, plus reading and writing abilities wherever their 
contacts are literate. 


Familiarity with folkways takes precedence over familiarity with foreign languages. Cogent 
considerations cover a broad spectrum that includes traditions, customs, values, motivations, 
hopes, fears, and taboos; religious beliefs; rites, rituals, and holidays; manners and 
mannerisms; behavior; social hierarchies; lines of authority; relationships between men and 
women; moral codes and sexual mores; work ethics, competition versus cooperation, and 
punctuality; views about bribes and official corruption; and dietary regimes. 42 

Dealings with unfamiliar cultures demand patience, self-control, abilities to cope with 
frustration, and tolerance for unfamiliar ways of life. An excerpt from instructions in Saudi 


Arabia: A Soldier's Guide, which the United States Army issued to troops during Operation 
Desert Storm, illustrates items that, properly modified, might apply almost anywhere: 



Shake hands when you meet and leave Arab men 

Rise to show respect when an esteemed person enters the room 

Feel free to return a hug or a kiss on the cheek initiated by an Arab man 

Working with Arabs 


Train officers and enlisted men separately if possible 
Refer any serious problems to an Arab leader 

Criticize an Arab. Give corrective guidance privately and positively, if required 

Overpraise an Arab in front of others 

Lose your temper 

Expect Arabs to be punctual for administrative meetings 



Open conversation with small talk (How are you? How is your family?) 

Talk to Arabs as equals; avoid arguments; maintain eye contact 

Look for subtle meanings, since Arabs often answer questions indirectly 

Initiate talk about politics, religion, or ask questions about female family members 

Patronize or talk down to an Arab 

Move away from an Arab who stands very close to you during conversation 

Point the soles of your feet at an Arab when you are sitting with him (it is insulting). 43 


Senior military staffs, attaches, foreign liaison cells, teams that train troops in foreign 
countries, psychological operations (PSYOP) forces, and civil affairs units all require foreign 
area specialists, because none can perform assigned missions most professionally without full 
appreciation for cultural contexts. 

Military instructors, advisers, and mobile training teams, who need to know about foreign 
political peculiarities, pecking orders, and "eccentric" social practices, find that no amount 
of schooling and second-hand accounts can prepare them as well as onsite assignments. 
There is, in fact, no substitute for close association with people on the spot, where local 
leaders and the led possess assorted personalities, pursue personal or group agendas, and 
often as not live in separate worlds, segregated by rank, age, sex, color, education, and class 

PSYOP specialists seek to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of 
friends, neutrals, and enemies in ways that assist the accomplishment of national, 
international, or intranational objectives before, during, and after hostilities. They must 
master many political, economic, cultural, and topical subjects before they can tailor 
campaigns, themes, and messages that muster and maintain the attention of any given group 
and refute countermeasures, because each foreign audience has different interests, 


predispositions, vulnerabilities, and susceptibilities to various persuasions. Otherwise, they 
could only guess what pictures and colors on PSYOP leaflets might appeal to particular 
audiences and which would repel or be received derisively. 4 ^ 

Civil Affairs (CA) forces also covet cross-cultural skills, without which they cannot most 
competently arrange the acquisition of indigenous labor, transportation, communications, 
supplies, other resources, and miscellaneous services for use by armed forces in foreign lands; 
minimize civilian interference with military operations (refugee control is one related 
concern); help military commanders fulfill legal/moral obligations to civilians within assigned 
areas of responsibility; and, as directed, exercise executive, legislative, and judicial authority 
in occupied territories. U.S. CA units, in collaboration with Arab counterparts, performed 
most of those missions when they directed the delivery of emergency food, water, and 
medical supplies to Kuwait City on liberation day in 1991, then helped the Government of 
Kuwait restore health, sanitation, transportation, and electrical facilities, repair utilities, 
reestablish police forces, and extinguish fires in neighboring oil fields. 45 


Culturally attuned foreign area specialists need a reasonable command of the language(s) and 
dialect(s) prevalent where they perform. They sometimes can rely on a substitute tongue such 
as English, French, or pidgin, but abilities to communicate in the local vernacular gain much 
greater respect (a senior Japanese official once said to the author, "I expect to speak English 
when I'm in the United States, but I'm outraged when I must speak English to U.S. emissaries 
in my own country"). Conversational fluency moreover expands contacts immeasurably 
among citizens who are not bilingual. Face-to-face communications are most effective if 
presenters have a good feel for preferred tones of voice, emphases, inflections, and delivery 
speeds. Appropriate facial expressions and gestures also differ considerably from culture to 
culture. Americans who form a circle with thumb and forefinger, for example, signal "OK," 
whereas Greeks consider that gesture impolite and Brazilians believe it is obscene. The same 
sign signifies money in Japan and zero in France. 46 

Foreign area specialists who lack linguistic skills must employ interpreters, even though 
that practice is less than completely satisfactory under best case circumstances. Cockneys, 
Scots, Cajuns, and Connecticut Yankees all speak English, but unique accents, regional 
dialects, and colloquialisms make it hard for them to understand each other. Problems 
compound when messages filter through the minds, value systems, and lips of third parties 
who may have ulterior motives and hidden agendas. Interpreters cannot transmit meanings 
along with words unless their competence includes military jargon and technical terms as 
well as local patois. Those with impeccable linguistic credentials moreover must conform 
well with cultural prejudices and caste systems, lest audiences pay more attention to who he 
or she is rather than what is said. Women, for example, make poor choices in societies where 
their status is low. Enlisted interpreters offend military officers in many countries, while 
commissioned interpreters tend to intimidate enlisted trainees and thereby impede learning 
processes. 47 

Finally, it seems worth noting that foreign area specialists who can read and write as well 
as speak local languages learn much more about cultures and current events than those who 
cannot. Their capabilities and usefulness to assigned commands increase commensurately. 



"Know your enemy and know yourself is a military imperative, not a military 
cliche. Sun Tzu might have added, "Know your friends and coalition partners" as well. 

Racial, ethnic, religious, and tribal animosities often cause wars and resist 
peacemaking efforts. 

Demographers predict population explosions in underdeveloped regions where 
overcrowding already creates dangerous unrest. 

Diseases can cause more casualties than combat actions unless armed forces are 
immunized appropriately and emphasize sanitation, especially in the tropics. 

Military plans and operations consequently benefit immensely from advice and 
assistance concerning population patterns, languages, religious preferences, cultures, 
customs, and social structures in present or projected areas of operation. 

Commanders and staffs in search of "force multipliers" should seek foreign area 
specialists who possess cross-cultural skills that are strategically and tactically valuable 
across the complete spectrum from peacetime to full-scale war. 

1. Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1954-1956); Ralph L. 
Powell, "Maoist Military Doctrine," Asian Survey (April 1968): 240-243. 

2. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, ed. and trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York: Oxford University 
Press,1963), 84. 

3. "What on Earth," Washington Post, July 20, 1 996, A21 . 

4. Population Statistics (Tel Aviv, Israel: Central Bureau of Statistics, Israeli Foreign Ministry, 
September 11,1 996). 

5. Willard Waller, ed., War in the Twentieth Century (New York: Random House, 1 940), 92- 
93; A Military History of World War II, T. Dodson Stamps and Vincent J. Esposito, eds,, Operations 
in the European Theaters, vol. 1 (West Point, New York: U.S. Military Academy, 1 953), 669. 

6. Edward Meade Earle, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli 
to Hitler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1943), 388-400, 408, 506; John Tolland, The 
Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire (New York: Random House, 1 970), 3-53; 
Gordon Prange, At Dawn We Slept (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981), 4-5,100-101, 169-170, 449. 

7. Charles A. Webster, Population Growth: Major Threat to the Next Generation of Peace, 
(Washington, DC: Strategic Research Group, National War College, June 11,1 973), 1 -7. 

8. Eugene Kinkead, In Every War But One (New York: W. W. Norton, 1 959), 1 5-1 6; official 
statistics, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, furnished telephonically, September 25, 1996. 

9. Wayne O. Evans and James E. Hansen, "Troop Performance at High Altitudes," Army 
(February 1966): 55-58. 

10. Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist 
State (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1 989). 

1 1 . Richard F. Cronin and Barbara Ann LePoer, The Kashmir Dispute: Historical Background to 
the Current Struggle, Report No. 91-563F9 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, July 

12. P. Choudhuri, 9 Gurkha Rifles: A Regimental History, 1817-1947 (New Delhi, India: Vision 
Books, 1984); Bryon Farwell, The Gurkhas (New York: W. W. Norton, 1984). 

1 3. Disease Threats in the Middle East: Preventive Strategies for the 10 1 st Airborne Division (Air 
Assault) (Fort Campbell, KY: 101 st Airborne Division Preventive Medicine Activity, 1982), 1; L. 


Dudley Stamp, The Geography of Life and Death (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1 964), 
especially chapters I-V. 

14. Disease and Environmental Alert Reports (Washington, DC: Armed Forces Medical 
Intelligence Center and Defense Intelligence Agency, March 1992); Kenneth F. Kiple, ed., The 
Cambridge World History of Human Disease (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Robert 
Parsons, 'Tracking Down Tropical Diseases," Army Digest (June 1970): 42-44; B. Denise Hawkins, 
"Plan OK'd to Give Troops Anthrax Shots," Army Times, October 21,1 996, 8. 

1 5. Charles Sudetic, "The Society and Its Environment," in Yugoslavia: A Country Study, 3 d ed., 
ed. Glenn E. Curtis (Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1992), 69-88. 

16. Ted Robert Gurr, "Ethnic Warfare and the Changing Priorities of Global Security," 
Mediterranean Quarterly (Winter 1990): 82-98. 

1 7. Gerard Chaliand and Yves Ternon, The Armenians from Genocide to Resistance (Totowa, 
NJ:Zed, 1984). 

1 8. John ]. Stremlau, The Internal Politics of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970 (Princeton, NJ: 
Princeton University Press, 1977). 

19. Niyan Chanda, Brother Enemy (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986). 

20. William A. Stofft and Gary L. Guertner, Ethnic Conflicts: Implications for the Army of the 
Future (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Army War College, March 1 4, 1 994), 1 -1 0. 

21 . L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al., eds., The History and Geography of Human Genes (Princeton, 
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1 994), 1 60-1 64; Bernard Comrie, "Language," Microsoft Encarta 97 

22. Mike Edwards, "The Fractured Caucasus," National Geographic (February 1 996): 1 30-131 . 

23. Margaret T. Bixler, Winds of Freedom: The Story of the Navaho Code Talkers of World War 
II (New York: Two Bytes Publishing Co., 1 992). 

24. Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: Final Report to Congress (Washington, DC: Dept. of 
Defense, 1992), 20-21; David Evans, "An Impressive Yet Troubling Marine on Duty in Somalia," 
Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1993, 23. 

25. John M. Collins, Special Operations Forces: An Assessment (Washington, DC: National 
Defense University Press, 1994), 85, 88, 89, 129-130. 

26. Edward Geoffrey Parrinder, World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present (New York: 
Facts on File, 1984); Niels Christian Nielsen, Religions of the World (New York: St. Martin's Press, 
1983; updated by Alan Wilson Watts, "Religion," Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. 

27. Henry O. Thompson, World Religions in Peace and War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 

28. Terry Jones and Alan Ereira, Crusades (New York: Facts on File, 1 995); Amin Maalouf, The 
Crusades Through Arab Eyes, trans. Jon Rothchild (New York: Schocken Books, 1984). 

29. Geoffrey Parker, ed., The Thirty Years' War (New York: Military Heritage Press, 1987). 

30. Christopher Hibbert, The Great MutiNew York: India 1857 (London: Allan Lane, 1 978). 

31 . Charles Chenevix Trench, The Road to Khartoum: A Life of General Charles Gordon (New 
York: W. W. Norton, 1979). 

32. James A. Haught, Holy Hatred: Religious Conflicts of the 1990s (Amherst, New York: 
Prometheus Books, 1995); Robin Wright, Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam (New York: 
Linden Press/Simon and Schuster, 1985); Barton Gellman, "Palestinians, Israeli Police Battle on 
Sacred Ground," Washington Post, September 28, 1996, 1, A22. 

33. Saad Shazly, The Crossing of Suez (San Francisco, CA: American Mideast Research, 1980). 

34. Don Oberdorfer, Tet (New York: Da Capo Press, 1 984). 

35. Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 4 th ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1 967), 
1 29-1 31 ; A. F. K. Organski, World Politics, 2 d ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1 968), 1 84-1 89. 


36. See especially Hague Convention No. IV: International Convention Concerning the Laws and 
Customs of War on Land, October 1 8, 1 907; Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of 
Prisoners of War, August 12, 1949; Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons 
in Time of War, October 12,1 949. 

37. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 1 22-1 29. 

38. Organski, World Politics, 87-91; Thomas L. Hartshorne, The Distorted Image: Changing 
Conceptions of the American Character (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1968), 1-14. 

39. Trevor N. Dupuy, A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945 
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977). 

40. William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacAnhur, 1880-1964 (Boston: Little, 
Brown, 1978), 498-501. 

41 . Hartshorne, The Distorted Image, 8. 

42. Interpretive Country Study: Student Outline 5342 (Fort Bragg, NC: U.S. Army John F. 
Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Civil Affairs Dept., May 1987; Cross Cultural 
Communications: Lesson Outline 3148 (Fort Bragg, NC: U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare 
Center and School, March 1 990). 

43. Saudi Arabia: A Soldier's Guide (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Public Affairs Office, 
undated) (September 1 990), 12-29. 

44. Joint Pub 3-53: Doctrine for Joint Psychological Operations (Washington, DC: Office of the 
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 31, 1993), 1-1, V-2, V-5; FM 33-1 : Psychological Operations 
(Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, February 1 8, 1 993). The August 31,1 979, edition of FM 33-1 
is more useful in some respects. See especially chapters 5, 9,and 13. 

45. FM 41 -1 0: Civil Affairs Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, January 11,1 993). 
The October 20, 1969, edition is more useful in some respects. See especially chapter 2 and 
appendices E, J. 

46. Sidney Shachnow, "Intercultural Communication: The Need for Conceptual Skills," Special 
Warfare (February 1993): 20-22; Interpersonal Psychological Operations: Lesson Outline and 
Summary Sheet 3906 (Fort Bragg, NC: U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and 
School, March 1987), LO-2, LO-4, SS-1 through SS-3. 

47. Field Circular 21-852: Teaching Through Interpreters (Fort Bragg, NC: U.S. Army John F. 
Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, January 1 984); Utilization of Interpreters: Lesson 
Outline 5842 (Fort Bragg, NC: 3d Battalion, Civil Affairs Company, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy 
Special Warfare Center and School, January 1 990). 



No straw for him, no twigs or sticks, 
this pig had built his house of BRICKS. 
"You'll not get me!" the piggy cried. 
"I'll blow you down!" the Wolf replied. 
"You'll need, " Pig said, "a lot of puff, 
and I don't think you've got enough." 
Wolf huffed and puffed and blew and blew, 
the house stayed up as good as new. 
"If I can 't blow it down, " Wolf said, 
"I'll have to blow it up instead. " 

Roald Dahl 
Revolting Rhymes 


sticks, and bricks, applies to urban combat on a grander scale. Some hamlets, villages, 
towns, and cities are more difficult to seize and secure than others if inhabitants strongly 
resist, but modern munitions can quickly reduce the best built settlements to rubble. Rational 
reasons to blow cities up or down, however, have been scarce for 2,500 years, since Sun Tzu 
proclaimed that, 'The worst policy is to attack cities/' 1 Aggressors who do so deprive 
themselves of valuable assets, defenders who do so destroy precious possessions, and well- 
meaning friends who do so wound their allies. The anonymous U.S. Army major who 
blurted, "It became necessary to destroy the town [of Ben Tre, South Vietnam] to save it" 
spouted nonsense. 2 Urban combat moreover disrupts unit cohesion, complicates control, 
blunts offensive momentum, and causes casualties to soar on both sides. 

Most military doctrines the world over consequently advise land force commanders to 
isolate or bypass built-up areas, but the subjugation of political, industrial, commercial, 
transportation, and communication centers even so may sometimes decisively affect the 
outcome of battles, campaigns, even wars. Military commanders in such events face an 
endless variety of structures and facilities the seizure or control of which demands esoteric 
plans, programs, and procedures, since no two cities are quite alike. Urbanization moreover 
plays an imperative part in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations as well as deterrent 
strategies that hold cities hostage 3 and war fighting strategies that seek to break the will of 
stubborn enemies by bombing them back into the Stone Age. 4 



Urbanization, for purposes of this appraisal, connotes plots of land where population 
densities equal or exceed 1,000 persons per square mile (about 3 square kilometers) and 
buildings average at least one on every 2 acres. That definition embraces small towns and 
suburbia as well as cities of assorted sizes and shapes, close together or widely separated, 
superimposed upon flat, rolling, or rough topography. The mixture of manmade and natural 
features generally is more complex than sparsely inhabited deserts, swamps, and jungles, 
which contain fewer distinctive terrain features. 


Some towns and cities emphasize governmental affairs, physical security, industries, 
commerce, business, or services, while others accommodate two or more primary functions. 
Every agglomeration is uniquely configured with regard to horizontal and vertical 
dimensions, structures, building materials, street patterns, access routes, bypasses, parks, 
recreational facilities, rural enclaves in otherwise urban settings, and undeveloped lands 
(table 1 9). Original layouts occasionally remain intact over long periods of time but often 
expand willy-nilly in response to new needs. Urban centers in North America and Western 
Europe toward the end of the 20th century, for example, tend toward lower average 
population densities per square mile as municipalities expand, more freestanding 
construction as opposed to solid blocks, greater use of glass, fewer buildings with basements, 
and a dearth of subways in suburbia where private automobiles abound. 5 

Urban environments consequently differ drastically in several militarily relevant respects. 
Castles, cathedrals and solid medieval buildings flush with narrow, crooked streets mark the 
midst of many European cities, whereas downtown Washington, DC, features construction 
astride a wide, rectangular mall that runs for 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Capitol Hill to the 
Lincoln Memorial. Affluent suburbanites sometimes encircle metropoli loaded with slums, 
shantytowns elsewhere surround prosperous inner cities, and the rich mayhap'mingle with 
poor. Building designs and materials reflect urban functions, available resources, climatic 
conditions, and cultural proclivities. Construction in heavily forested parts of frigid Siberia 
favors lumber, easily obtained adobe is popular in relatively warm, arid regions, and 
structures elsewhere variously emphasize reeds, sod, reinforced concrete, or stone. Assorted 
street patterns also are observable (figure 29). Main thoroughfares run the gamut from 
unpaved threadneedle alleys to broad, hard-surfaced avenues abutted by open spaces that 
not only permit two-way traffic several lanes abreast but allow off-the-road vehicular 
movement. 6 


Modern towns and cities could not perform major functions or sustain present standards of 
living without lights, power, electricity, food, and potable water, together with supply, 
storage, distribution, maintenance, and waste disposal systems. Community life would slow 
to a crawl or stop if denied public transportation, police, fire departments, hospitals, 
telephones, and news media (newspapers, radio, television). 



Table 1 9. Variable Town and City Components 





Access Routes 


Single Story 
High Rise 



Food, Water 
Waste Disposal 











Radial Ring 

Bulk Storage 
POL Storage 



Hotels, Motels 


Open Spaces 






Engineers, logisticians, and civic action forces are intensely interested in the current 
condition of urban infrastructure, restoration requirements in wartime, total capacities, and 
percentages that could be diverted for military use without dangerously depriving civilian 
inhabitants. Typical considerations include: 

The number, type, and capacities of water purification plants, reservoirs, and 

Garbage, trash, sewage, and industrial waste collection, dumps, incinerators, and 
processing facilities 

Food processing plants and bakeries 
The number of hospitals by type, plus numbers of beds 
Electrical power, gas, and central heating plants, along with distribution lines 
Open, covered, and cold storage, POL tanks, arsenals, and ammunition dumps 
Public tra oortation facilities, including conveyances, parking lots, car barns, 
garages, and repair shops 



Potential military billets (hotels, motels, schools, churches, barracks, auditoriums, 
parks, and other open spaces) 

Historical and cultural landmarks to be preserved 

Recreational facilities, such as cinemas, gymnasiums, stadiums, and swimming pools. 


Half of all people on Planet Earth live in urban communities, but that number will reach two- 
thirds by 2025 if expectations prove correct. Forecasters predict that more than 40 cities then 
will exceed 10 million residents, of which Europe, the United States, and Canada will 
contribute only two New York and Los Angeles (table 20). Each complex covers far more 
area than forerunners did during the Middle Ages, when most centers generally consisted of 
a castle surrounded by shacks on a few acres, whereas Los Angeles within its incorporated 
limits occupied almost 500 square miles (1 ,300 square kilometers) in 1 997. 8 

Figure 29. Assorted Street Systems 



i ; f^f : 1 1 . . * "-^ ''' y^-~~ 

or Chessboard 





Mighty cities moreover are coalescing to form enormous urban walls in many places on 
all continents save Africa and Australia. Seoul, which has swollen from 1 .1 to more than 1 1 
million since war erupted in 1 950, included most of the lower Han River valley as far west 
as Inchon in 1997 and was swallowing Suwon to the south. The Ruhr and Rhine-Main 
complexes stretch almost 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Bonn to the Hook of Holland and 
continue to spread while Frankfurt-am-Main, Darmstadt, Mainz, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, 
Hanau, and Stuttgart are starting to form one megalopolis. Loosely linked villages, towns, 
and small cities a mile or two apart are common. 9 The same could be said for the U.S. 
eastern seaboard from Boston, MA, through New York City, Newark, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, 
Washington, DC, and Norfolk, VA. 



Table 20. Present and Projected Megalopoli 
(more than 10 million inhabitants; boldface indicates more than 20 million) 







Manila 14.7 

Sao Paulo 




Cairo 14.5 





Los Angeles 14.3 

Mexico City 




Seoul 13.1 





Buenos Aires 12.4 



Sao Paulo 


Istanbul 12.3 

Los Angeles 




Rio de Janeiro 11.6 





Lahore 10.8 





Hyderabad 10.7 



Mexico City 


Osaka 10.6 



New Delhi 


Bangkok 10.6 

Buenos Aires 


New York 


Lima 10.5 





Teheran 10.2 







Urban obstacles would seriously constrain 21st century adaptations of General Count 
Jfred von Schlieffen's grand plan to sweep across the North German Plain through Holland 
and Belgium into France. 10 Blitzkriegs would be difficult to sustain and secure supply lines 
hard to maintain under such conditions. Rapid movement through suburbs seems feasible 
at first glance, because population densities are low and structural impediments few 
compared with urban cores, but urban sprawl sooner rather than later probably will impose 
barriers and chop high-speed avenues into short segments. 11 


Conventional urban combat began perhaps 6,000 years before Joshua assailed Jericho and 
"the walls forthwith fell down" between 1300 and 1200 B.C. 12 Three options are open to 
present day policymakers whenever armed forces cannot bypass cities because so doing 
seems geographically infeasible, politically improvident, or militarily imprudent: they can 
spare selected centers if attackers and defenders both agree; attackers can lay siege while 
defenders try to survive; or attackers can try to seize control' from opponents in possession. 


Defeat in olden days was a life or death crapshoot for city dwellers who never could be 
certain whether fate would be kind or cruel if they capitulated quietly, because winners 
ordinarily took as many liberties as they liked. Benevolence was a rare exception to that rule. 
"Open city" declarations that deliberately preserve urban areas for political, economic, 
military, aesthetic, or humanitarian reasons remain few, and degrees of success differ 

- :: --::-:-: --'- ---- -- ,:.v.:aK06MMMK^.v 



Hitler permitted Field Marshal Albert Kesselring to vacate Rome on June 3, 1 944, largely 
because that ancient city was the capital of his Italian ally, Benito Mussolini; it housed the 
Vatican, which was revered by Bavarian Catholics; and historical treasures therein were 
irreplaceable. German forces streamed out, and Allied troops who streamed in the next day 
found that all key bridges over the Tiber River as well as other valuable structures were still 
standing. Triumphant generals assembled fearlessly for photo opportunities at Piazza de 
Campidoglio on Capitoline Hill. 13 

French Commander in Chief General Maxime Weygand officially declared Paris an open 
city on May 11,1 940, after sporadic fighting. Victorious Germans took possession peacefully 
three days later, but low-key opposition continually marred their 4-year occupation. 14 Hitler 
personally designated General Dietrich von Choltitz as fortress commander when Allied 
divisions neared Paris in August 1944, vested him with full powers of a Befehlshaber 
(commander in chief), and directed him to ruin that symbol of French resistance. His hand- 
picked destroyer, however, refused to comply and, in direct defiance of der Fuhrer's orders, 
implicitly designated Paris an open city. Sharp clashes occurred, but that action by General 
von Choltitz saved the heart and soul of France. 15 

Manila fared less well the following year when General Douglas MacArthur made good 
on his promise to return. Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita informally declared the 
Philippine capital an open city and planned to evacuate all but a handful of stay-behind 
forces in January 1 945, but diehards under Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi refused to obey his 
orders. Fierce battles raged until March 3, by which time more than 1 7,000 military men on 
both sides and 100,000 civilians lay dead (nearly 15 percent of the population); thousands 
more had been seriously wounded, and Manila's ancient walled center along with everything 
in it had been torn to shreds. 16 


Sieges involve prolonged military blockades that isolate cities until supplies run out, attackers 
breach defenses, reinforcements break the ring, or morale cracks and occupants surrender. 
Partial encirclements, however lengthy, fail to satisfy that definition if the defenders never are 
isolated from essential sources of sustenance. 

Siegecraft was popular well into the 1 9th century when most cities still were rather small, 
artillery was primitive by present standards, bombers had not yet been invented, and patience 
was a virtue. 17 Those circumstances, however, no longer pertain. Few modern military 
commanders currently seem anxious to instigate sieges, even if competing missions and time 
permit, and few of their civilian supervisors seem willing to pay the political and economic 
costs of "sedentary" confrontations with no end in sight. 

Some dramatic exceptions nevertheless have occurred in relatively recent times. Most 
of them, typified by the siege of Singapore (1 941 -42), featured desperate efforts to fend off 
enemy armed forces. 18 German General of the Airborne Forces Bernhart-Hermann Ramcke 
won Hitler's highest decoration, the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, 
for his brilliant defense of port facilities at Brest, France, which U.S. VIII Corps isolated and 
battered from August 1 2, 1 944, until the one-division garrison capitulated on September 20. 19 
The most horrific siege in history took place at Leningrad, where more than a million civilians 
(one-third of the population) became battle casualties, froze, starved to death, or died of 
disease between September 1 941 and January 1 944. Survival instinct provided the strongest 


possible incentive to persist because, as local Communist Party chief Andrei Zhdanov bluntly 
explained, 'The working class of Leningrad [would] be turned into slaves, and the best of 
them exterminated" if Nazi representatives of the "Master Race" overran their city. 20 

^Besiegers with time to burn may invest urban centers without expending bullets or bombs 
to see how well-armed opponents might respond to pressure. Stalin did so in 1 948-49, when 
he ordered Soviet and satellite forces to block all roads and rail lines into politically 
combustible Berlin, which lay deep in East Germany, 120 miles (195 kilometers) from the 
nearest friendly frontier. The United States, which then possessed the world's only nuclear 
weapons, might have threatened to use them but elected instead to mount a massive airlift 
that supplied Berlin with food, fuel, and other essentials for 1 1 months until the disgruntled 
Generalissimo backed down rather than risk a ruinous war. 21 


Street fighting ensues whenever armed forces try to wrest urbanized terrain from stubborn 
defenders. It can be brutal but brief in villages and a lengthy, agonizing struggle between 
small, isolated units in cities where concrete canyons and culs-de-sac degrade technological 
advantages, severely limit vehicular mobility, render tactical communications unreliable, 
complicate intelligence collection, and swallow troops wholesale. Restrictive rules of 
engagement designed to reduce collateral damage and casualties may further decease 
benefits obtainable from aerial firepower as well as artillery and magnify dependence on foot 
soldiers. 22 

Urban Avenues and Obstacles. Street fighting problems are similar regardless of locale, 
as battles for Stalingrad (1 942-43), 23 Seoul ( which changed hands four times between June 
1 950 and March 1 951 ), 24 and Hue (1 968) 25 bear witness. Motorized troops must stick to 
streets and open spaces, whereas infantrymen fight three-dimensional wars at ground level, 
on rooftops, and in subterranean structures such as subways, sewers, and cellars, creeping 
over, under, or around each structure, blasting "mouseholes" through walls, ceilings, and 
floors when more convenient avenues are unavailable. Mines, booby traps, barbed wire, 
road blocks, rubble, and other obstacles abound (figure 30). 

Every inner city building becomes a potential strong point, particularly those that 
overlook key intersections or open spaces. 26 Clear fields of fire for flat-trajectory weapons 
seldom exceed 200 yards (1 85 meters) even in suburbs, where ornamental shrubbery and 
sweeping curves often limit lines-of-sight. One lucky French gunner at the Arc de Triomphe 
may have established a world's record during urban combat in August 1944 when, with a 
first-round hit, he defanged a German Panther tank 1,800 meters (more than a mile) away at 
the opposite end of the Champs-Elysees. 27 

Armored Firepower. Tanks and other armored vehicles inch through inner cities at a 
snail's pace, find little room to maneuver on narrow or rubble-clogged streets, cannot turn 
sharp corners, and are vulnerable beneath enemy-occupied buildings unless they "button 
up," which limits visibility and invites ambush. Many lucrative targets remain beyond reach, 
because most range-finders produce fuzzy images close up, tank turrets cannot swivel freely 
in cramped quarters, and main guns on level ground can neither elevate nor depress enough 
to blast upper stories or basements nearby. Tank-killer teams armed with short-range 
weapons commonly seek sanctuaries in resultant "dead spaces," from which they can attack 
soft spots such as gas tanks and treads with relative impunity. Conventional urban combat 


Figure 30. Three Layers of Urban Obstacles 

Roof Obstacles 


Wire with 

Wire with Boobytraps 
Claymore AP Mines 




Surface Obstacles 

Telephone Poles 
Light Poles & Wires 

High Power 
Line & Wire 

Walls & Fences Buildings 

1.1M Clearance Required \ 

Antenna \ 


Underground Obstacles 



-* & .Booby- ? *^" Anchor Points ^ Unattended 

tf> '- traps ' V'.-'c" .Qoncnro - 

. "tf 








consequently calls for few rather than many tanks, mainly to furnish close support for front- 
line infantry. 28 Exceptions to that rule normally involve opponents in disarray or other special 
circumstances, as demonstrated on August 25, 1944, when French General Jacques-Philippe 
Leclerc's 2d Armored Division led Allied liberators into Paris. 29 

Artillery. Urban jungles, like their leafy analogs, discourage artillery. Chemical warfare 
(CW) munitions in one sense are well suited, since they can seep into crannies, retain 
required concentrations longer than CW strikes in the open, and neutralize opponents 
without damaging structures, but inimical consequences could ensue if lethal chemicals 
caused mass casualties among friendly civilians. The effects of high explosives are easier to 
control, although detonations are hard to adjust in densely populated areas and buildings 
reduced to rubble provide better protection for enemy troops than those left standing. High- 
angle artillery fire in urban areas thus is often used mainly to clear rooftops and target troops 
in the open while mortars, which are more maneuverable and less destructive, handle most 
close support missions. Medium and heavy artillery projectiles, however, perform superbly 
at low angles and pointblank range, as the senior German general in Aachen discovered on 
October 21, 1944. He waved a white flag as soon as the first U.S. 155mm shell hit his 
command center, with the wry comment, "It's time to quit when artillerymen turn into 
snipers." 30 

Recoilless and Wire-Guided Weapons. Urban combat inhibits lighter crew-served arms 
as well. Backblast makes it dangerous to emplace recoilless weapons in small, unvented 
rooms or other cramped spaces where loose objects, glass, and combustible materials must 
be covered or removed. Enclosures so amplify explosive sounds that personnel without 
earplugs become deaf after a few experiences. Minimum feasible ranges and limited abilities 
to elevate or depress launchers severely restrict the utility of wire-guided missile systems in 
towns and cities, where such obstructions and entanglements as buildings, rubble, walls, 
fences, trees, brush, telephone poles, power lines, and television antennas are abundant (see 
center diagram of figure 30). Firing positions on roofs or in lofty rooms allow clearer fields 
of fire than sites at street level, but long-range shots even so are scarce. 31 


Logistical requirements in cities differ significantly from those in open terrain. The dearth of 
vehicular traffic reduces petroleum consumption, except for engineer and power generating 
equipment. Reliance on artillery munitions declines as well, although troops in compensation 
expend prodigious amounts of small arms ammunition, machine gun bullets, hand grenades, 
mortar shells, and plastic explosives. They also wear out weapons, equipment, and uniforms 
at abnormally rapid rates. Route clearance is a high priority task that requires bulldozers 
wherever offensive forces find rubble in the way, whereas defenders demand materials with 
which to build barriers. Both sides use sandbags to shore up positions in and around 
buildings. 32 

Commanders in densely populated centers often must divert military supplies, other 
resources, and manpower to sustain life among noncombatants, who need food, water, and 
some sort of shelter along with medical assistance for the sick and wounded. Early control 
over endemic diseases and septic threats becomes doubly important if civilian health and 
sanitation systems break down. Stringent security measures, such as identification cards, 
curfews, restricted areas, restraining lines, checkpoints, and road blocks, may be required to 


prevent pilferage, looting, and actions that interfere with military operations. Refugee control 
can assume immense proportions if panic-stricken civilians, young and old, many of them 
infirm, pour out of cities by the thousands on foot and aboard automobiles, bicycles, horse- 
drawn wagons, ox carts, or baby carriages, together with all possessions they can possibly 
carry (General "Lightning Joe" Collins never forgot one elderly Korean man who, during the 
first exodus from Seoul in 1 950, carried on his back an A-frame laden with rice bags "atop 
which sat his wizened old mother"). 33 


Military trappings intended primarily for use in wide open spaces are liabilities in cities, 
where short-range weapons are more valuable than those with long reaches and inexpensive, 
durable, or disposable items are preferable to costly accouterments. Ready markets 
consequently await innovators, as the following samples suggest. 

Tank guns and artillery would be more useful if higher and lower angles of fire were 
feasible. All armored vehicles engaged in urban warfare would benefit from sprint 
capabilities, greater all-round visibility, and better protection for soft spots that are 
particularly vulnerable during close combat. Richer defensive suites, increased agility, and 
stealthiness would help helicopters survive at window level between high-rise buildings. 
Sensors able to "see" around corners and in pitch black sewers would be infinitely more 
advantageous than those that rely on ambient light. Engineers need the wherewithal to raze 
multistory structures on short notice without undesirable collateral damage. 34 

Several categories of nonlethal weapons, exemplified by adhesives ("stickums"), anti- 
traction substances ("slickums"), thermal barriers, foams, calmatives, and odiferous agents, 
perhaps could reduce fatalities among belligerents as well as noncombatants and limit 
unplanned damage to urban property. 35 Street fighters also would welcome wheeled, 
tracked, and walking robots, remotely controlled or with artificially intelligent computers for 
brains that could operate for long periods without sustenance or sleep and remain 
emotionless under fire. Assorted automatons, each with specialized skills, could reconnoiter, 
spearhead attacks, clear obstacles, breach minefields, and perform other hot, heavy, 
hazardous, humdrum, or repetitious (H 4 R) missions. 36 


Ingenious insurgents, resistance movements, and transnational terrorists thrive in labyrinthine 
cityscapes that amplify their capabilities and frustrate technologically superior adversaries 
who find it difficult to acquire timely, accurate intelligence and quickly discover that 
conventional military tactics are marginally useful in urban games of "cat and mouse." 


"People's wars," as expounded by Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, and Vo Nguyen Giap, are 
mass insurrections that open primarily in rural areas and work their way toward cities. Urban 
insurgencies, which take a different tack, start in cities where most people reside and, if 
successful, pay off faster. 

Recipes for Urban Revolutions. French General P.-G. Cluseret penned the original 
recipe for urban revolutions in his Memoires of 1887, which Lenin adapted in 1905 and 
published in the Bolshevik newspaper Vperid. Hit or hold real estate, he advised, because 


ruling classes "will sell any government you like, in order to protect their property." Paralyze 
police stations at the onset, seize buildings that command key intersections, blow up or burn 
down whatever cannot be captured, block subterranean approaches, build barricades, cut 
telephone lines, disable utilities, and strike before dawn while most cities sleep. 37 

Carlos Marighella, an aging Brazilian firebrand who authored the Minimanual of the 
Urban Guerrilla, emphasized how easy it is for revolutionaries familiar with streets, alleys, 
byways, impasses, straits, shortcuts, parks, underground passageways, and other peculiarities 
of their own city to move surreptitiously, appear by surprise, strike with impunity, then fade 
away like specters. "It is an insoluble problem for the police," he asserted, "to get someone 
they can't see, to repress someone they can't catch, to close in on someone they can't find." 3 

Rhetoric Versus Results. Correlations between the foregoing rhetoric and real-life results 
are tenuous. The Russian Revolution of 1 91 7, which involved brief, spontaneous uprisings 
in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg), developed overtly without recourse to serious violence, 
ousted Tsar Nicholas II, and terminated 300 years of Romanov rule. Geographic factors 
scarcely influenced that cataclysmic upheaval, which would have achieved all objectives if 
neither General Cluseret nor Lenin had ever written a word. 39 The 7-year Algerian struggle 
for independence from France (November 1 954 to March 1 962), which was well-planned 
and protracted, proceeded in a very different vein. Climactic actions took place in crooked 
corridors of the Casbah, where 80,000 wretched souls were cheek to jowl on 75 isolated 
acres. The revolutionary Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), which hit public buildings, 
police posts, communication centers, cafes, and shops, made all the right moves according 
to Cluseret and Marighella. French troops savagely suppressed passive supporters along with 
active participants, but ultimately lost the war because President Charles de Gaulle saw no 
way to keep a tight lid on the cauldron indefinitely. 40 The influence of geography on urban 
uprisings, in short, varies radically from time to time and place to place. 


Resistance movements, as contrasted with revolutionary uprisings, aim to evict occupying 
powers, "puppet" regimes, or well-meaning domestic meddlers whose intrusion they resent. 
Those who make best use of urban terrain invariably fare better than those who do not, even 
if they lose. 

The handful of heroes in Berlin who attacked Soviet tanks with Molotov cocktails and 
stones (1 953) 41 and Hungarian freedom fighters who battled in Budapest 3 years later 42 were 
quickly outclassed, whereas unconventional urban brawlers armed with antiquated weapons 
were formidable in Somalia, despite unfavorable odds. Wily warlord Aideed's lightly armed 
militia ambushed unwelcome Pakistani peacemakers under a U.N. banner in Mogadishu on 
June 5, 1993, killed 25, wounded 53, and escaped unscathed. U.S. Special Operations Forces 
captured several of his lieutenants on October 3, but the ensuing fire-fight caused 91 serious 
casualties on the U.S. side (1 8 dead) and mangled maybe 1 ,500 Somalis. The resultant U.N. 
military "victory" became a major psychological defeat. President Clinton, in response to 
adverse public opinion at home and abroad, soon withdrew all U.S. Armed Forces from 
Somalia. Aideed thereafter was free to run his own show without foreign interference. 43 

Sabotage, a more subtle, less risky form of resistance, can pay off handsomely provided 
personnel involved are well informed about the locations, characteristics, overall values, and 
vulnerabilities of potential targets. Teams armed with timely, accurate information can 


prioritize intelligently, strike targets that promise the most lucrative payoffs, and avoid those 
that would put sympathizers out of work, deprive them of public utilities, or otherwise impair 
popular support. Ignorant saboteurs, on the other hand, may do more harm than good, as 
one feckless French team discovered in a Paris sewer during World War II: its members 
leveled and flooded more than a city block and left many friends dead or wounded when 
they detonated a charge to sever telephone service with Berlin, unaware that the lines lay 
next to gas and water mains. 44 


Urban centers are the main milieu of transnational terrorists, whose operations in foreign 
cities aim to spread panic and cause such turmoil that authorities comply with their 
sociopolitical demands to avoid further suffering. Atrocities against innocent bystanders 
make warped sense when seen in that light. 

U.S. experience indicates great potential for the escalation of transnational terrorism since 
one small bomb killed 1 2 persons at La Guardia Airport in 1 975. 45 Suicidal assailants buried 
220 U.S. Marines, 18 Navy bluejackets, and 3 U.S. Army soldiers in their barracks on the 
outskirts of Beirut in 1983. 4fa Greater property damage and repercussions followed an 
enormous explosion that shook New York City's 1 1 0-story World Trade Center on February 
26, 1 993. Perhaps 55,000 employees and thousands of visitors were trapped for hours in 
pitch black, smoke-filled stairwells; a monstrous traffic jam in lower Manhattan impeded 
police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances en route to rescue them; many banks, businesses, 
brokerage houses, law firms, and other tenants were displaced for a month and lost about $1 
billion as a direct result; and city police investigated 364 bomb threats during the first 5 days 
after the blast ( 5 or 6 per day previously was average). 47 Other potentially lucrative urban 
targets for consideration by transnational terrorists include air traffic control centers, 
information storage and transfer sites (computerized banks, commercial houses, and stock 
exchanges), transportation nodes (airports, bridges, tunnels, switching centers), nuclear 
reactors, and petrochemical plants. Calamities could ensue if commuter service ceased, 
ventilating systems failed, and perishable products spoiled. 

The President and Secretary of Defense in 1 996 consequently issued unusually urgent 
security directives designed to protect urban infrastructure and occupants against terrorist 
acts. 48 Those steps came as no surprise, because counterterrorism specialists have not yet 
devised countermeasures that credibly cover worst case contingencies. They could convert 
critical installations into fortresses across the country, and U.S. allies could do likewise, but 
budgets would balloon, mission effectiveness would suffer, and free societies would become 
less free. Creative solutions consequently are required. 


Aerial bombardment specialists, who have very different perspectives about urban combat 
than conventional street fighters and special operations forces, promote two basic options or 
some combination thereof. Option A emphasizes precision strikes against carefully selected 
targets, the destruction of which would degrade rival military capabilities; Option B stresses 
conventional carpet bombing designed primarily to break the enemy's will. 



"Smart" weapons first saw combat in 1 943, when Luftwaffe dive bombers sank the defecting 
Italian battleship Roma in the Mediterranean Sea, but full appreciation for precision-guided 
munitions (PGMs) was deferred for three decades until large U.S. laser-guided bombs 
dropped North Vietnam's Paul Doumer and Thanh Hoa bridges in April 1 972, both of which 
had survived repeated attacks with "dumb" munitions. 49 

Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters armed with air-to-surface PGMs currently can see and 
strike point targets with far greater accuracy and far less collateral damage than ever before. 
Heavier payloads, greater explosive power, and abilities to penetrate far into reinforced steel 
and concrete structures before detonating further enhance the utility of PGMs wherever 
enemies mingle civilian populations with militarily valuable assets typified by 
command/control centers, urban strong points, air defense sites, supply depots, defense 
industries, power plants, railroad yards, and port facilities. Not every "brilliant" aerial bomb 
or missile performed as well as advertised against targets in downtown Baghdad during 
Operation Desert Storm (1991), 50 but results were nonetheless impressive, major 
improvements are under development, and further advances are technologically feasible. 


Italian Brigadier General Guilio Douhet voiced urban carpet bombing concepts in 1 91 1 , 8 
years after the first powered aircraft flew, and published his contentious views in Command 
of the Air a decade later. He stated unequivocally that the basic objective of war "has always 
been, still is, and always will be ... to compel the enemy to bow to one's will," then 
concluded that "to bend the enemy's will, one must put him in intolerable circumstances; 
and the best way to do that is to attack directly the defenseless population of his cities and 
great industrial centers" using chemical warfare (CW) as well as conventional munitions. 51 

Past Practices. Air power proponents exposed Douhet's principles to their most stringent 
test during World War II. The German Air Force, which took first turn, razed a good deal 
of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940, under the guiding hand of Reich Marshal Hermann Goring, 
then began to bomb Liverpool, Bristol, Plymouth, Southhampton, Manchester, Birmingham, 
and other British cities in September. The prolonged Blitz of London killed 10,000 civilians, 
left 17,000 badly wounded, and damaged or demolished historic buildings that included 
parts of Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, Old Bailey, and Buckingham Palace between 
September 1 940 and May 1 941 . V-1 "buzz bombs" and V-2 ballistic missiles subsequently 
mounted terrorist attacks. 52 Goring' s Luftwaffe visited Coventry 1 7 times before a horrific raid 
on November 14, 1 940, left that charming city in ruins. 53 

The Allies then took their turn. Britain's Bomber Command by night and U.S. Eighth Air 
Force by day shellacked most major German cities for 2 consecutive years, beginning in 
1 943. Together they hit Hamburg six times between July 24 and August 3, 1 943, with results 
that recipients called die Katastrophe. 54 Berlin looked like a lunar landscape by VE-Day: 
50,000 buildings had been destroyed, many more were little more than shells, and resultant 
rubble conservatively totaled 1 00 million cubic yards (75 million cubic meters). 55 Beautiful 
Dresden, famed for baroque and rococo architecture as well as exquisite porcelain figurines, 
practically disappeared on the night of February 1 3, 1 945, when 1 35,000 residents, refugees, 
foreign laborers, and prisoners of war died more than the combined toll at Hiroshima and 
Nagasaki after both were atomized. 5fa 


Low-level U.S. raids against Japan, all at night, slighted high explosives in favor of 
incendiaries, mainly magnesium, white phosphorus, and jellied gasoline (one bizarre 
scheme, eventually discarded, proposed dropping millions of bats "armed" with miniature 
delayed-action flammables 57 ). Successes destroyed 40 percent of 66 cities, left almost one- 
third of Japan's population homeless, and inflicted far more casualties than Japanese Armed 
Forces suffered during all of World War II. The cataclysmic Tokyo raid of March 9 and 1 0, 
1945, killed 83,000 when high winds among flimsy wooden and rice paper structures 
whipped up uncontrollable fire storms that one eye witness said looked like paintings of 
Purgatory. Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya experienced similar fates that terrible night. Japanese 
noncombatants felt shock effects many times greater than those that accompanied urban 
bombing campaigns against Germany, because attacks were concentrated in a much shorter 
period. 5 

Past Repercussions. Conventional bombing campaigns nevertheless were less rewarding 
than Douhet and his disciples predicted. Urban bombardment indeed devastated the Third 
Reich, but "did not so reduce German war production as to have a decisive effect on the 
outcome of the war/' according to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Resilience 
was greater than expected, partly because damage to machine tools (as opposed to structures) 
was slight. Depression, defeatism, and fear were rampant, but apathy made most people 
amenable to discipline and receptive to Reichminister Joseph Goebbel's propaganda ("Enjoy 
the war; the peace will be terrible" became a cynical slogan when defeat loomed). Deeply 
ingrained work ethics coupled with needs for enough deutsche marks to put ersatz food on 
the table kept most bread winners on the job until the bitter end. 59 Conditions were worse 
in Japan, where shortages of raw materials crippled war efforts well before U.S. bombers 
began to batter the home islands. Cottage industries, which were logistical mainstays, closed 
down completely after workers en masse fled fire storms. National traditions of obedience, 
conformity, stoicism, and willingness to make sacrifices, however, prevented collapse despite 
widespread desperation most men, women, and children who heard Emperor Hirohito's 
recorded radio broadcast on August 14, 1945, expressed stunned disbelief when he 
announced that Japan had surrendered. 60 

Future Applicability. Currently available guided missiles and modern bombers that carry 
huge loads of technologically advanced conventional explosives could ravage cities faster, 
more efficiently, and with worse effects on enemy morale than World War II weapon 
systems, which were much more numerous. Lethal chemicals and biological warfare attacks 
could wipe out poorly defended populations. Carpet bombardment therefore remains a 
credible course of action for any country that possesses armed forces able to penetrate 
enemy defenses in sufficient strength. The key question to be resolved thus involves policy 
decisions concerning conscionability rather than military capabilities. 


The ability of urban centers to resist nuclear bombardment varies considerably with size, 
configuration, and predominant construction materials, but well-placed weapons in the 
megaton range could obliterate the biggest, most solidly built with instantaneous shock 
effects many magnitudes greater than any previously experienced in wartime. Deterrence and 
defense accordingly have attracted intense attention since August 1 945, when the 1 5-kiloton 



Little Boy bomb flattened much of Hiroshima and the 23-kiloton Fat Man of different design 
ravaged Nagasaki 3 days later. b 

U.S. Policies and Postures. U.S. deterrent strategists emphasized a "balance of terror" 
after Soviet adversaries acquired nuclear weapons in the early 1 960s. Concepts focused on 
urban targets picked to "ensure the destruction, singly or in combination, of the Soviet Union, 
Communist China, and the communist satellites." Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara 
assumed that abilities to eradicate "say, one-fifth to one-fourth of [the Soviet] population and 
one-half of [Soviet] industrial capacity would represent intolerable punishment," and 
therefore be credibly dissuasive. Efforts to protect U.S. cities received slight attention at that 
stage, because McNamara believed that power to pulverize aggressors provided the prime 
deterrent, not "the ability partially to limit damage to ourselves." 62 Homeland defense 
aspirations resurfaced two decades later with President Reagan's so-called "Star Wars" 
speech in March 1 983, 63 but U.S. and allied cities at the turn of the 21 st century nevertheless 
remain at risk, because adequate ballistic missile defense systems have not yet been fully 
developed, much less deployed. 

Soviet Policies and Postures. Russian leaders assigned a high priority to homeland 
defense long before Soviet successors sanctified Lenin's saying that "the primary producer of 
all mankind is the laboring man, the worker. If he survives, we save everything ... if he dies, 
so does the State." 64 Soviet ballistic missile defenses, like those of the United States, were 
limited largely to warning networks, but their air defense apparatus was impressive and stout 
civil defenses emphasized fallout shelters, hardened facilities, stockpiles, and thorough 
indoctrination in their use. Elaborate plans to evacuate Soviet cities during intense crises, 
however, aroused widespread skepticism among Western strategists, who questioned whether 
logistical capabilities then available could adequately feed, clothe, shelter, and otherwise 
minister to millions of displaced persons whose homes and places of employment might be 
leveled during their absence in summertime, much less in subzero winter. 65 

Prospects for City Defense. It is helpful at this point to put past pluses and minuses in 
perspective. Few cities currently are as well prepared to withstand a nuclear assault as Soviet 
counterparts were before the Cold War wound down. Ballistic missile defense (BMD) 
specialists have made immense technological stride since the mid-1980s, but even small 
nuclear-capable nations will be able to hold urban centers hostage until much better BMD 
systems have been perfected, purchased, and deployed in adequate quantities. 


Modern metropolises depend on outside sources for food, water, fuel, electricity, and other 
essential facilities. They also must dispose of garbage, rubbish, and toxic waste materials 
beyond their borders. Areas of vulnerability consequently include sources of supply and 
distribution systems far beyond city limits. 



Military operations should be tailored to suit particular urban configurations, which 
differ widely with regard to sizes, shapes, structures, materials, street patterns, and 
population densities. 

Urban sprawl increasingly creates barriers that restrict military freedom of action in 
many places on every continent save Africa and Australia. 

Street fighting, a brutal form of warfare, becomes necessary when policymakers 
designate cities as military objectives or armed forces cannot conveniently bypass. 

Most armed forces that are organized, equipped, and trained for operations in open 
terrain often are poorly prepared for street fighting, which features small unit infantry 
actions and severely limits the value of heavy weapons as well as motor vehicles. 

Most armed forces that are organized, equipped, and trained for conventional combat 
in cities are poorly prepared to cope with elusive urban guerrillas who hit and run. 

The condition of urban utilities and facilities, total capacities, percentages available for 
military use, and restoration requirements are important logistical matters. 

Military commanders in metropolises commonly must divert precious military resources 
and manpower to control refugees and sustain noncombatants. 

Aircraft armed with precision-guided munitions generally can see and strike urban 
targets with far greater accuracy and far less collateral damage than high-angle artillery fire. 

Policymakers should match ends and means appropriately before they approve aerial 
bombardment of enemy cities using conventional or nuclear weapons. 

Cities cannot survive if enemies sever outside sources of sustenance. 


1 . Sun Tzu, The Art of War, ed. and trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1963, 78). 

2. Associated Press dispatch, New York Times, February 8, 1968, 14. 

3. Albert Wohlstetter, "The Delicate Balance of Terror," in Problems of National Strategy, ed. 
Henry A. Kissinger (New York: Praeger, 1965, 34-58). 

4. Curtis E. LeMay, Mission With LeMay: My Story (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1 965), 

5. FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, July 1 990), 2-1 through 2-3; 
B. Bruce-Briggs, "Suburban Warfare," Military Review 54, no. 6 (June 1974): 8-9. 

6. FM 90-1 0: Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 
August 1 5, 1 979), 1 -4 and 1 -5; FM 30-1 0: Terrain Analysis, March 27, 1 972, 112-113,116-117 
(superseded by FM 5-33, same title, July 1 990, but contains better information about urbanization); 
Patrick O'Sullivan, Terrain and Tactics (New York: Greenwood Press, 1 991 ), 1 47. 

7. FM 30-1 0: Terrain Analysis, March 27, 1 972, 115-11 7. For detailed outlines, see National 
Intelligence Survey, section 25, Urban Areas and Supplement IV, Urban Areas, available in the 
Defense Intelligence Agency classified library. 

8. "Mega Cities," Washington Post, June 8, 1 996, A1 7; Lewis Mumford, The City in History: 
Its Origins, Transformations, and Its Prospects (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1968). 

9. B. Bruce-Briggs, "Suburban Warfare," 4-5; FM 90-10: Military Operations on Urbanized 
Terrain, 1-2 and 1-3. 



10. Trevor N. Dupuy, A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945 
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977), 130-145. 

1 1 . Paul Bracken, "Urban Sprawl and NATO Defense," Survival (November/December 1 976): 
254-260; John W. Burbery, "Perspectives and Patterns," Military Review 58, no. 3 (March 1978): 3- 
1 0. For rebuttals to FM 90-1 0: Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain, 1 -6 through 1 -1 0, and B. 
Bruce-Briggs, "Suburban Warfare," 9-10. Also see Patrick O'Sullivan, "Military Analysis of Urban 
Terrain," The Professional Geographer (August 1 986): 286-290. 

12. The Holy Bible, Book of Joshua, Chapter VI; Yigal Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical 
Lands, vol. 1 (Norwich, England: Jarrold and Sons, 1963), 16-24, 32-35. 

13. Martin Blumenson, Mark Clark (New York: Congdon and Weed, 1984), 213-216. 

1 4. Alistair Home, To Lose a Battle: France, 1940 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969), 94, 381 -394, 
561 -564, 573. Open city declared, 562. 

1 5. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Is Paris Burning? (New York: Pocket Books, 1 965), 
25-29, 79-80, 195-197, 275-280, 301-303, 316-320. 

1 6. Rafael Steinberg, Return to the Philippines (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 979), 1 07, 1 1 4- 
121, 134-149. 

17. Christopher Duffy, 5/ege Warfare: The Fortress in the Early Modern World, 1494-1660 
(London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), and Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare, 
1660-1860 (London, David and Charles, 1975). 

1 8. J. Bowyer Bell, Besieged: Seven Cities Under Siege (New York: Chilton Books, 1 966). 

19. Rudolf Bohmler and Werner Haupt, The German Paratroops, 1939-1945, rev. ed. (New 
Maiden, Surrey, United Kingdom: Altmark Publishing, 1971), 218-220, 224-225. 

20. Leon Coure, The Siege of Leningrad (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962). For 
Zhadnov's quotation, see Alexander Werth, Russia At War, 1941-1945 (New York: E. P. Dutton and 
Co. 1964), 305. 

21 . Ann and John Tusa, The Berlin Airlift (New York: Athenium, 1 988); Avi Shalaim, The United 
States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948-1949: A Study in Crisis Decision-Making (Berkeley, CA: 
University of California Press, 1983). 

22. John W. Hendrix, "A Perspective on Military Operations on Urban Terrain," Infantry 
(November-December 1995): 1-2; T. R. Milton, Jr., "Urbar^ Ope rations: Future War," Military Review 
74, no. 2 (February 1994): 37-46. 

23. V. E. Tarrant, Stalingrad: The Anatomy of an Agony (New York: Hippocene Books, 1 992). 

24. Roy E. Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu (June 1950-November 1950) 
(Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1 961 ), 30-36, 51 5-541 ; 
Billy C. Mossman, Ebb and Flow, November 1950-July 1951 (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 
Center of Military History), 192-208, 328-330. 

25. Keith William Nolan, Battle for Hue: Tet, 1968 (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1 983). 

26. FM 90-1 0: Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain, appendices A, C-E; C. N. Donnelly, 
"Soviet Techniques for Combat in Built-up Areas," Military Review (November 1 977): 37-48; Patrick 
O'Sullivan and Jesse W. Miller, Jr., The Geography of Warfare (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1 983), 
131-135; Bruce-Briggs, "Suburban Warfare," 8-10. 

27. O'Sullivan, Terrain and Tactics, 1 41-1 46; Collins and Lapierre, Is Paris Burning?, 309-31 0. 

28. Adolf Carlson, "Tanks in Urban Combat, "Armor (March-April 1981): 30-31, 33-35; FM 90- 
1 0: Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain, F-1 . 

29. Collins and Lapierre, Is Paris Burning?, 281 -368. 

30. Carlson, "Tanks in Urban Combat," 31-32, 35-36; FM 90-1 0, 4-1 through 4-3, 4-7 and 4-8, 
B-10, C-1 

31. FM 90-1 0, B-6 through B-1 0. 

32. Ibid., 5-2 through 5-5. 


33. Ibid., 1-10, 5-1, 5-5 through 5-8; J. Lawton Collins, War in Peacetime: The History and 
Lessons of Korea (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1969), 109. 

34. Ralph Peters, "Our Soldiers, Their Cities," Parameters 26, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 43-50; 
Hendrix, "A Perspective on Military Operations in Urban Terrain," 2. 

35. John L. Barry, et al., Nonlethal Military Means: New Leverage for a New Era (Cambridge, 
MA: Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, 1 994); Nonlethal Technologies: 
Military Options and Implications (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1 995). 

36. Carl Paul Drev Dahl, "Mobile Robotics Will Serve Many Roles in Future Land Warfare," 
Defense Systems Review (November 1983): 13-17; Charles J. Garvey and James J. Richardson, 
"Robotics Find Application in Ground Warfare," Military Electronics/Countermeasures (March 1 983): 

37. T. P. Featherstone, "A Communist Primer on Street Fighting," with "Street Fighting," by P.-G. 
Cluseret, Journal of the Royal United Services Institute 1 1 7, no. 1 (March 1 972): 57-60. 

38. Carlos Marighella, Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla (Vancouver, Canada: Pulp Press, 

39. Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990). 

40. Alistair Home, A Savage Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York: Viking, 1 978); Franz Fanon, 
The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1 965). 

41 . Wolfgang H. Kraus, "East Germany (June 1953)," in Challenge and Response in Internal 
Conflict, vol. 2, The Experience in Europe and The Middle East, eds. D. M. Condit, Bert H. Cooper, 
Jr., et al. (Washington, DC: Center for Research in Social Systems, American University, March 
1967), 457-496. 

42. Richard Lettis and William E. Morris, The Hungarian Revolt, October 23-November 4, 1956 
(New York: Scribner, 1961). 

43 . Senator Warner and Senator Levin, memo to Senator Thurmond and Senator Nunn, Review 
of Circumstances Surrounding the Ranger Raid on October 3-4, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia, 
September 29, 1995. Mark Bowden, "Blackhawk Down," Philadelphia Inquirer, 29 chapters 
serialized between November 16 and December 14, 1997. 

44. Andrew R. Molnar, et al., DA Pamphlet 550-104: Human Factors Considerations of 
Undergrounds in Insurgencies (Washington, DC: SORO, American University, Dept/of the Army, 
September 1966), 220-221; William Powell, The Anarchist Cookbook (New York: Stuart Press, 

45. Facts on File Yearbook, 1975 (New York: Facts on File, 1 976), 1 028. 

46. Report of the DoD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act, October 23, 
1983, The Long Report (Washington, DC: Dept. of Defense, December 20, 1983); Clyde R. Mark, 
Marine Security in Beirut; A Comparison of the House Armed Services Committee and Long 
Commission Reports (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, January 9, 1984). 

47. Robert D. McFadden, "Blast Hits Trade Center, Bomb Suspected; 5 Killed, Thousands Flee 
Smoke in Towers," New York Times, February 27, 1 993, 1 , 22 (related reports on 1 , 22-24); Alison 
Mitchell, "Businesses Try to Carry on After Trade Center Blast," New York Times, March 1 , 1 993, 1 , 
B6 (related articles on 1, B4-B6); Peter Marks, "Hope Turning Dim on Fast Reopening for Trade 
Center," New York Times, March 3, 1 993, 1 , B6 (related articles on B6-B7). 

48. Executive Order 1 301 0: Critical Infrastructure Protection, July 15, 1 996, in Federal Register, 
part 3, The President, July 17, 1996, 37347-37350, followed by Critical Foundations: Protecting 
America's Infrastructures, Report of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, 
Washington, DC, October 1 997; Secretary of Defense William Perry, force Protection, Report to the 
President and Congress on the Protection of U.S. Forces Deployed Abroad, September 16, 1996. 
Annex A is the Force Protection Assessment of USCENTCOM AOR and Khobar Towers (Report of 
the Downing Assessment Task Force), August 30, 1 996. 



49. David R. Mets, The Quest for a Surgical Strike (Eglin AFB, FL: Air Force Systems Command 
Monograph, Armament Division, 1987). 

50. Operation Desert Storm: Evaluation of the Air War, GAO/PEMD-96-10, Report to 
Congressional Requesters (Senator Pryor, Representative Dingell) (Washington, DC: U.S. General 
Accounting Office, July 1996); Eliot Cohen, "A Bad Rap on High Tech: The GAO's Misguided 
Missile Against Gulf War Weaponry," Washington Post, July 1 9, 1 996, 1 5. 

51 . Guilio Douhet, Command of the Air, trans. Dino Ferrari for the Office of Air Force History 
(Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1983); quotations are on 277, 282. 

52. Philip Ziegler, London at War, 1939-1945 (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1995). 

53. Allan W. Kurki, Operation Moonlight Sonata: The German Raid on Coventry (Westport, CT: 
Praeger, 1 995). 

54. Martin Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1 981 ). 

55. "Berlin," Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. 

56. David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963). 
Kurt Vonnegut, who was present as a POW, subsequently penned an antiwar novel, Slaughterhouse 
Five (New York: Delacorte Press, 1969). 

57. Jack Couffer, Bat Bomb: World War H's Other Secret Weapon (Austin, TX: University of 
Texas Press, 1992). 

58. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), vols. 7 and 10, part 3 (New York: 
Garland Publishing, 1976), 15-20. 

59. USSBS, vol. 2 and vol. 4; Bernard Brodie, Strategy in the Missile Age (Princeton, NJ: 
Princeton University Press, 1959), 120-124, 131-138. 

60. USSBS, vol. 7 and vol. 9 

61 . USSBS, vol. 7; Little Boy and Fat Man bomb data are contained in Chuck Hansen, U.S. 
Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History (New York: Orion Books, 1 988), 1 1 , 1 4, 21 . 

62. Robert S. McNamara, Statement on the Fiscal Year 1969-1973 Defense Program and the 
1969 Defense Budget, January 22, 1 968, 41 -76, with quotes on 47, 50. Also, his Statement on the 
1968-1972 Defense Program and 1968 Defense Budget, January 23, 1 967, 38-39. 

63. "President's Speech on Military Spending and a New Defense," New York Times, March 24, 
1 983, 20. For related compilations, see Dept. of Defense Current News, Special Edition, part 1 , May 
4, 1983, part 2, May 5, 1983, and a Current News series, "Strategic Defense Initiative," August 14 
and 23, September 26, October 25, November 29, 1 984, and January 3, February 7, 1 985. 

64. V. I. Lenin, Complete Collected Works, vol. 38, 5 th ed. (Moscow: Political Literature 
Publishing House, 1958), 359. 

65. P. T. Yegorov et al., Civil Defense: A Soviet View (undated), and N. M. Titov et al., eds. and 
trans., Civil Defense, July 1975, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Leon Goure, War Survival in Soviet 
Strategy (Miami, FL: Center for Advanced International Studies, University of Miami, 1976). For 
skepticism, see Fred M.. Kaplan, "The Soviet Civil Defense Myth," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 
part 1 (March 1978): 14-20, and part 2 (April 1978): 41-66. 



The Moving Finger writes: 

and having writ, 

Moves on; nor all Piety 

nor Wit 

Shall lure it back to cancel 

half a line, 

Nor all thy Tears wash out 

a Word of it. 

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 
Edward Fitzgerald's Translation 


So do seasoned military commanders, who know full well that a few minutes often spell the 
difference between military success and failure, victory and defeat. They therefore strive to 
make best use of land, sea, air, and space lines of communication (LOCs) that link nations 
with essential resources, connect military theaters of operation, facilitate support for deployed 
armed forces, simplify their movement from present positions at Point A to points of decision 
at B, C, and D, then enable formations to maneuver most effectively after arrival. 1 Assured 
access to essential LOCs is crucially important, because large modern armed forces, unlike 
their predecessors, cannot live off the land. Commanders and staffs at every level 
consequently need intimate knowledge about the current status of roads, railways, seaports, 
airfields, inland waterways, and pipelines that facilitate fluid military operations and simplify 
logistical support. The capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities of primary routes attract 
constant attention, with particular concern for bottlenecks, bypasses, maintenance 
requirements, and possibilities for new construction. 


Militarily useful roads probably predate the first chariots, which Egyptian Pharaohs imported 
from Caanan early in the 15th century B.C. Twenty-nine turnpikes that totaled about 50,000 
miles (80,000 kilometers) later radiated from ancient Rome to every conquered province. 
Adolph Hitler built multilane/\tvtoba/?ns in the 1 930s to shift armed forces rapidly from one 
front to another, and the value of overland routes since then has in no way diminished. 



Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., read The Norman Conquest before his Third Army 
entered France in 1 944, "paying particular attention to the roads William the Conqueror used 
in his operations in Normandy and Brittany/' Lessons learned informed him of medieval 
thoroughfares that had to be on solid ground and therefore promised easy bypassing if the 
German Wehrmacht demolished high-speed routes. 2 Elements of Israeli Colonel Yigael 
Alton's Negev Brigade outflanked Egyptian forces in the northern Sinai desert on Christmas 
Day 1 948 after aerial photograph interpreters identified the remains of a long-idle Roman 
road that defenders overlooked. 3 

On-site reconnaissance and route classifications, however, commonly are required, 
because historical records, maps, and photo surveys seldom disclose enough information in 
sufficient detail about the following factors: 

Underlying and adjacent terrain (elevations, irregularities, slopes, drainage, soils, and 

Road foundations and surface materials (by section if construction is not uniform) 

The widths and status of roadbeds and shoulders 

Maximum grades and curvatures 

The stability of cuts and fills 

Bridges, tunnels, and underpasses (technical characteristics, clearances, weight- 
bearing capacities) 

The suitability of fords and ferries 

Obstacles (abatis, snow banks, rock slides, washouts) 

Current conditions (repair, maintenance, restoration) 

Passing lanes and areas suitable for rest stops 

Characteristics of alternative routes, detours, and local bypasses 

Construction requirements. 


Every well-constructed road consists of a surface; a base course of gravel or crushed rock that 
distributes stresses from heavy traffic; a foundation (subgrade) of natural materials; and a 
drainage system of crowns, cambers, culverts, ditches, and drains which disposes of ground 
water as well as runoff that could cause rapid deteriorization (figure 3 1 ). The width of each 
traveled way determines the number of lanes, which must average 11 to 1 2 feet (3.5 meters) 
for large trucks and 13 feet or so (4 meters) for most armored vehicles single-lane roads 
make it impossible to pass or reverse course. Cracked pavements, unsealed roadbeds, pot 
holes, bumps, ruts, soft shoulders, grades greater than seven percent, sharp curves with a 
radius less than 100 feet (30 meters), and clogged drainage systems reduce the value of 
otherwise suitable roads until improvements are complete. 4 

All-weather roads have solid subgrades and base courses, traveled ways paved with 
concrete or bituminous mixtures, adequate drainage, enough width to accommodate two- 
way vehicular traffic, and throughput capacities that never are appreciably less than their 



Figure 31 . Highway and Byway Attributes 

Through cut 

Surface or wearing course 



-Width of clearing (roadway + min. of 6 ft.) on each side 


ed way 

ano _ 





Cut slope 

Ditch slope 

e UiS&SSlS 



maximum, regardless of seasonal conditions, given reasonable maintenance. Similar routes 
topped with brick, stones, or gravel are somewhat less serviceable, while limited all-weather 
roads remain open at reduced capacity after heavy precipitation only by dint of greater 
effort. 5 

Fair-weather roads that meet less stringent standards often must suffice in combat zones, 
but LOCs that link front-line forces with sources of supply rate rapid upgrading. So do routes 
that interconnect senior command posts, communication centers, ports, airfields, and theater- 
level support installations in the rear. Stringent controls may also be necessary. Logisticians 
sustained U.S. Armed Forces over tenuous routes from the Normandy beachhead to the 
German border in late summer 1944 only because Supreme Headquarters Allied 
Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) designated Red Ball Highways, banned unessential traffic, 
operated every available truck 20 hours a day with brief stops to load, unload, and refuel, 
scraped the bottom of the barrel for relief drivers, and ran engineers ragged around-the-clock 
to keep those battered roads serviceable. 6 


Bridges, fords, ferries, tunnels, and underpasses are weak links and potentially troublesome 
bottlenecks along land lines of communication during military operations in peacetime or 
in war. Reconnaissance and classification crews consequently pay close attention to their 

Bridges. Thomas Macaulay immortalized one-eyed Captain of the Gate Gaius Horatius, 
the 6th century B.C. savior of Rome who, with two other warriors, held off 90,000 Etruscans 
while troops on the far side of the swollen Tiber River chopped underpinnings beneath Rons 
Sublicus, the only available bridge. 7 Warfare has repeatedly focused on key bridges ever 
since. The last span left standing over the Rhine on March 7, 1945, became the most 
important piece of property on the Western Front when German demolition teams at 
Remagen tried but failed to destroy it before engineers of the U.S. 9th Armored Division 
raced across to secure the east bank. That badly damaged bridge served well for the next 1 
days, despite enemy artillery and air attacks, until weakened structures finally collapsed. 8 

Both offensive and defensive forces designate bridges as key terrain whenever seizure, 
retention, destruction, or control would afford marked advantage. Load-bearing capacities 
are crucially important flimsy construction, for example, excludes tanks with heavy 
"footprints." Detailed data additionally are in demand concerning precise map coordinates, 
approaches and adjacent topography, designs, construction materials, critical dimensions 
(heights above gaps, lengths of spans, widths of traveled ways, overhead obstacles), and 
special features, such as those inherent in draw, swinging, and vertical lift bridges that let 
ships pass. 9 

A few civilian-style floating bridges, such as the mile-long model across Lake Washington 
near Seattle, rest on pontoons, but most permanent bridges feature solid construction. 
Designs depicted in figure 32 range from short, simple slabs that seldom exceed 30 feet (9 
meters) to cantilevers and complex suspension bridges, several of which possess spans that 
extend more than 4,000 feet (1,200 meters). All bridges, regardless of type, share most 
militarily significant characteristics that figure 33 displays. 


Figure 32. Bridge Types Depicted 





Arch (closed spandrel) 

Arch (open spandrel) 

\ 4. 

Suspension Bridge 

Floating Bridge 



Figure 33. Bridge Superstructures and Substructures 

Superstructure (Upper part) 





Substructure (Lower part) 



a = Approach 

b = Overall length 

c = Span length, bearing to bearing 

d = Length, abutment to abutment 



Substructures consist essentially of abutments that rest on natural footings ashore, 
retaining walls that support banks at both ends to keep connecting roads from sinking and, 
if required, underpinning piers interspersed in stream at carefully calculated intervals. 
Superstructure assemblies vary according to site characteristics, construction materials, the 
length of each span, and intended capacities: arch, slab, beam, girder, and pontoon bridges 
sport decks, treads, and generally guardrails; truss bridges add load-bearing beams that form 
horizontal and vertical triangles; suspension bridges hang roadways from two thick cables 
anchored at both ends and draped between towers. 10 

Fords and Ferries. Armed forces ford unbridged water barriers where depths are shallow 
enough, currents are slow enough, and approaches as well as bottoms are solid enough for 
wheeled and tracked vehicles to proceed at reduced rates of speed under their own power 
or assisted by winches (refer to figure 5 on page 33 and accompanying text). Waterproofing 
kits and underwater roadways built of unprocessed timber, wooden planks, gravel, metal 
mats, even concrete can increase throughput capabilities considerably. Tanks equipped with 
snorkels sometimes cross completely submerged. Ferries propelled by drift, oars, poles, 
pulleys, gasoline, diesel, or steam see service where fords are infeasible, given a sufficiently 
slow current, enough depth to float from shore to shore, an absence of serious obstacles in 
stream, above freezing temperatures, and approach ramps that allow landings whether water 
levels are high or low. Rubber rafts, amphibious vehicles, assault landing craft, and motor 
boats typify possible conveyances. 11 

Tunnels and Underpasses. Tunnels, underpasses, and snow sheds that penetrate 
mountains or burrow beneath Earth's surface constitute formidable obstacles along land lines 
of communication, because they never would have been blasted, bored, or cut, covered, and 
excavated at great expense if attractive alternatives existed. Portal-to-portal lengths are less 
important than configurations, which may be semicircular, elliptical, square, or horseshoe- 
shaped and follow straight, curved, or irregular paths between walls that are natural or lined 
with brick, masonry, or concrete. Interior dimensions, together with ceiling shapes, wires, 
and other fixtures that influence overhead clearance, determine which vehicles and outsize 
loads can pass and which must detour. 12 


Armed forces expend money, manpower, and materiel to construct new roads only when 
existing networks are poorly aligned or capacities are inadequate., but many monumental 
endeavors nevertheless come to mind. The 1,506-mile long (2,424 kilometers) Alaska 
Highway built by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors between Dawson 
Creek, British Columbia, and Fairbanks as a main military supply route during World War 
II is among them. 13 So are interlacing land lines that U.S. and Soviet engineers laid across 
Afghanistan in the 1960s as part of competing programs to aid that impoverished but 
strategically well-placed nation. 14 

No project, however, overshadowed the "poor man's turnpike" that countless coolies 
built between Ledo, Assam, and Kunming, China, during World War II (map 17, on page 
107, and map 27). The cost in human lives was high, but the benefits were incalculable. 

Burma Road Obstacles. The eastern half of that prodigious endeavor, known as the 
Burma Road, led over three towering fingers from the Tibetan Plateau plus raging upper 
reaches of the Salween, Mekong, and Yangpi Rivers. Every stone for a strip 23 feet wide (6.7 



Map 27. Profile of the Burma Road 

Tali Lake 
















r 8500 



6 Miles 









I ......... I 




Adapted from Flyleaf, Tan Pei-Ying, The Building of the Burma Road. 

meters) and 7 to 1 inches deep was set in place one at a time by local peasants who planted 
them like seedlings in rice paddies. The first 85 miles (135 kilometers) from Burma's eastern 
border to Lungling contained "every torment that nature could devise/' according to Tan Pei- 
Ying, the project manager: "Rain unending for months at a time; stifling heat and humidity; 
mountains of the slipperiest mud; and worst of all malaria." More than half of those bitten 
by mosquitoes died before partly effective antidotes belatedly became available. Men, 
women, and children who lacked modern equipment and used a poor grade of gunpowder 
as a substitute for dynamite chiseled through 250 linear miles (400 kilometers) of bedrock to 
a depth of 50 to 1 00 feet (1 5 to 30 meters), 3,860,000 cubic yards all told, while clinging to 
precipice faces like flies. "The most trying of all [such jobs]," Pei-Ying recalled, "was in the 
gorges running back from the Salween, where we had to cut one hairpin turn after another 
out of the sheerest cliffs, taking the Road up from 2,000 feet above sea level to 6,800 feet 
[610 to 2,075 meters] within a distance of 18 miles [29 kilometers]." 15 

Burma Road Bridges. It was hard enough to build 460 bridges of different types across 
relatively small streams, but the three biggest rivers posed prodigious challenges. Mr Hsu Yi- 
fang, without benefit of blueprints, designed three single-span suspension bridges to solve 
related problems the longest was 41 feet (1 25 meters). Factorymen in Rangoon thereafter 
cut huge beams, steel rods, wire ropes, cables and other parts to his specifications and 



delivered them to Lashio by rail, whereupon hundreds of men and mules bore heavy burdens 
for 300 more miles over awesome terrain. Some construction methods were centuries old, 
enemy actions caused recurrent nightmares, several thousand died before the last bridge was 
complete, trucks crossed one at a time because the maximum bearable load on the best of 
them was 1 tons, and jerry-rigged ferries had to take up some slack, but results in the end 
even so were satisfying. Some in fact say without tongue in cheek that building the Burma 
Road was comparable in scope to erecting ancient Egyptian pyramids. 16 


Fictional Robert Jordan rigged a Nationalist bridge for demolition during the Spanish Civil 
War in Ernest Hemingway's classic novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Movie actor William 
Holden portrayed a U.S. Navy pilot who dive-bombed The Bridges of Toko-Ri in North 
Korea. Real world warriors at different times and places have long employed those and 
additional techniques to interdict overland lines of communication using aircraft, missiles, 
artillery, mines, and explosive charges. Gravity bombs as well as air-to-surface and surface- 
to-surface missiles armed with precision-guided munitions currently can strike bridges, tunnel 
mouths, fords, and ferries with far greater effectiveness than in the recent past, and 
technologists promise to couple pinpoint accuracy with unprecedented nonnuclear 
destructive power in the future. 17 There are times, however, when total destruction is 
undesirable, because friendly armed forces and civilians might find repairable facilities useful 
at later dates. 

Covert operations that conceal the identity of, or permit plausible denial by, perpetrators 
moreover may be politically prudent, especially in "peacetime." Demolition specialists able 
to infiltrate clandestinely, position charges precisely, then slip away sometimes prove 
invaluable under combat conditions, because they impose disproportionately heavy security 
burdens on defenders. First, they calculate how much of what type charge (TNT, tetrytol, 
plastic, or sheet explosives) to place where, taking into account the size, shape, and strength 
of targets to be attacked, required degrees of destruction, and collateral damage limitations, 
if any. Multiple charges may be more effective than one big blast against oddly shaped, large, 
or very hard objects, such as concrete bridge abutments and tunnels. Brittle cast iron breaks 
easily, but acetylene torches or thermite may be needed to slice nickel-molybdenum steel, 
which strongly resists conventional explosives. Proper placement is at least as important as 
destructive power. Large trees dropped to form an abatis across defiles fall in the wrong 
direction if cut improperly. Professionals whose mission is to stop road and river traffic 
temporarily cut supports at one end of truss bridges so affected spans fall in the water; they 
cut trusses at midspan to make bridges buckle if long-lasting destruction is the intent. Massive 
towers and thick cables on major suspension bridges resist powerful explosive charges, but 
slender suspenders that hang therefrom do not roadway sections collapse if they are cut. 18 
Tunnels in solid rock are tough targets to destroy unless saboteurs detonate truckloads of 
conventional explosives or man-portable nuclear weapons deep inside. 


Far-sighted German economist Friedrich List in 1833 was the first to visualize the military 
importance of railroads and General Helmut Karl von Moltke the Elder, as Chief of the 
Prussian General Staff, put principles into practice during the Austro-Prussian War in 1 866. 19 


The first grand test, however, took place during the U.S. Civil War, when Union and 
Confederate forces both used rail lines to redeploy large formations over great distances and 
support them for long periods 20 (the first Medals of Honor ever awarded went to members 
of James J. Andrews' raiding party, who hijacked a rebel train at Marietta, Georgia, on April 
11, 1862. 21 ). Railroads subsequently played crucial roles in most major armed conflicts the 
world over. 22 


The United States, Canada, most of Europe, Japan, and a few other highly industrialized 
nations have modernized their railway systems since the 1950s. High-speed trains and 
computerized controls are common; lightweight rails are passe; steel and plastic replace 
wooden and concrete ties; flatcars carry more trailers and containers than any other cargo; 
steam locomotives, reefers, water towers, and hump yards have virtually disappeared. 23 
Discussions that follow nevertheless concentrate on traditional railroads in underdeveloped 
countries, many of which are present or projected trouble spots, because U.S. and allied 
military transportation specialists could be called to cope with unanticipated problems. 


Railways and roads are complementary lines of communication, each with strengths that 
compensate for the other's weaknesses. Trains rather than trucks carry the heaviest overland 
loads, just as ships rather than aircraft carry most bulky cargo between homelands and 
theaters of operation overseas. U.S. Army divisions at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 
for example, depended on rail transportation to move them from widely separated bases in 
Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, and North Carolina to ports of embarkation scattered along the 
seaboard from Baltimore, Maryland, to Beaumont, Texas. That task was humongous, because 
it then took 4,200 flat cars and 820 pullmans (the equivalent of 1 00 trains end-to-end on 45 
miles of track) to handle just one armored division with accompanying supplies. U.S. 
railroads also served extensively throughout World War II, the Korean War (1950-53), the 
Vietnam War (1 965-72), and during altercations with Iraq (1 991 -92). 23 

Rail lines nevertheless are inflexible for most tactical purposes, because cross-country 
bypasses are infeasible for trains confined to tracks. That fact is especially significant 
wherever washouts, rock falls, snow slides, and manmade bottlenecks abound, as is the case 
with the Trans-Iranian Railroad, which encounters 224 tunnels and more than 4,1 00 bridges 
on its 895-mile (1,340-kilometer) trek from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. Trains on 
the Trans-Siberian Railroad once passed through 51 tunnels in rapid succession along a 52- 
mile stretch of track (84 kilometers) that skirted the southern banks of Lake Baikal before 
work crews built a better route. Construction costs, always higher than for roads, increase 
when many cuts and fills are required to reduce grades and smooth out sharp turns. 

Railway reconnaissance teams, like colleagues who classify roads, catalog distances 
between selected points, the nature of nearby terrain, foundation materials, maximum grades, 
minimum curve radii, cuts, fills, obstacles, bridges, tunnels, ferries, and current conditions. 
They also look for characteristics peculiar to railroads, which are listed below: 24 


Tracks (number, together with locations and lengths of sidings) 

Rails (condition, type, length, weight) 

Ties (condition, type, spacing, size) 

Ballast (width, depth, type, source of stones, drainage) 

Gauges, including changes at transshipment points 

Electrification ( wires, cycles, voltage, support structures, substations) 

Operational limitations (speeds, number of cars per train, number of trains per day, 
allowable axle loads) 

Control facilities (dispatching, signaling, switching) 

Stations, yards, and terminals (locations, types, capacities, facilities) 

Servicing facilities (water, fuel, and ice replenishment; repair and maintenance shops; 
roundtables and cranes) 

Locomotives and rolling stock (numbers, types, sizes, weights, couplings) 

Mobile maintenance and repair equipment 

Management and work force. 


Railroad infrastructures encompass all routes, real estate, rolling stock, and facilities required 
to operate and maintain trains. Military users are concerned primarily with the improvement 
and preservation of throughput capabilities, whereas enemy targeteers diligently study soft 
spots that, if interdicted, would deprive possessors of essential support at crucial times and 

Roadbeds and Rails. All trains run on tracks, but not all tracks are the same. Some main- 
line roadbeds are merely compacted earth or thinly spread cinders, while sturdier bases that 
ensure proper drainage and distribute loads evenly consist of slag chips or crushed stone in 
layers up to 24 to 30 inches thick (61 to 76 centimeters). Crossties embedded in that ballast 
to support and align rails not only range from untreated timber to concrete but vary 
considerably in size and spacing. Steel rails may weigh less than 40 or more than 150 
pounds per yard (20 to 68 kilograms per meter), tie plates and anchors called "a nti creepers" 
may or may not hold rails in place, builders may or may not use 50- to 60-foot-long rails (1 5 
to 1 8 meters) to reduce the number of joints, and they may or may not butt-weld or bolt rails 
together to strengthen construction. Firm ballast, solid crossties, heavy steel rails, welded 
joints, banked curves of no more than 1 .5 degrees, and grades of 1 .0 percent or less facilitate 
fast passenger and freight service. 

Standard gauge tracks (4 feet 8.5 inches/1 .435 meters) predominate in North America, 
Mexico, Great Britain, and most of continental Europe. Broader gauges (5 feet/1 .524 meters 
or more) are the rule in former Soviet Socialist Republics, Finland, Ireland, Iberia, India, and 
Argentina, although trains waste valuable time while cars exchange undercarriages or transfer 
cargoes to other trains wherever dissimilar lines connect. Various gauges cover much of Latin 
America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, but many nations there as elsewhere still maintain 
narrow gauge railroads on level as well as mountainous terrain because construction, 
maintenance, locomotives, and rolling stock all are relatively inexpensive. 25 

Rolling Stock and Locomotives. Logisticians who hope to use allied and captured enemy 
railway infrastructure most effectively must consider many factors, because imported 
locomotives and rolling stock must be compatible with local rail gauges and couplings. 


Steam, electric, diesel, and diesel-electric mainline locomotives are much longer and heavier 
than switch engines, which are geared to tow many cars at slow speeds. The military 
importance of sleeping and dining cars has declined dramatically since World War II, 
primarily because most personnel now move administratively by air, but boxcars, flatcars, 
gondolas, hoppers, tank cars, and refrigerators retain great utility. 

Terminals Yards, Railheads, and Stations. An elaborate array of installations is required 
to assemble trains, point them in proper directions, and make them run on time. Traditional 
rail yards at major terminals receive, unload, separate, classify, and sort incoming 
locomotives and rolling stock, couple predetermined numbers and types together, then shunt 
strings to other yards where they are serviced, reloaded, stored, or prepared for departure 
(figure 34). Locomotives proceed to roundhouses where turntables and cranes assist 
inspections, repairs, and maintenance. Switch engines tug cars from one traditional yard to 
another unless gravity pulls them from the top of humps to lower levels. Each complex 
contains parallel tracks, switches, sidings, platforms, sheds, shops, warehouses, water towers, 
storage tanks, and command/control facilities. Stations along each route and railheads where 
transshipments to other modes of transportation take place complete the list of railway real 
estate inventories. 26 


Some regions rely extensively on rail transportation, others very little. Those with many 
alternative routes and installations well removed from present or potential enemies are most 
flexible, although choke points along lonesome stretches far removed from maintenance units 
are vulnerable and wreckage is hard to repair. Marshaling yards concentrate lucrative targets, 
as evidenced during World War II, when repeated air attacks seriously disrupted the 
redeployment of German troops and the distribution of ammunition, fuel, food, and other 
supplies to forces in the field. Duty in large rail yards throughout occupied France as well as 
in the Third Reich was almost as dangerous as front line service. 27 Retreating Germans not 
only destroyed every right or left hand switch in classification yards, but uprooted rights of 
way by splitting ties down the middle and splaying rails with locomotive-mounted plows. 
No major power during the Cold War had greater need for reliable rail service than the 
Soviet Union, but deficiencies were numerous. 28 Connections with European satellite states 
were cumbersome because the change from broad- to standard-gauge undercarriages at each 
border consumed about 2 hours per 20-car train and 2 more on return trips. Worse yet, the 
rudimentary road network that served European Russia diminished rapidly east of the Ural 
Mountains and virtually disappeared for 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) between Omsk and 
Vladivostok. The ribbon-like Trans-Siberian Railroad, single-tracked for 2,000 miles along 
the Chinese frontier, therefore bore most burdens. Stalin consequently suffered such 
heartburn that he began to construct the Baikal-Amur Magistral (BAM) rail line somewhat 
farther north using slave labor (map 28). Progress ceased after his death in 1 953, but Leonid 
Brezhnev later revived that stupendous project, which crosses five mountain ranges, 
seventeen wide rivers, and seismically active plains that turn swampy in summer; passes 
through Severo-Muisky Tunnel, which is nearly 10 miles long (16 kilometers), and several 
others of lesser length; and boasts 3,000 bridges. Underlying permafrost created countless 
construction problems before the first train made its maiden trip in 1 989. 29 


Figure 34. Traditional Rail Yard Facilities 


Passenger terminal 

Freight sheds 

4C yard 




V \ Admin and 

Minor car 
repair area 



, Forwarding yard 

Water and/or 
sand tower 


Semi-round house 



Freight station 



suuuuuuuOSiK-; . 


Map 28. The Trans-Siberian Railroad and Baikal-Amur Magistral 




Sea of 

Baikal-Amur Magistral 





Trans-Siberian Railroad 

Gavan' "V 

Khabarovsk \H 





Sea of Japan 

200 400 600 Kilometers 


Military airports must accommodate fixed- and rotary-wing combat, utility, and cargo aircraft 
that, when directed, fly missions around-the-clock under adverse weather conditions. One 
size field, however, by no means fits all. Ramstein Air Base, situated in a narrow valley near 
Kaiserslautern, Germany, for example, served a U.S. fighter wing well during the Cold War, 
but tight terrain, a relatively short runway, slender taxiways, cramped parking areas, and 
limited cargo-handling facilities restrict C-141 and C-5A transports, its present tenants. 30 


Military requirements determine the number, characteristics, essential service life, and 
acceptable construction time of airfields in any area of operations. Topography, climatic 
conditions, vegetation, hydrology, soils, and logistical convenience strongly influence 
locations. Preferable sites feature the flattest terrain, the clearest weather, the most favorable 
winds, the fewest obstructions, the freest drainage, and easiest access to prominent land lines 
of communication but, if that ideal is unattainable for political, military, geographic, or 
cultural reasons, decisionmakers must compromise. 

Primary runways generally parallel the direction of prevailing winds, taking high-velocity 
cross-currents into account. Runway lengths required by any given type aircraft would be 
standard everywhere if Planet Earth were a perfectly flat plain at sea level, all thermometers 
consistently registered any given temperature, the surface never was slick with rain, sleet, or 



snow, and all pilots were equally competent. Military airfield designers in the real world, 
however, must extend runways to compensate for increases in altitude and do likewise where 
temperatures of the warmest month average more than 59 F (1 5 C), because those factors 
singly or in combination create rarefied air that degrades engine performance and affords less 
lift. Takeoffs up inclines and landings downhill also require longer runways. U.S. calculations 
in anticipation of foul weather and imperfect air crew performance add 25 percent more in 
combat zones, 50 percent more in rear areas, then tack a small "fudge factor" onto the 
idjusted total, as table 21 indicates. 31 

Table 21 . U.S. Military Aircraft Runway Length Calculations 

Basic Calculations 
Correction for Altitude 
Correction for Temperature 

Correction for Gradient 

Safety Factors 

Takeoff Ground Run (TGR) at mean sea level; temperature 
59 F (1 5 C) 

Add 10% to basic runway length for every 1,000-foot 
(305-meter) increase above 1 ,000 feet 

Add 4% to basic runway length for every 1 F (6 C) that 
temperatures of the warmest month average above 59 F 
if the TGR is less than 5,000 feet (1 ,525 meters) 

Add 7% to basic runway length for every 10 F that 
temperatures of the warmest month average above 59 F 
if the TGR is 5,000 feet or more 

Never shorten basic runway lengths if temperatures of the 
warmest month average below 59 F 

Add 8% to basic runway length for every 1% increase 
over a 2% gradient anywhere along the strip 

Add 25% for combat zone airfields; 

Add 50% for rear area airfields; 

Add 100 feet (30 meters) to the adjusted total 

Minimum runway widths, consistent with degrees of lateral stability during final 
approaches and landings, increase with aircraft weights and sizes. Bombers and large 
transport aircraft need more elbow room than fighters, which are relatively maneuverable. 
Taxiways, parking aprons, and hangar floors, like runways, must have load-bearing capacities 
consistent with the heaviest aircraft for which the field is configured. 32 Approach zones and 
overruns at each end of every runway are graded to minimize damage if pilots accidentally 
land short, overshoot, or experience engine failure on takeoff. Engineers clear obstructions 
to points well below glide paths or mark them prominently if that proves infeasible and 
alternative sites are less satisfactory. 33 




Featherweight combat aircraft were able to operate from sod fields as late as the Battle of 
Britain in 1940, but runways soon became essential for all but the lightest planes. U.S. 
expeditionary air bases established in foreign lands, often on the spur of the moment, occupy 
three categories: 

Category One contains relatively austere strips that occupants abandon as soon as they 
outlive their usefulness. 

Category Two contains Category One airfields that occupants progressively upgrade 
and retain. 

Category Three contains permanent or semipermanent bases that are well constructed 
from scratch, occupied, then upgraded in stages. 

Expeditionary airfield builders employ bulldozers, scrapers, back hoes, front loaders, 
dump trucks, and other earth-moving machinery deliverable by heavy lift helicopters ("flying 
cranes") and parachutes if necessary. Bare base kits, tailored for particular missions, include 
flight-line support, supply, maintenance, and housekeeping items of which the following are 
merely representative: durable runway membranes or matting; lights; navigation aids; 
approach apparatus; arresting gear; dust palliatives; prepackaged control facilities; portable 
shelters; power generators; field kitchens; and collapsible fuel storage containers. 34 

Drag chutes, thrust reversers, and jet/rocket-assisted take-off (JATO/RATO) propulsion 
systems benefit some aircraft that arrive while work on runways and approaches is still in 
progress. The Soviet Union, which lacked first-class bases in Siberia and found few in 
underdeveloped client states, put a premium on sturdy, short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) 
designs that as early as the 1970s vested cargo aircraft with high power-to-weight ratios, 
special flaps, strong, multi-wheeled undercarriages, adjustable tire pressures, self-starting 
engines, gravity refueling, built-in test sets, and on-board cargo-handling equipment. 35 

Phased upgrading of expeditionary air bases and captured enemy fields continues apace 
until they are fully able to support planned missions (figure 35). Stage I construction provides 
a loop that allows aircraft to land, taxi, park, unload, reload, and depart on expedient 
surfaces of minimum dimensions. Stage II increases capacities, safety, and operational 
efficiency, perhaps creates a second runway, and converts the original to a taxi strip that runs 
the length of the field. Stage III further expands facilities and paves surfaces if users plan long- 
term occupancy. 36 


Military air terminals are even harder to protect than they are to construct, because no 
installations as yet possess credible ballistic missile defenses and all are vulnerable to attacks 
by such unsophisticated weapons as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and portable air- 
defense missiles. Unshielded ammunition dumps, aviation fuel supplies, and aircraft taking 
flight, on final approaches, or in unrevetted parking lots are especially vulnerable. 

Audacious hit-and-run raiders can wreak havoc. British Major David Stirling's nascent 
Special Air Service (SAS) repeatedly roared out of the Sahara Desert during World War II to 
hit German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's North African air bases. Eighteen jeeps with 
blazing machine guns ran straight down the runway at Sidi Haneish, Libya, on July 8, 


Figure 35. Airfield Construction Stages 

Stage I 

Lateral clear zone 


Runway - Stage 



I U Cargo 

X" Approach 




Lateral clear zone 

Stage II & III 

Lateral clear zone 

Runway -Stage II 



Stage II taxiway and emergency runway \ 

d] Stage I 
Stage II & 


Expansion for 
aircraft parking 

1 942, and within a few minutes ruined more than two dozen aircraft parked on both sides, 
including Junker 52s which had been scarce since the Luftwaffe lost nearly 200 transports 
during the battle for Crete the previous year. 37 U.S. Army Major Robert C. Kingston, in his 
capacity as Commanding Officer, Company C, 3d Battalion, British 16 th Parachute Brigade, 
led six five-man teams whose mission during pre-dawn darkness was to test security 
procedures at U.S. Air Base Lakenheath near Aldershot, England, in April 1962. Civilian 
constabulary in the adjacent town and roving patrols assisted by scout dogs, trip wires, and 
flares were on red alert beforehand, but stealthy infiltrators even so were able to "assassinate" 
the base commander, plant simulated demolitions on parked aircraft, neutralize the combat 
operations center, "explode" a liquid oxygen plant, place charges that could have cratered 
the main runway, and accomplish other missions without unacceptable losses. 38 

Better safeguards typified by space surveillance satellites, extremely sensitive land-based 
sensors, night vision devices, better aircraft dispersion, and formidable physical barriers limit 



options open to present day counterparts of Majors Stirling and Kingston, but special 
operations forces even so still imperil the best protected air bases. 


Sea lines of communication terminate in harbors and ports that come in all sizes, shapes, 
and descriptions. Each harbor suitable for deep-draft ships features distinctive approaches, 
entrances, dredged channels, depths, protected anchorages, turning basins, and navigation 
aids. Each up-to-date seaport additionally displays a wide array of berthing, cargo-handling, 
storage, maintenance, and clearance facilities (figure 36). 39 


Even fine natural harbors such as those that serve New York City, San Francisco, Rio de 
Janeiro, and Tokyo benefit from human improvements. Massive stone or masonry 
breakwaters, jetties (breakwaters that connect with the shore), and moles (jetties with a road 
on top) commonly depress swells and deflect stormy seas, dredges clear channels that are 
subject to silt, and sea walls reduce erosion along shore. Shapes, horizontal dimensions, 
depths, obstacles in stream, and ship characteristics (drafts, lengths, beams, mast heights, and 
hull forms) determine how many ships of what types any harbor can accommodate at one 

Navigational aids in well -developed harbors normally include a lighthouse and channel- 
marking buoys. Huge buoys enable ships to moor in stream whenever suitable berths 
alongside moles, wharves, and piers are unavailable or soft bottoms make free anchorage 
unsafe. Deeply driven pilings called dolphins do likewise. Some basins rely on regulating 
gates, caissons, locks, and pumps to maintain requisite levels. Efficient harbor operations also 
employ various tugboats, ferries, salvage craft, fire-fighting vessels, launches, lighters, pile- 
drivers, dredges, rock breakers, barges and, in cold climes, icebreakers. 


Harbors become seaports only when installations facilitate the transfer of personnel and cargo 
from ships to shore (figure 37). Most wharves (sometimes called quays) built for that purpose 
parallel and abut the harbor's perimeter or nearby islands (such as Ford Island inside Pearl 
Harbor), whereas piers project into the water at various angles and thereby provide berthage 
not only on both sides but at the head as well, given sufficient space. Petroleum tankers 
usually discharge products through submerged pipelines while tethered to deep-water 
terminal buoys. 

The daily capacity of every port depends on ship types, percentages worked at wharfside 
compared with cargoes lightered from transports in stream, ratios of bulk to general cargoes, 
the efficiency of the labor force, and facilities ashore. Wheeled and tracked vehicles embark 
and debark from roll-on roll-off (RQ/RO) ships under their own power while self-sustaining 
merchantmen use on-board booms or cranes to transfer freight, but containerships rely almost 
entirely on heavy hoists ashore. The largest gantry, jib, and cantilever cranes, which move 
on rails along wharves and piers, handle loads that range from 100 to 250 tons or more. 
Forklifts, jitneys, portable conveyers, and other mechanical devices serve stevedores. Transit 
sheds, warehouses, refrigerators, storage tanks, bunkers, and open stacking spaces stash 
consignments until they clear port by road, rail, inland waterways, or pipelines. 



Figure 36. Typical Naval Port Facilities 



Figure 37. Wharf and Pier Configurations 

1. Quay 

4. Right-angle pier for one 
freighter and one lighter 
on each side 


7. Acute-angle pier for two 
freighters on each side 

2. Square pier 

5. Acute-angle pier for one 
freighter on each side 

3. Right-angle pier for one 
freighter on each side 


6. Right-angle pier for two 
freighters on each side 

8. T-type marginal wharf for 
freighter on outside face and 
lighters on inside face 


9. U-type marginal wharf 


Imaginative (sometimes makeshift) operations are unavoidable when no convenient seaport 
is available, terminals lack modern amenities, or facilities are badly damaged. Such 
conditions are common in underdeveloped coastal countries and during wars. 

Cold War Competition. U.S. military sealift during the Cold War was poorly prepared 
to compete with the Soviet Union and its surrogates, because the shrinking U.S. Merchant 
Marine, tailored mainly for commerce rather than military emergencies, emphasized 
profitable albeit inflexible container ships over self-sustaining, break-bulk tramp steamers that 
not only welcomed dry cargo in assorted sizes and shapes but plied much of their trade in 
small ports that afforded few amenities. LSTs, heavy lift helicopters, and time-consuming 
expedients had to help container ships unload weapons, equipment, and supplies for U.S. 



irmed forces in Vietnam. Soviet merchant fleets in contrast featured smaller ships well 
adapted for business in primitive ports plagued by shallow water and skimpy facilities. 40 

Prefabricated Harbor and Port Facilities. The most elaborate logistical operation ever 
attempted over open beaches took place during the Normandy invasion before Allied troops 
captured Cherbourg on the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula. 41 More than 80 ships filled 
with sand were sunk stem-to-stern in 1 2 to 1 5 feet (4 to 5 meters) of water where they formed 
five breakwaters code named Gooseberries, behind which small ships and landing craft could 
unload at low tide. 

Large transports, however, needed better shelters. Two artificial harbors code named 
Mulberries A and B were designed and developed in Great Britain, towed across the English 
Channel by seagoing tugs, then installed off Omaha Beach at Vierville-sur-Mer and at 
Arromanches-les-Bains off Gold Beach 10 miles farther east. Each consisted of 50-some 
hollow concrete building blocks called Phoenixes, most of which measured 200 x 60 x 60 
feet (61 x 1 8 x 1 8 meters). Floating breakwaters, pierheads, and causeways that rose and fell 
with each tide completed the complex with gratifying results: 74,000 troops, 1 0,000 vehicles, 
and 1 7,000 tons of supplies funneled inland during the first week. 

Prospects for improvement were salutary until the worst storm in 40 years struck on June 
19, 1944. Winds whipped in at 40 knots (stronger in gusts), waves washed over the 
Gooseberries, and spring tides amplified pounding surfs. Mulberry A was an irreparable 
wreck when calmer weather returned 4 days later, but that short-lived project nevertheless 
paid off handsomely during early days when rapid buildups were imperative. 

Logistical benefits after Cherbourg fell into U.S. hands on July 26, 1944, initially were 
scant, because German defenders methodically destroyed most port facilities before they 
surrendered. Sea water poured through craters in the western breakwater; sunken ships and 
20,000 cubic yards of masonry blocked basins; and quay walls and cranes were demolished 
or damaged so severely that Hitler awarded the Knight's Cross to Admiral Hennecke, whose 
forces conducted the demolitions. Rehabilitation, however, progressed so swiftly that 
Cherbourg within 4 weeks was handling more heavy freight than during its palmiest days in 
peacetime. More than one-fourth of all Allied cargo landed in Normandy passed through that 
port before over-the-beach operations ceased in November. 

Practical Improvements. Visionaries in search of cost-effective ways to establish artificial 
port facilities expeditiously in out-of-the-way places have investigated an alphabet soup of 
candidates that variously included Logistics Over the Shore (LOTS) and a Ship-Helicopter 
Extended Delivery System (SHEDS). Recent proposals such as Mobile Offshore Bases (MOBs) 
and Landing Ship Quay/Causeways (LSQ/C) are much more ambitious, but nevertheless seem 
promising. 42 

LSQ/C concepts envision a large ship, likely a converted tanker, that would ballast down 
to rest on the ocean floor in water 40 to 50 feet deep (1 2 to 1 5 meters). Designers predict that 
engineers could connect each such quay with 3,000 feet of double-decked causeway (91 5 
meters) in less than 72 hours, even if buffeted by 25-knot winds and 1 2-foot waves (sea state 
5). Programmed capabilities would permit two container ships, break-bulk transports, or 
RO/ROs to moor alongside and simultaneously discharge cargoes for further conveyance 
ashore, while pumps and flexible pipelines would transfer petroleum and potable water. 
MOBs, which would function as floating logistical bases, contemplate six semisubmersible 



modules apiece, each of which could, if developed, furnish more than 2.7 million usable 
square feet of environmentally controlled storage space (250,000 centares) for use as follows: 

Options Dry Cargo 

Liquid Cargo 

A 1 1 5,000 short tons 
B 145, 000 short tons 
C 1 64,000 short tons 

26,000,000 gallons 
20,000,000 gallons 
14,600,000 gallons 

Proponents praise MOBs for potential capabilities that outstrip competitive proposals, 
while skeptics point out flaws. Whether mechanisms that link such massive structures could 
tolerate hurricane-force shearing strains is subject to speculation. Temporary decoupling 
might suffice in such situations, but total program costs could be prohibitive at $2 to $3 
billion per copy in 1 996 dollars, because several Mobile Offshore Bases would be needed 
to cover widely separated contingencies. MOBs moving at the advertised rate of 8 to 1 
knots might arrive too late to be useful if positioned far from erupting crises. 


Military lines of communication to and from space start and end with spaceports that are 
located exclusively on Earth at this moment, but almost certainly will appear on the moon 
and the nearest planets at unpredictable future dates. Such installations and flight paths that 
connect them must satisfy operational demands that differ significantly in several respects 
from civilian requirements. 


Civilian spaceports able to launch and retrieve passenger and cargo flights with the same 
regularity and degree of confidence that commercial airlines currently enjoy would be 
praiseworthy indeed, whereas military spaceports additionally must be able to perform all 
assigned missions competently in combat. Requirements ideally include fixed-site control 
centers, mobile command posts, redundant communication facilities, and secure logistical 

Military space officials in the Soviet Union had physical security firmly in mind when they 
located key infrastructure in remote regions at the height of the Cold War: armed forces and 
fortifications between the Baltic and Barents Seas protected Plesetsk; neither Tyuratam nor 
Kapustin Yar was near a large city or unfriendly frontier; and all three installations were safe 
from long-range missile attacks unless a general nuclear war erupted (map 29). Senior U.S. 
officials in contrast had peacetime safety measures rather than wartime survivability in mind 
when they located space launch sites close to coasts at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Wallops 
Island, Virginia, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, so that unsuccessful flights would 
fall harmlessly into the ocean. All consequently were, and still are, vulnerable to short-range 
sea-launched missiles and saboteurs who inhabit urban sanctuaries. The U.S. military space 
control center at Sunnyvale, California not only sits on a seashore, but straddles the San 
Andreas Fault, a potential earthquake epicenter/ 



Map 29. U.S. and Soviet Space Launch Sites and Control Centers 

-- Co ado Springs 

/ ~~ T- 4 j 



500 1 000 1 500 2000 Kilometers 




Objects in our Universe all orbit around the Earth, its moon, other planets, the sun, or stars, 
which makes military flight paths in space just as predictable as the routes that roads and 
railways follow. Accurate antisatellite weapons (ASATs) consequently could imperil strategic 
warning, reconnaissance, surveillance, communications, weather, navigation, and logistical 
satellites on their appointed rounds (map 30) until effective countermeasures such as 
maneuverable spacecraft and counter-ASAT defenses become available. 44 


Navigable rivers, canals, lakes, inland seas, and intracoastal connections make militarily 
useful LOCs where other lines of communication are lacking or less economical. Inland 
waterways also supplement or supplant roads, tracks, and trails in densely forested or 
swampy regions where air landing zones are scarce. Logisticians who load bulk 
consignments onto boats and barges can reserve faster modes of transportation for high- 
priority shipments. 


Data needed to evaluate inland waterways in many respects are much like those related to 
roads and railways. Common concerns include distances between selected points, horizontal 
and overhead clearances, obstacles, and the numbers, types, and capacities of locally 
available conveyances together with mechanical handling, storage, repair, and maintenance 
facilities. Considerations such as channel widths, controlling depths, freezing dates, 
navigational aids, wharfage, and dredging demands parallel those associated with seaports. 
Several informational requirements, however, are unique: 

Current directions, fluctuations in speed, and tendencies of channels to shift 

The condition of banks and bottoms 

The location and influence of rapids and waterfalls, plus portage possibilities 

The frequency, duration, and effects of floods and low water levels 

The presence or absence and influence of levees 

The location, description, restrictive effects, and vulnerability of locks, dams, safety 
gates, and ferry crossings 
The availability of bargemen and lock tenders. 


Intratheater watercourses serve military purposes to great advantage, provided they are easily 
accessible, mainly navigable, reasonably dense, and oriented in required directions. Webs 
such as those that crisscross Western Europe and the Mekong Delta have played prominent 
roles in the relatively recent past. Inland waterways, however, are no more immune to 
natural and manmade impediments than other lines of communication. Freeze-ups 
seasonally stop traffic in cold climes, floods that follow thaws cause depths to fluctuate, 
rapids and waterfalls bar the way where gradients are steep, and newly-deposited sandbars 
menace navigation in slowly meandering streams. Enemies and "acts of God" may damage 
locks, drain canals, block river channels, and destroy or dismantle facilities. The Kiel, 
Wilhelm, Dortmund-Ems, and other canals built above ground level behind high levees in 


Map 30. Earth Support Satellite Orbits 


Missile Warning (US) 


Missile Warning (Russia) 



Nuclear Burst Detection (US) 


Ocean Surveillance (Russia) 
Electronic Surveillance (Russia) 
Communications (Russia) 

Adapted from "Satellites and Anti-Satellites" by Ashton B. Carter, International Security, Spring 1986. 

Germany oppose cross-country movement by motor vehicles, reduce flat-trajectory fields of 
fire and, if ruptured, would flood adjacent lowlands 

Commanders with resourceful subordinates even so sometimes work miracles along 
unfriendly waterways. Such was the case in autumn 1 944, when General William Slim, on 
the banks of the Chindwin River in Burma, turned to his chief engineer and said, "Billy, 
there's the river and there are the trees. In two months I want five hundred tons of supplies 
a day" down that stream. He got them. Elephants lugged huge teak logs to an improvised 
shipyard where Burmese laborers under British supervision built several hundred "dumb 
barges." They "looked like Noah's arks," but carried 10 tons apiece and three lashed together 
could take a Sherman tank. Marine engines, dismantled and delivered by aircraft, provided 
power, while two pseudo "warships," each armed with one 40-mm Bofors gun, two 20-mm 
Oerlikons, and a couple of .30-caliber twin Browning antiaircraft guns provided protection. 45 


Intertheater canals, unlike intratheater counterparts, tend to be strategically rather than 
tactically significant. One such sluiceway connects the Barents, Baltic, and Black Seas. The 



Panama Canal links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, while the Suez Canal simplifies 
movement from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. 

Barents to Black Sea Connections. Colonel Sir Edward May, in his seminal writings 
entitled Geography in Relation to War, noted that Czarist Russia in the interest of sea power 
"projected the construction of a canal from Riga on the Baltic to Kherson on the Black Sea" 
early in the 20th century. Soviet nuclear-powered submarines built at Gorky seven decades 
later followed that route to Leningrad during warm weather, where they finished fitting out 
and, like destroyers and smaller surface ships, thereafter joined the Northern Fleet by way of 
inland waterways to the Barents Sea. All Soviet naval forces assigned to the Black Sea Fleet 
fed into the Mediterranean through the Turkish Straits (the Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, and 
Dardenelles), save submarines whose passage still is restricted in peacetime by the Montreux 
Convention of 1 936. Russian and Ukrainian surface combatants honor that treaty today. 46 

Panama Canal. The United States is twice blessed by sheltered naval bases on ice-free 
coasts that open onto the world's largest oceans and, in turn, on every continent. The U.S. 
Navy since 1 91 4 has been able to shift forces from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again 
through the Panama Canal to weight whatever effort takes priority. Table 22 illustrates 
time/distance savings that naval ships (excluding large aircraft carriers and supertankers) gain 
by passage through the Panama Canal. Treaties that granted sovereignty to Panama in 1 979 
and will confer operational control in the year 2000 preserve those U.S. prerogatives. 

Suez Canal. The Suez Canal, which opened in 1 869, remained economically beneficial 
to all until 1948, when the Egyptian Government banned ships en route to and from the 
infant state of Israel. The canal has been closed twice since then: first from November 1 956 
until March 1957, because Israeli, British, and French invasions prompted Egyptian President 
Gamal Abdel Nasser to sink ships in the narrow freeway; then from the onset of the Six-Day 
War in June 1 967 until June 1 975, when sunken ships once again choked the channel. 47 

The Suez Canal never recovered economically from those two prolonged closures, which 
prompted petroleum producers to rely increasingly on fast supertankers that took other 
routes, but its strategic importance soared. U.S. Armed Forces and their allies benefited as 
long as the Canal was closed, because Soviet sea lines of communication from Europe to the 
Indian Ocean led all the way around Africa. Competition sharpened considerably after a 
stream of warships flying the hammer and sickle started to use the Suez shortcut in 1 975. The 
U.S. Navy during the 1 990-91 war with Iraq found that watercourse strategically valuable, 
because it reduced distances between the U.S. eastern seaboard and Persian Gulf ports by 
about 3,000 nautical miles (5,560 kilometers) and trimmed merchant ship transit times by 
eight or nine days compared with trips past the Cape of Good Hope. 


Welded steel pipes laid under ground or on the surface are the most expeditious and 
economical way to transport petroleum, natural gas, and water over land. Some lines run 
cross-country, while others follow established routes. The capabilities of petroleum 
pipelines, which generally vary in diameter from 4 to more than 40 inches (10 to 100 
centimeters), are calculated in barrels, metric tons, or cubic meters per day. Conduits 
reserved for crude oil contaminate refined products unless attendants first clean them 
thoroughly, a costly, time-consuming process, but most lines accept gasoline, jet fuel, 


kerosene, and diesel in batches that minimize mixing. Associated facilities include pumps 
for liquids and compressors for natural gas, assorted valves, manifolds, and meters. 

Table 22. Advantages Available from the Panama Canal 

Nautical Miles Total Elapsed Time 

at 20 Knots 

San Diego, CA, 
to the Eastern 

Via Panama Canal 8,875 21 days 

Via Cape Horn 13,850 30 davs 

Time/Distance Saved 4,975 9 days 

Norfolk, VA, to 
Pusan Korea 

9,900 22 days 

Via Panama Canal 14,825 31 days 

Via Cape of Good Hope 4,925 9 days 

Time/Distance Saved 


Most civilian pipelines are unobtrusive, but a few attract strong criticism. Political and ecological 
complaints accompanied by land claims of irate natives could have, but did not, turn violent during 
the construction of giant pipelines on Alaska's North Slope after prospectors discovered extensive 
petroleum deposits at Prudhoe Bay. 48 Pipelines that cross international boundaries may also 
provoke disputes. Iraq, for example, lost three links between oil fields at Kirkuk and the 
outside world beginning in 1 948, when Israel took control of the terminal at Haifa. Syria's 
President Hafez al-Assad eliminated a second outlet at Tripoli, Lebanon, when Saddam 
Hussein went to war with Iran in 1 980 despite Syrian objections. Neither of those lines has 
ever reopened. Turkey turned off the third tap in 1 990 after Iraq seized Kuwait and kept it 
closed until December 1996. 49 


The most innovative military pipeline, aptly dubbed Operation Pluto (Pipeline Under the 
Ocean), delivered petroleum to Allied forces in France after the Normandy invasion. 
Specialists welded 20-foot lengths of 3-inch pipe into 4,000-foot rolls (1,220 meters), then 
wound them on huge hollow bobbins, each of which fully loaded tipped scales at 1,600 tons, 
a weight then equivalent to that of an average destroyer. Three tugboats towed those 
monsters while they payed out four pipes on the sea bottom between the Isle of Wight and 
Cherbourg. Army engineers thus laid pipe hundreds of miles inland as fast as they could to 
reduce strains on already overcommitted truck drivers and overcrowded roads. 50 Petroleum 
pipelines that served similar purposes in NATO Europe during the Cold War as well as in 
Korea, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia during shooting wars seemed simple by comparison. 



The success of most military operations depends on secure LOCs of adequate capacity. 

The nodes along any line of communication are its most vulnerable and inviting 

Plans and programs that underestimate the number of engineer units needed to 
construct, improve, and maintain suitable roads, rail lines, sea ports, space ports, inland 
waterways, and pipelines may seriously jeopardize military operations. 

Extensive air and missile defense forces plus large numbers of ground combat troops 
may be needed to secure LOCs with many weak points and bottlenecks that are vulnerable 
to enemy attack along lengthy routes or at terminals. 

Combat and support aircraft with very short or vertical takeoff and landing (VSTOL, 
VTOL) capabilities would greatly reduce airfield construction requirements and increase 
the number of potentially suitable sites. 

Self-sustaining, break-bulk, shallow-draft transports and RO/ROs afford far greater 
flexibility than container ships wherever available port facilities are poorly developed or 

The world still awaits mobile, prefabricated harbor and port facilities that are practical 
as well as cost-effective. 

The first highly-capable anti-satellite weapon systems will endanger space LOCs until 
scientists and technologists devise effective defenses and maneuverable spacecraft. 


1 . Antoine Henri Jomini discussed interior and exterior lines of communication in The Art of 
War, trans. C. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1862), 91-120. 

2. George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1 947), 93. 

3. Trevor N. Dupuy, Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947-1949 (New York': Harper and 
Row, 1978), 105-111. 

4. FM 5-36: Route Reconnaissance and Classification (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 
March 1985), 2-1 through 2-6, 3-45 through 3-48. 

5. Ibid. 

6. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1 948), 308. 

7. Thomas Macaulay, "Horatius At the Bridge," Lay of Ancient Rome, 1 842. See also a parody 
by William C. Hall, "A Medal for Horatius," Combat Forces Journal (January 1 955). 

8. Ed Cunningham, "The Bridge At Remagen," Yank The Cl Story of the War (New York: 
Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1947), 295-207; The Remagen Bridgehead: 7-17 March 1945 (Fort Knox, 
KY: The Armor School, 1 948). 

9. FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, July 1 990), 2-1 3 and 2-1 4; 
FM 5-36: Route Reconnaissance and Classification, 3-6. 

1 0. FM 5-25: Explosives and Demolitions (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, March 1 996), 
4-46 and 4-47, 4-51 through 4-70 passim; FM 5-36: Route Reconnaissance and Classification, 3-8 
and 3-9, 3-13 through 3-40. 

11. FM 5-36: Route Reconnaissance and Classification, 2-36 through 2-47; FM 5-33: Terrain 
Analysis, 2-15 and 2-16. 

1 2. FM 5-36: 2-22 through 2-26; FM 5-33: 2-1 5. 


13. H. Milton Duesenberg, Alaska Highway Expeditionary Force: A Roadbuilder's Story (Clear 
Lake, IO: H&M Industries Ltd., 1994); Kenneth Coates and William R. Morrison, The Alaska Highway 
in World War II (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992). 

1 4. Frank N. Schubert, "U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Afghanistan's Highways 1 960-1 967," 
Journal of Construction Engineering and Management (September 1 991 ): 445-459. 

1 5. Tan Pei-Ying, The Building of the Burma Road (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1 945), 37-38. 69, 
97-1 04. See also Leslie Anders, The Ledo Road: General Joseph W. Stilwell's Highway to China 
(Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965). 

1 6. Pei-Ying, The Building of the Burma Road, 1 05-1 27, and Leo T. Daugherty III, "interservice 
and Interallied Cooperation in China-Burma-India," Joint Force Quarterly, no. 12 (Summer 1996): 

1 7. David R. Mets, The Quest for a Surgical Strike (Eglin Air Force Base, FL: Air Force Systems 
ommand Monograph, Armament Division, 1987); Eliot Cohen, "A Bad Rap Against High Tech: The 
AO's Misguided Missile Against Gulf War Weaponry," Washington Post, July 1 9,1 996, 1 5. 
18. FM 5-25: Explosives and Demolitions. 
1 9. Edward Mead Earl, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought From Machiavelli to 
Hitler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1943), 148-152, 177; Trevor N. Dupuy, A Genius 
for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 
1977), 66. 

20. George Edgar Turner, Victory Rode the Rails: The Strategic, Place of Railroads in the Civil War 
(Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953); Thomas Weber, The Northern Railroads in the Civil War, 
1861-1865 (New York: Kings Crown Press, 1952). 

21 . "The Great Locomotive Chase: Andrews Raiders," Above and Beyond: A History of the 
Medal of Honor from the Civil War to Vietnam (Boston, MA: Boston Publishing, 1 985), 1 8-21 . 

22. John E. Murray, "Logistics, Limited War," in International Military and Defense Encyclopedia, 
vol. 3 G-L, eds. Trevor N. Dupuy, et al. (Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1993), 1517-1529. 

23. Civil Rail Lines Important to National Defense (Newport News, VA: Military Traffic 
Management Command, Transportation Engineering Agency, December 1993). 

24. FM 30-1 0: Terrain Analysis (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, March 27,1 972), 97-98. 
Superseded by FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis, July 30, 1 990, but contains a better checklist. 

25. Richard C. Overton, "Railroads," Microsoft Encarta 96. 

26. Ibid.; FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis, 2-7 through 2-9. 

27. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, with an intro. by David Maclssac (New York: Garland 
Publishing, 1976), vol. 6, especially 1-3, 50-61, 74-79. 

28. John E. Murray, "Railroaders Tour Soviet Union," Defense Transportation Journal (August 
1987): 20-27; Unconventional Wisdom The Soviet Need for Sea Lines of Communication, 
Memorandum for the Secretary of the Navy (Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of the Navy, 
December 19, 1985). 

29. Michael Dobbs, "Siberians Say 'No' to Stalin's Railroad," Washington Post, October 2, 1 989, 
A1, A22 

30. Jim Lackey, "Airlift's Achilles' Heel," Armed Forces Journal International (July 1 996): 42. 

31. FM 5-430-00-2, Air Force Joint Pamphlet 32-801 3, Planning and Design of Roads, Airfields, 
and Heliports in the Theater of Operations, vol. 2, Airfield and Heliport Design (Washington, DC: 
Dept. of the Army and Dept. of the Air Force, September 1994), 10-9, 1 1-10 and 1 1-1 1, 11-14; FM 
5-36: Route Reconnaissance and Classification, 4-7, 4-8, 4-9 and 4-10. 

32. FM 5-430-00-2: Airfield and Heliport Design, 1 1 -1 4; FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis, 2-30. 

33. FM 5-30: Route Reconnaissance and Classification, 4-9; FM 5-430-00-2: Airfield and Heliport 
Design, 1 1 -7, 1 1 -1 4; FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis, 7-5. 

34. FM 5-430-00-2: Airfield and Heliport Design, 1 0-7 and 1 0-8. 


35. Peter Bogart, "The Soviet Transport Air Force: Aircraft and Capabilities/' International 
Defense Review (June 1979): 945-948; William Schneider, Jr., "Soviet Military Airlift: Key to Rapid 
Power Projection/' Air Force Magazine, March 1 980, 81 -83. 

36. FM 5-430-00-2: Airfield and Heliport Design, 1 0-1 and 10-11. 

37. Virginia Cowles, The Phantom Major (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1958), especially 
196-208; Callum McDonald, The Lost Battle: Crete 1941 (New York: Free Press, 1993), 301. 

38. UK Eagle, April 27, 1962, 1; Bury Free Press, April 21, 1962, 1; amplified by Robert C 
Kingston on December 7, 1 996. 

39. FM 5-33: Terrain Analysis, 2-19 through 2-26. 

40. John D. Chase, "U.S. Merchant Marine for Commerce and Defense," U.S. Naval Institute 
Proceedings (May 1976): 133-134; Richard T. Ackley, "The Soviet Merchant Marine," U.S. Naval 
Institute Proceedings (February 1976): 27-37. 

41 . Cordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, United States Army in World War II: The 
European Theater of Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military 
History, 1951), 73-74, 423-426, 441-442; John M. Collins, Military Geography of the Normandy 
Campaign (Master's thesis, Clark University, Worcester, MA, 1951),120-130. 

42. Landing Ship Quay/Causeway and Mobile Offshore Bases, promotional materials (Houston, 
TX: Brown and Root and associated companies, 1996); Dale Eisman, "By Colly! Pentagon 
Considering a Floating Airport," Virginian Pilot, October 29, 1 996, 1 . 

43. Hans Mark, "Warfare in Space," in America Plans for Space (Washington, DC: National 
Defense University Press, 1 986), 23; Military Space Operations: Shuttle and Computer Systems do 
not Meet Performance Objectives (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, August 1 988), 2-5, 

44. For basic background, see Curtis D. Cochran, Dennis M. Gorman, and Joseph D. Dumoulin, 
eds., Space Handbook (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, January 1985). 

45. Field-Marshal Viscount Slim, Defeat into Victory (New York: David McKay, 1 961 ), 332-333. 

46. Sir Edward S. May, Geography in Relation to War (London: Hugh Rees, 1 907), 53; John M. 
Collins, U.S-Soviet Military Balance, 1960-1980 (Washington, DC: McGraw-Hill, 1980), 244. 

47. Alan B. Mountjoy, "Still Waters of Suez," Geographical Magazine, June 1 971 , 649-54; "Suez 
Canal Key to Soviet Strategy in the Mideast," U.S. News and World Report, June 22, 1 970, 22-24. 

48. Mary Clay Berry, The Alaska Pipeline: The Politics of Oil and Native Land Claims 
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1975). 

49. Helen Chapin Metz, ed., Iraq: A Country Study, 4 th ed. (Washington, DC: Federal Research 
Division, Library of Congress, 1990), 136; "Saddam Turns on Iraq's Oil-Export Pipeline," Washington 
Post, December 11,1 996), A1 8. 

50. Collins, The Military Geography of the Normandy Campaign, 1 30-1 32. 




The thoughts of others 

were light and fleeting 

of lovers' meeting 

or luck and fame 
Mine were of trouble 

and mine were steady 

so I was ready 

when trouble came. 

Alfred Edward Housman 
More Poems, 1 93 6 


because neither rapidly deployable forces that lack staying power nor durable forces that 
arrive late can consistently accomplish assigned missions at conscionable costs. All armed 
forces consequently require home bases where they can hone essential skills while they await 
calls to action. Those with regional or global responsibilities additionally benefit from bases 
and facilities abroad, which buttress deterrence, shorten reaction times when far distant 
contingencies arise, and simplify sustainability. 


The armed forces of every nation need home bases where they can develop, organize, equip, 
train, administer, manage, logistically support, and otherwise prepare to accomplish assigned 
missions, as extensive installations in the United States amply illustrate. All U.S. military 
posts, camps, stations, forts, arsenals, air bases, naval bases, and space centers include living 
quarters, mess halls, and facilities associated with primary functions.' Most of them 
additionally contain commissaries, post/base exchanges, recreational outlets, hospitals, 
clinics, family housing, elementary and secondary schools, together with community services 
typified by child care centers. 

Some installations are small, while others are comparable in size to thriving cities 
populations at 10 different Army bases exceeded 10,000 in 1997 (Fort Hood, Texas, with 
1 30,000, was the largest of the lot). Many reserve huge tracts of land for basic, advanced, 
combined arms, and joint training. Maneuver room at the National Training Center near Fort 
I rwi fir-California, sprawls over 636,000 acres, but that seems insignificant compared with the 
"shooting gallery" at Nellis Air Force Base northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, which covers 
4,700 square miles (12,175 square kilometers), an area only slightly smaller than the State 


of Connecticut, within which aircraft armed with bombs and air-to-surface missiles can test 
new weapon systems and sharpen their skills. 2 

Some installations serve specialized purposes. The manpower intensive U.S. Army, for 
example, emphasizes progressive military education, which originates at the U.S. Military 
Academy in West Point, New York, in the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, 
and with Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) courses at many civilian colleges. Selected 
commissioned officers matriculate at the Command and General Staff College (Fort 
Leavenworth, Kansas) and the Army War College (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania) only after 
they complete basic and advanced courses at one of the following schools: 

Infantry (Fort Benning, GA) 
Armor (Fort Knox, KY) 
Field Artillery (Fort Sill, OK) 
Special Forces (Fort Bragg, NC) 
Air Defense Artillery (Fort Bliss, TX) 
Aviation (Fort Rucker, AL) 
Intelligence (Fort Huachuca, AZ) 

Engineer (Fort Leonard Wood, MO) 

Signal (Fort Gordon, GA) 

Transportation (Fort Eustis, VA) 

Ordnance (Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD) 

Quartermaster (Fort Lee, VA) 

Chemical (Fort McClellan, AL) 

Military Police (Fort McClellan, AL) 

The technology intensive Air Force places great store in experimental facilities typified by 
the Aeronautical Systems Center and Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright- Patterson 
Air Force Base, Ohio; the Air Force Development Test Center at Eglin AFB, Florida; Phillips 
Laboratory and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB on the 
outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and the world famous Air Force Flight Test Center 
at Edwards AFB, California. 

Most major U.S. Navy and Marine Corps bases, unlike those of the Army and Air Force, 
are close to the east and west coasts, where they respectively support the U.S. Atlantic and 
U.S. Pacific Fleets, as shown in the table on the next page. 


No nation, not even the British Empire at its zenith, deployed armed forces at as many 
military installations beyond its borders as the United States of America did during the Cold 
War. They were unusual compared with most bases abroad, being sited on the sovereign 
territory of allies and other friends with whom the U.S. Government negotiated mutually 
acceptable Status of Forces Agreements that legally prescribed U.S. rights, privileges, and 
limitations. All such bases and facilities exploited geographical positions that promoted U.S. 
security interests, affirmed U.S. global involvement, extended U.S. military reach, and 
strengthened U.S. alliance systems. They also positioned U.S. Armed Forces to deter Soviet 
aggression and respond most effectively if required. 

The buildup began in 1 947, after Stalin rang down an Iron Curtain in Central Europe and 
communism everywhere seemed to be on the march. U.S. strategists, in response, concluded 
eight mutual defense pacts with 42 countries by 1 960, plus executive agreements and other 
formal pledges with 30-some others (table 23). Most U.S. military deployments on foreign 




Surface Combatants 


Amphibious, Specwar 
Air Stations 

Marine Corps 
Boot Camps 

Fleet Marine Forces 
Air Stations 

East Coast 

Norfolk, VA 
Mayport, FL 

New London, CT 
Kings Bay, GA 

Little Creek, VA 

Jacksonville, NC 
Pensacola, FL 
Oceana, VA 

Parris Island, NC 
Camp Lejeune, NC 

Cherry Point, NC 
New River, NC 
Beaufort, SC 

West Coast 

San Diego, CA 
Pearl Harbor, HA 

San Diego, CA 
Bangor, WA 

Coronado, CA 

Lemoore, CA 
Miramar, CA 
North Island, CA 

San Diego, CA 
Camp Pendleton, CA 

El Toro, CA 
Tustin, CA 

soil thereafter sought to prevent further expansion by the Soviet Union, its East European 
satellites, Communist China, surrogate states, and "fellow travelers" such as Cuba. 

Nearly 1,700 U.S. installations, large and small, eventually circled the Northern 
Hemisphere in locations selected especially to monitor military activities inside the Soviet 
Union, ensure early warning if Soviet Armed Forces attacked, and block the most likely land, 
sea, and air avenues of Soviet advance. The greatest concentrations consequently crossed 
the Canadian arctic, crested in NATO Europe, and appeared along East Asia's rim. 


The United States and Canada installed a string of warning sites to alert defenders of air and 
intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attacks launched from the Eurasian land mass over 
North Polar paths toward North America. Three overlapping ballistic missile early warning 
system (BMEWS) fans extended 3,000 miles (4,825 kilometers) northward from radar sites in 
Clear, Alaska, Thule, Greenland, and Fylingdales Moor, England (map 31). Their mission was 
to detect, identify, track, compute trajectories, and predict general impact areas for use by 
civil defense officials and retaliatory forces assigned to U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC). 3 
Eighty-one Distant Early Warning (DEW) Stations, draped 4,000 miles (6,435 kilometers) 
along the 70 th Parallel from the Aleutian Islands to the Atlantic Ocean, watched for enemy 
bombers in the early 1960s (map 32). Mid-Canada and Pine Tree Lines, augmented by a 
generous group of gap-filler radars, provided back-ups farther south, but that complex shrank 
considerably as soon as better technologies became available. SAC deployed "short- legged" 
B-47 bombers at Goose Bay, Labrador, and Thule until long-range B-52s obviated that 
requirement, whereupon interceptor aircraft and nuclear-capable Nike Hercules 



Table 23. U.S. Cold War Collective Security Pacts 

Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Pact), 1947 

United States Cuba (Until 1962) Nicaragua 

Argentina Dominican Republic Panama 

Bolivia Ecuador Paraguay 

Brazil El Salvador Peru 

Chile Guatemala Trinidad and Tobago 

Colombia Haiti Uruguay 

Costa Rica Honduras Venezuela 


North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 1 949 

United States Iceland 

Belgium Italy ^mted Kln g dom 

Canada Luxembourg 

Denmark Netherlands Ju rkey (1952) 

France Norway est Germany ,1955) 

Portugal Spam (1982) 

Security Treaty Between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (ANZUS), 1951 

New Zealand 
United States 

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), 1954, dissolved 1977 

United States New Zealand Philippines 

Australia Pakistan Thailand 

France United Kingdom 


Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines (1 951 ) 

Mutual Defense Treaty with South Korea (1953) 

Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation with Japan (I960) 

surface-to-air missiles assigned to North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) 
occupied the latter base. Sondrestrom on Greenland's west coast and Keflavik, Iceland, 
served as air traffic control centers and "stepping stones" for pilots who ferried fighter planes 
across the North Atlantic. Patrol aircraft based at Keflavik Naval Air Station, aided by 
Underwater Sound Surveillance (SOSUS) systems, swept adjacent seas looking for enemy 
surface ships and submarines. 4 


Map 31 . Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) 

Pacific Qcecin 

Miles in United States 
1000 2000 
i I i I 

1000 2000 3000km. 


Norway's North Cape was ideally situated to observe Soviet activities along the ice-free Kola 
coast, which provided home ports for submarines and surface combatants of the Soviet 
Northern Fleet, but neither U.S. nor any other non-nordic NATO forces established 
permanent bases there or anywhere else in Norway, because the Norwegian Government 
forbade them to do so. Prepositioned stocks secured by Norwegians for use by a U.S. Marine 
Amphibious Force in emergency were the only U.S. assets ashore. 5 


NATO's central region throughout the Cold War reached from the border between East and 
West Germany to the British Isles. U.S. and Allied aims during that protracted period, which 
lasted 40 years, were to deter aggression and, if deterrence failed, to defend NATO's territory 
with the fewest possible casualties, the least damage, and the least loss of territory/' 

The Low Countries and the British Isles. Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United 
Kingdom (along with Italy and West Germany) briefly accepted U.S. ground-launched cruise 





Map 32. U.S. Cold War Arctic Outposts 



Map 33. U.S. Cold War Bases in Great Britain 





RAF Lakenhea 
RAF Alconbury 


^^V Airfield 
] Communications facility 

Naval facility 


Channel o 

iiiMiiitiMi ^^^ j ^^^ Hj: ^^^ 



missiles (GLCMs) in the late 1 980s until all were scrapped in accord with the bilateral U.S.- 
Soviet Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty of May 1 988. 7 U.S. military installations in 
the Netherlands otherwise never exceeded a tactical fighter wing at Soesterberg, three Army 
communication sites, a logistical center that supported Headquarters, Allied Forces Central 
Europe (AFCENT), and prepositioned stocks for two U.S. Army divisions. Most U.S. personnel 
in Belgium were associated in some way with the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers 
Europe (SHAPE) after French officials in 1 967 banished the Supreme Allied Commander and 
his staff from Roucancourt, just outside Paris, but U.S. installations in Great Britain were 
diversified as well as numerous, as map 33 indicates. Six bases once housed tactical fighter 
wings, theater airlift aircraft, and tankers for in-flight refueling. Holy Loch, Scotland, was the 
forward operating base for a U.S. nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine squadron, 
together with a tender. U.S. Air Force and Navy communication stations, radio relays, and 
logistical centers speckled the countryside. 8 

France. The French Government on March 7, 1966, declared its intent to regain "full 
sovereignty [over] French Territory in other words, no longer to accept the presence of 
foreign units, installations, or bases in France falling in any respect under the control of 
authorities other than French authorities" and told NATO to comply or leave not later than 
April 1, 1967. 9 NATO's leaders elected eviction, whereupon the exodus code-named 
FRELOC (Fast Relocation) uprooted or resulted in the abandonment of many military 
installations accumulated at great expense over the previous 1 8 years. 

Command and control arrangements were comparatively simple when SHAPE and 
Headquarters, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) were based in Parisian suburbs 15 
minutes apart and lay within easy reach of AFCENT at Fontainbleau as well as Headquarters, 
U.S. Army Communications Zone (COMMZ), in Orleans. Not so after SHAPE displaced to 
Casteau, Belgium, and EUCOM took up residence in Stuttgart, 265 airline miles/425 
kilometers away (maps 34-35). It took months and cost millions for U.S. and NATO 
command posts at every level to transplant a vast array of computers, data processors, and 
information retrieval gear connected by space communication satellites, tropospheric scatter 
stations, microwave networks, radio relays, and countless miles of cable. FRELOC, when 
complete, concentrated terminals, reduced routing alternatives, and thereby increased 
vulnerabilities among communication systems that depended heavily on redundancy to 
survive in wartime. Access to air defense communications in France and to French segments 
of ACE HIGH, Allied Command Europe's secure voice network that stretched from Norway 
to Turkey, was no longer guaranteed, because the French Government professed "no 
automaticity" policies. 10 

U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE) shifted several squadrons from France to Great Britain and 
West Germany shortly after General de Gaulle's 1 959 decision to ban U.S. nuclear weapons 
on French soil, but USAFE even so had to vacate five fully operational bases, plus four on 
standby. The loss of aerial ports at Evreux and Chateauroux disrupted contingency plans to 
airlift armored and mechanized division personnel from the United States to France, where 
they could receive weapons, equipment, and supplies prepositioned at relatively secure 

Belgian, Dutch, and German ports, more easily overrun than counterparts in France, 
replaced logistical lines of communication that previously emanated from Le Havre, 


Cherbourg, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, and Marseille. NATO's Central European Pipeline System 
and the U.S. petroleum pipeline that connected Donges with Melun, Chalons-sur-Marne, and 
Metz continued peacetime operations, but "no automaticity" policies made wartime 
availability questionable. The time required to reoccupy installations if French leaders later 
saw fit varied from 2 to 6 weeks under benign conditions, much longer if armed conflict 
interfered. 11 


Congestion was severe in West Germany after U.S. Armed Forces completed FRELOC. U.S. 
Army Europe (USAREUR), two U.S. corps, five U.S. divisions, three separate brigades, an air 
defense command, three support commands, and Medical Command Europe stood shoulder- 
to-shoulder where Germany's waist was barely 1 50 miles (240 kilometers) wide. USAFE flew 
fighter, tactical reconnaissance, and C 3 missions from six saturated airfields clustered west of 
the Rhine (immense Rhein-Main on the east bank served Military Airlift Command). Main 
supply routes, perilously perpendicular to Warsaw Pact avenues of approach, ran south from 
Bremerhaven to feed COMZ depots in prospective combat zones. 12 


NATO's south flank during the Cold War was a watery domain that stretched from the 
Atlantic Ocean to easternmost Asia Minor, where Turkey touched the Soviet Union. 
Common threats were uncommon, common fronts were infeasible, deterrent postures 
depended primarily on sea and air power, member nations were isolated from the center 
sector as well as from each other, and widely-separated U.S. bases occupied three sub- 
theaters. Installations on the Iberian Peninsula guarded approaches to Gibraltar, those in 
Greece and Turkey guarded the Dardenelles and Aegean Sea, those at midpoint in the 
Mediterranean were positioned to influence actions in either direction (maps 36-38). 1 \. 

U.S. Naval Bases in the Mediterranean. Rota Naval Base, a neighbor of Cadiz, Spain, 
ministered to ballistic missile submarines, three of which reportedly responded to SACEUR, 
the rest to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rota additionally provided an admirable location 
from which to conduct aerial ASW operations for U.S. Sixth Fleet, an occupation it shared 
with counterparts in the Azores (a Portuguese possession) and Sicily. Patrol aircraft, in turn, 
worked hand-in-glove with hunter-killer submarines home-ported in Naples and La 
Maddalena, a small island on Sardinia's shelf. The Souda Bay complex on Crete's 
northwestern coast included a splendid airfield, enough anchorage to accommodate most 
of Sixth Fleet, and a missile range at nearby Namfi which, like the Bardenas Reales Firing 
Range near Zaragosa, Spain, furnished USAFE as well as naval aviators with open spaces for 
air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons training. 

U.S. Air Bases in the Mediterranean. USAFE south of the Alps maintained fewer combat 
bases than the U.S. Navy Torrejon, Spain, Aviano, Italy, and Incerlik, Turkey, were most 
conspicuous but Military Airlift Command (later U.S. Transportation Command) flew 
countless sorties into and out of airfields from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. 
Lajes Air Base in the Azores was a welcome way station between the United States, southern 
Europe, and the Middle East even after in-flight refueling became feasible (500 to 600 


transatlantic flights per month were about average in the 1 970s). Hellenikon Air Base outside 
Athens, which handled intratheater airlift, was much busier, whereas Moron AB, on standby 
in Spain, simply remained ready to receive, stage and, support reinforcements whenever 

U.S. Listening Posts Along NATO's South Flank. Electronic intelligence specialists 
assigned to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its affiliates conducted invaluable 
electronic surveillance activities at San Vito Air Base by Brindisi, Italy, at Iraklion and, 
perhaps most importantly, from listening posts in Turkey, the only NATO member with a 
"window" that overlooked the Soviet Union. Sophisticated equipment at Karamursel 
monitored air and naval traffic around Bulgaria's Black Sea coast and through the Turkish 
Straits, Sinop and Samsun devoted similar attention to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and missile 
testing sites farther north, while intelligence collectors at Diyarbakir in Turkey's interior 
looked toward the Caucasus and Transcaucasus. Sensitive machines at Belbasi Station, a 
seismographic facility on the outskirts of Ankara, felt tremors from all but the smallest Soviet 
nuclear tests above or below ground. 

U.S. Logistical Installations in the Mediterranean. Logistical support for all U.S. Military 
Services throughout the Mediterranean region included nuclear weapon storage sites in Italy, 
Greece, and Turkey, along with well-spaced conventional ammunition dumps, fuel, and 
general supply depots. Communication stations in the Azores, Morocco, Spain, Sicily, Italy, 
Crete, and Greece connected senior U.S. headquarters across NATO's south flank with 
principal subordinates ashore, with Sixth Fleet afloat and, through Defense Communications 
Agency (DCA) channels, with the United States. 


The United States maintained no Cold War military bases in Africa, save two communication 
stations on Morocco's coast. U.S. installations in other Arab lands were limited to berthing 
privileges in Bahrain for a minuscule Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR), which consisted of 
a flagship and two (later four) elderly destroyers. Electronic listening posts in Iran closed 
down in 1980 after Islamic radicals overthrew Muhammad Reza Shah Palavi. U.S. facilities 
in the Indian Ocean and along its fringe were largely confined to satellite tracking stations 
in the Seychelles and at Alice Springs in the center of Australia, which also furnished room 
for a naval communications station on its Northwest Cape. Assets at Diego Garcia, which 
played a prominent role during U.S. and allied efforts to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1990-91, 
were little developed until improvements began in 1980. 1 



The most beneficial U.S. bases east of Suez congregated in the Philippines, Korea, japan, and 
Okinawa. Together, they permitted U.S. Pacific Command to maintain a powerful military 
presence and stabilizing influence west of Pearl Harbor and Guam. 

The Philippine Republic. Cold War bases in the Philippines, which afforded flexibility 
not available to U.S. Armed Forces elsewhere along the rim of East Asia, routinely proved 
logistically useful, especially during the Korean War (1 950-53) and again from 1 965 to 1 972, 
when U.S. military involvement flourished in Vietnam. 15 Philippine installations moreover 
enabled U.S. Seventh Fleet to straddle critical sea lines of communication that connected 
Middle Eastern oil producers with Far Eastern consumers and deploy periodically in the 


Map 34. U.S. Cold War Bases in France 




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Map 35. U.S. Cold War Bases in West Germany 

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Map 36. U.S. Cold War Bases in Iberia 






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10 20 30 Miles 

10 20 30 40 Kilometers 



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Map 37. U.S. Cold War Bases in Italy 


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Milan Verona 


SAN x: Ancona 


Naval facility 
Intelligence facility 
Army complex 

SO 100 Miles 

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Map 38. U.S. Cold War Bases in Greece and Turkey 





Mediierrtineari -: Sea 

Naval facility 
Intelligence facility 

50 100 Miles 

SO 100 Kilometer! 



Indian Ocean despite the absence of permanent base rights anywhere in that huge basin (map 
39). Subic Bay Naval Base and associated facilities 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Manila 
constituted the centerpiece. Port Olongapo, which boasted storage space for 1 1 million 
gallons of petroleum, oil, and lubricants, featured four floating drydocks able to overhaul all 
ships except aircraft carriers. Aprons at Cubi Point Naval Air Station could park a full 
complement of carrier aircraft next to their ship at pierside with room for an equal number 
elsewhere, while the Naval Magazine at Camayan Point stored 3.8 million cubic feet 
(107,400 cubic meters) of ammunition by a wharf that berthed the largest surface 
combatants. The communication station at nearby San Miguel kept U.S. naval forces ashore 
in constant touch with Seventh Fleet while collocated DCS facilities linked Philippine 
installations with the Worldwide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS). Clark 
Air Base, a huge logistical hub that could handle any aircraft in the U.S. inventory, possessed 
immense parking space, POL storage capacities approximately comparable to those of 
Kennedy International Airport in New York City, 34 ammunition igloos, and superlative 
communication links. Aviators of all U.S. Services sharpened their skills under simulated 
combat conditions at Clark's Crow Valley gunnery range. 

Senior U.S. defense officials in the early 1980s seriously began to consider relocation if 
insurgents defeated the Philippine Government and, as promised, ousted U.S Armed Forces. 16 
Concerns about base rights intensified in 1985, when President Ferdinand Marcos himself 
threatened to abrogate base agreements and implied plans to improve relations with the 
Soviet Union. 17 U.S. Armed Forces indeed did depart in 1 991-92, but the Cold War was over 
and the value of Philippine bases concurrently diminished. 

Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea (ROK) contained the only U.S. military bases 
anywhere on the Asian mainland after the Vietnam War wound down and relations with Red 
China improved in the early 1970s (map 40). The U.N. Command and U.S. Eighth Army 
remained in Yongson when the dust settled, while the 2d Infantry Division centered at Camp 
Casey stayed put along the demilitarized zone astride a high-speed avenue from Pyongyang 
into Seoul. An air division headquarters and one composite wing still occupied Osan Air 
Base, a fighter wing flew out of Kunsan, the naval base at Chinhae stood fast, and Taegu 
persisted as the principal U.S. supply depot. Rapid reinforcements since then have been 
limited to air and naval elements in Japan and on Okinawa if North Korea reinvaded, 
because the nearest U.S. Army troops elsewhere are in far away Hawaii. 18 

Japan and Okinawa. The Yokosua-Yokohama complex in Tokyo Bay, which served as 
a forward operating base for the Seventh Fleet flagship, two aircraft carriers, and a destroyer 
squadron, was the U.S. Navy's jewel in Japan (map 40). 19 A first-rate labor force manned 
first-class installations that included a naval ammunition magazine, a communications 
station, a supply depot, a hospital, and ship repair shops. No other U.S. base west of Pearl 
Harbor possessed a big enough dry dock to handle nuclear-powered Nimitz class attack 
carriers. Sasebo on Kyushu Island furnished additional logistical, ordnance, and dry docking 

U.S. Forces Japan, Fifth Air Force, and an airlift wing held on at Yokota Air Base, which 
was the "Rhein-Main" of Northeast Asia. Air Force fighters and naval patrol aircraft near 
Honshu's northernmost tip at Misawa conducted reconnaissance, surveillance, electronic 
intelligence, and antisubmarine warfare missions over the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk, the 


Kuril Island chain, Sakhalin, and the coast of Kamchatka. Most of the 1 st Marine Air Wing 
remained at Iwakuni Air Station on the Inland Sea. 

Four Fifth Air Force fighter squadrons were assigned to Okinawa, where (in those days) 
they were politically less sensitive than deployments that periodically caused disruptive 
demonstrations in pacifist Japan, yet within easy reach of potential "hot spots" in the western 
Pacific. Okinawa also housed two-thirds of the 1st Marine Division and the rest of the 1st 
Marine Air Wing, which together stood ready to reinforce South Korea and constituted a "fire 
brigade" that evacuated U.S. noncombatants and selected foreign nationals from Saigon and 
Phnom Penh in April 1 975, retrieved the USS Mayaguez and rescued its crew the very next 
month, and performed assorted "peacetime" missions. 


No permanent U.S. military bases blossomed in Central or South America during the Cold 
War, despite U.S. support for anti-Communist counterinsurgents in several countries, but 
major installations in the Panama Canal Zone included: 

Southern Command at Quarry Heights 

An infantry brigade at Forts Amador, Clayton, Kobbe, and Davis 

Rodman Naval Station 

Howard Air Force Base and Albrook Field 

Marine barracks and communications facilities 

A jungle warfare training center at Fort Sherman. 

Guantanamo Naval Base and two associated airfields (Leeward and McCalla) in 
southeastern Cuba overlooked Caribbean Sea approaches to the Panama Canal, provided 
logistical support for recurring naval exercises in surrounding waters, and prepared to deal 
with contingencies if directed. Installations such as Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Ramey 
Air Force Base, and Fort Buchanan did likewise in Puerto Rico, a self-governing U.S. 
commonwealth. U.S. outposts in British Bermuda and the Bahamas promoted intelligence 
collection, communications, and research programs. 20 


The U.S. Government began to reduce force levels and military infrastructure at home and 
abroad when requirements to contain the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact declined. 21 The 
Department of Defense, in response to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 
1 990, will have closed 97 major domestic bases and many smaller installations by the time 
congressional ly approved recommendations of four commissions have been fully 
implemented. 22 About one-third of all U.S. bases and facilities overseas were scheduled to 
close, curtail activities, or assume standby status as early as 1991. 23 That budget-cutting 
process continues. 

Reduced deterrent, combat, and peacetime involvement capabilities accompanied a 
smaller U.S military establishment and lower costs. Fewer U.S. crisis response forces were 
located near far distant contingencies by the late 1 990s; dependence on long-haul airlift and 
sealift increased commensurately; naval forces relied more extensively on underway 


Map 39. U.S. Cold War Bases in the Philippines 


^T^ Airfield 

Naval facility 
Communications facility 

50 100 150 Miles 



Map 40. U.S. Cold War Bases in Japan and Korea 









Naval facility 

Army Command 


Supply depot 

100 200 300 Miles 



replenishment ships; air forces leaned more heavily on tankers for in-flight refueling; and 
fewer convenient locations for prepositioned stocks ashore multiplied requirements for 
additional storage afloat. The wear and tear on overworked forces was considerable. 


The armed forces of every nation need home bases where they can prepare to perform 
assigned roles and missions most effectively. 

Modern armed forces require huge tracts of land to test weapon systems and train 
under realistic conditions. 

Bases abroad not only buttress deterrence and help cement relations with allies in 
peacetime but reduce reaction times when far distant contingencies occur. 

Bases and facilities abroad are most reliable when the national interests, objectives, 
and policies of host countries and tenants are compatible. 

Decreased military capabilities accompany monetary savings that accrue from base 
closings at home and abroad. 


1 . Guide to Military Installations in the U.S.: A Reference to the Top 220 Bases, Posts and 
Stations, Army Times, Navy Times, and Air Force Times, November 4, 1 996, with maps on 4-5, 32- 
33, and 72-73; Defense 97 Almanac (Washington, DC: Dept. of Defense, 1997); both documents 
updated periodically. William R. Evinger, ed., Director of U.S. Military Bases Worldwide, 2 d ed. 
(Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press,! 995). 

2. DOD officials furnished acreage figures from Annual Summary of Operations (The Red 
Book), vol. 3, Installations Performance, FY 1995 (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Directorate 
of Public Works, 1996), and United States Air Force Property Totals by State -and Country 
(Washington, DC: Air Force Real Estate Agency, September 30, 1995). 

3 . Congress, Senate, United States Foreign Policy Objectives and Overseas Military Installations, 
prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations by the Foreign Affairs and National Defense 
Division, 96 th Congress, 1 st sess., April 1 979, 16-21. 

4. Ibid. 

5. See, for example, John C. Scharfen, "Cold Weather Training: The Absolute Necessity," 
Marine Corps Gazette, February 1 981 , 34-41 . 

6. NATO Facts and Figures (Brussels, Belgium: NATO Information Service, revised and updated 
annually). See the 1979 edition. 

7. Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci, Annual Report to Congress on the Amended FY 
1988/FY 1989 Biennial Budget (Washington, DC: Government Printing Off ice, February 1 8, 1988), 

8. For U.S. Cold War bases in. Britain, Holland, and Belgium, see Congress, Senate, United 
States . . . Military Installations Overseas, 28-35. 

9. The French memorandum of March 11,1 966, and associated correspondence are 
reproduced verbatim as appendices in Kenneth Hunt, NATO Without France: The Military 
Implications, Adelphi Paper 32 (London: Institute for Strategic Studies, December 1 966). See also 


1 0. Ibid., 1 3-1 7; Cordon A. Moon II, "Invasion in Reverse," Army (February 1 967): 24-30 and 
"Uncertain Future," Army 1 7, no. 3 (March 1967): 38-42; David S. Yost, France and Conventional 
Defense in Central Europe, EAI Paper 7 (Marina del Rey, CA: European American Institute for Security 
Research, Spring 1984), 53-76. 

1 1 . David S. Yost, France and Conventional Defense in Central Europe, 61 -63, 69-73, 75-76. 

12. For U.S. Cold War bases in Germany, see Congress, Senate, United States . . . Military 
Installations Overseas, 36-44. 

13. For U.S. Cold War bases in the Azores, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey , see ibid., 44-70. 
Also Congress, House, Greece and Turkey: Some Military Implications Related to NATO and the 
Middle East, prepared for the Special Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Foreign 
Affairs by the Congressional Research Service, 94 th Congress, 1 st sess., February 28, 1 975. 

1 4. For U.S. Cold War bases in the Middle East and Indian Ocean, see Congress, Senate, United 
States . . . Military Installations Overseas, 71-121 ; Congress, House, Means of Measuring Naval Power 
With Special Reference to U.S. and Soviet Activities in the Indian Ocean, Subcommittee on the Near 
East and South Asia of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, 93 d Congress, 2 d sess., May 1 2, 1 974, 1 0- 

15. For U.S. Cold War bases in the Philippines, see Congress, Senate, United States . . . Military 
Installations Overseas, 1 34-1 64; Subic Bay and Cubi Point facilities are described in CINCPAC Fleet 
Port Directory, prepared by the Fleet Intelligence Center (FICPAC), vol. 5, September 26, 1 977, E4-1 
through E4-9. 

1 6. Lawrence E. Grinter, The Philippine Bases: Continuing Utility in a Changing Strategic Context 
(Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1980); The Key Role of U.S. Bases in the 
Philippines (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation, January 10, 1984). 

1 7. Richard J. Kessler, "Marcos and the Americans," Foreign Policy 63 (Summer 1 986): 40-57. 

18. For U.S. Cold War bases in Korea, see Congress, Senate, United States . . . Military 
Installations Overseas, 1 72, 1 76. 

19. For U.S. Cold War bases in Japan and Okinawa, see ibid., 165-194; Yokosuka and 
Yokohama facilities are described in CINCPAC Fleet Port Directory, A1 4-1 through A1 4-6. See also 
Navy Drydock Requirements Study, Naval Sea Systems Command, September 1 977, 23-24. 

20. For U.S. Cold War bases in Latin America, see Congress, Senate, United States . . . Military 
Installations Overseas, 

21 . Differing views concerning base closures are contained in Stephen M. Goldfein, "The Base 
Realignment and Closure Commission: A Successful Strategy to Overcome Political Gridlock," 
unpublished student essay (Washington, DC: National War College, 1995), and Ronald P. 
Richardson, "Bureaucratic Politics and the Defense Budget: The Formation of the 1988 Base 
Realignment and Closure Commission," unpublished student essay (Washington, DC: National War 
College, 1995). 

22. Defense Almanac 96, no. 5 (Washington, DC: Dept. of Defense, 1996). 

23. Pete Williams, Pentagon Briefing, July 30,1991 (Washington, DC: News Transcripts, Inc.); 
Peter Grier, "The Flags Come Home," Air Force (October 1 991): 32-35. 



[Eban Emael] served as the southern anchor of the Albert Canal Line, and . . . ranked among 
the most important single defensive positions in Europe. . . . Ten minutes after the [German 
glider] landings, all installations and guns on top of the fort were wrecked. 

John R. Calvin 
Air Assault 


Hitler launched a large-scale offensive on May 1 0, 1 940. 1 That bastion quickly succumbed 
to a small-scale glider assault because its architects, contrary to good advice from Carl von 
Clausewitz in his opus, On War, failed to incorporate credible active with passive defenses, 
failed to "present a front on every side" (of which there have been five instead of four since 
the advent of air power), and above all failed to "recognize the fact that the enemy, in 
avoiding the unconquerable parts, will alter the whole pattern of his attack/' 2 Future 
designers of forts and field fortifications would do well to heed those wise words. 


The earliest earthen fortifications predate written human history, which notes a massive wall, 
a deep ditch, and adjoining tower at Jericho circa 7000 B.C. 3 Concepts and construction 
techniques thereafter evolved from simple to complex over several millenia that saw 
reinforced steel and concrete replace wood, brick, and stone blocks as preferred materials. 
Legendary Crusader castles, built to protect Christian outposts from Saracens in the Holy 
Land, typify fortified points. Hadrian's Wall in ancient Britannia and the Great Wall of China, 
both of which were buffers between "civilized" communities and barbarians, exemplify 
fortified lines. 4 The utility of those relics now is nearly nil, and siegecraft patterned after 
Vauban is no longer popular, 5 but well-designed forts and field fortifications likely will 
remain useful in the 21st century, whether they are simply hardened shells or defenses in 
great depth. 



Impromptu strong points may be as basic as foxholes dug with D-handle shovels or buildings 
embellished by sand bags, razor wire, land mines, and flares, whereas elaborate counterparts 
commonly include ramparts, casemates, carapaces (like turtle shells), and revetments 
constructed of iron, steel, concrete, stone slabs, and bricks. Armed forces benefit from both. 6 


Famous points fortified extemporaneously include the Alamo in San Antonio, TX, where 
Colonel William Barrett Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and 1 85 other men on March 6, 
1 836, fought to the death against onslaughts by a force that numbered about 4,000 under 
Mexican General Santa Anna. Actions at Rorke's Drift on the Buffalo River in Natal had a 
happier ending for defenders 1 1 heroes received Victoria Crosses after fewer than 100 
able-bodied men led by British Lieutenants John Chard and Gonville Bromhead converted 
Otto Witt's mission station into a makeshift fort, then held off 4,000 of King Cetshwayo's 
fearsome Zulu warriors during the long, bloody night of January 22-23,18797 

Rubble heaps that result from aerial bombardments, artillery barrages, and house-to-house 
combat in urban areas unintentionally furnish defenders with ready-made fortresses. Clever 
improvisations on countless occasions have converted partially destroyed cities into 
impromptu strong points, of which Leningrad, Stalingrad, Manila, Seoul, and Hue were 
among the most widely publicized. 


Early U.S. armed forces and pioneers, who were masters at improvisation, built relatively 
elaborate military forts and palisaded civilian settlements to protect themselves and their 
property as they marched from east to west and coast to coast across America. 8 National 
leaders elsewhere did likewise to defend against invaders. 

Coastal Fortifications. Coastal defenses reached their zenith during the T9th century, 
when casemated artillery batteries guarded port cities and other key terrain features against 
onslaughts from the sea. The Star Spangled Banner still waved over Fort McHenry after a 
British fleet failed to land redcoats in Baltimore harbor on the night of 25-26 August 1814 
and the U.S. Civil War opened at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, 47 years later (August 1 861). 
Coastal fortifications around the world continue to serve useful purposes under favorable 
circumstances, but their Golden Age closed with the advent of offensive firepower that makes 
new construction seem cost- in effective. 9 

Fortified Islands. Small islands make admirable fortified points, as ingenious Japanese 
armed forces demonstrated on every island they intended to hold in the Western Pacific 
during World War II, whether the terrain was flat and open or highlands honeycombed with 
caves. Withering fire met U.S. Marines on tiny Betio Island (Tarawa atoll), where underwater 
obstacles and mines barred the way to beaches. Shorelines there bristled with more than 500 
interconnected blockhouses, bunkers, pillboxes, and breastworks encased in concrete 
reinforced with steel rods and splinter-proof coconut logs, then covered with up to 10 feet 
(3 meters) of sand or crushed coral, an amalgam that was practically impervious to pounding 


by carrier-based aircraft and big naval guns. Bloody fighting that ensued at point-blank range, 
much of it with satchel charges and flamethrowers, was replicated on Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo 
Jima, Okinawa, and other islands, each of which was a fortress in every sense of the word. 10 

Solitary Forts Inland. Solitary forts located inland became increasingly sophisticated after 
two German "Big Bertha" (16-inch, 42-centimeter) howitzers demolished Belgian redoubts 
around Liege during a 4-day bombardment in August 1 91 4. The most formidable, however, 
lacked mutually supporting fields of fire, could neither be reinforced nor resupplied if 
surrounded, and were vulnerable to vertical envelopment, as defenders at Eben Emael 
discovered. The last large-scale construction commenced before World War II. 11 

Earthen Labyrinths. No nation or subnational group has ever created earthen labyrinths 
as elaborate as those that Viet Cong guerrillas constructed in South Vietnam for use as 
headquarters, hideouts, air raid shelters, storehouses, dormitories, kitchens, classrooms, arms 
factories, hospital operating rooms, recovery wards, theaters, and rest centers. Construction, 
begun in the 1 940s at the onset of serious Indochinese uprisings against French rule, took 
advantage of laterite soils which were almost impervious to water and very hard, especially 
where taproots near the surface strengthened tunnel ceilings like steel reinforces concrete. 
Embellishments, all dug by hand a few feet per day, continued during the next three decades 
until multilevel mazes north of Saigon featured concealed entrances and exits, chambers, 
galleries, bunkers, air shafts, crude elevators, and wells that were interconnected by twisty- 
turny passageways replete with false leads, dead ends, and secret trap doors designed to repel 
chemical warfare agents and reduce the range of underground blasts. 12 

U.S. intruders, called "tunnel rats," all volunteers armed mainly with pistols and knives, 
ventured into those claustrophobic confines where they battled with ingenious foes, 
poisonous snakes, scorpions, giant spiders, and bats in booby-trapped darkness that 
flashlights barely illuminated. Their searches uncovered huge caches of hand grenades, 
automatic weapons, ammunition, and rice, while Rome Plow bulldozers stripped vegetative 
cover overhead, demolition specialists sent shock waves down corridors, and riot control 
agents polluted crawl spaces. Tunnel warfare nevertheless continued apace for 5 years until 
carpet-bombing B-52s finally collapsed most installations shortly before U.S. Armed Forces 
departed. 13 

Fortified Areas. Fortifications that sprawl many miles in every direction, like point 
defenses just discussed, may be simple or complex. The German Wehrmacht, whose winter 
offensive of 1942-1943 left nearly a million Soviet troops inside a massive salient west of 
Kursk, encountered what may have been the most awesome array of field fortifications ever 
built when they launched Operation Zitadelle on July 4th to cut off that bulge at its base. The 
Red Army's principal works, about 1 2 miles (2Q kilometers) wide, consisted of two fortified 
zones, each of which contained three successive positions buttressed by trenches (aggregate 
length about 1,250 miles or 6,000 kilometers), antitank ditches, pillboxes, bunkers, barbed 
wire entanglements, and 1,000,000 mines, all on terrain laced with water-filled ditches. 
Additional obstacles behind the two main lines of resistance blocked avenues most 
vulnerable to breakthroughs. German drives soon stalled, Soviet forces counterattacked on 
July 1 2th, and most divisions trapped inside the salient lived to fight another day, despite 
stupendous casualties on both sides. 14 



Fortified lines, which incorporate all assets and avoid most shortcomings of isolated forts, 
have been fashionable since Domitian, Trajan, and Hadrian erected walls along the outer 
limits of the Roman Empire in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. 15 Sir Winston Churchill, 
pontificating in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1 946, noted that "from Stettin in the Baltic to 
Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the [European] continent." That 
edifice, built to keep Warsaw Pact citizens from fleeing repressive regimes, was unusual as 
well as ugly, because defense against aggression is the purpose of most fortified fences. 

Many linear fortifications in the latter category have been impressive: Confederate 
diggings around Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, in the 1860s; trenches that lined the 
Western Front in Europe during World War I; the Mannerheim Line along the Russo-Finnish 
frontier in 1 939-1 940; the Gustav and Winter Lines in Italy, 1 943-44; the Mortise Line that 
French Armed Forces built along the Tunisian border in the 1950s to keep support from 
reaching rebels in Algeria; and extensive fortifications that still stand along the Korean 
demilitarized zone immediately come to mind. None, however, rivaled the complex 
structures that France and Germany constructed and occupied with differing degrees of 
success during World War II. 


The Maginot Line, an architectural marvel partly hewn from solid stone, ran 560 miles (900 
kilometers) along the Franco-German frontier from Switzerland to the Ardennes Forest by 
the Belgian border, where it terminated for lack of funds and a high water table in Flanders. 
Large, self-contained works (ouvrages), connected by tunnels and railways, contained fixed 
and retractable cupolas, two-tiered pillboxes, ferro-concrete blockhouses, fireproof armored 
doors, air intakes, exhaust vents, and gas filters near the surface, with living quarters, mess 
halls, magazines, communication centers, and power supplies disposed well below. Barbed 
wire entanglements, mines, and antitank traps completed the complex. Resultant installations, 
in the words of Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, assured "minimum danger and maximum 
comfort," all to little avail: German Blitzkriegs through Belgium and Holland in May 1940 
maneuvered around the Maginot Line without hitting it head on. Some enterprising farmers 
in Alsace-Lorraine later bought a few blockhouses with dark, damp cellars, where they still 
grow mushrooms for grateful French chefs. 16 


The so-called Siegfried Line (Westwall), which shielded Germany's industrial heartlands 
against invasions from the Low Countries, Luxembourg, and France, was less ambitious but, 
unlike the Maginot Line, necessitated frontal attacks because it was much harder to outflank. 
Row after seemingly endless row of fearsome Dragon's Teeth with minefields for fillings 
dared U.S. tank commanders to trespass. Two fortified belts rather than one, together with 
natural obstacles such as the Rhine, Roer, and Kyll Rivers, afforded depth in front of the Ruhr 
and Saar-Palatinate. Serious efforts to penetrate ceased for several months after U.S. Armed 
Forces in hot pursuit punched one sizable hole in October, 1 944, then literally ran out of gas. 
Tremendous concentrations of power on narrow fronts tore through the following March, but 
not before slugging matches spilled barrels of blood on both sides "Bitche was a bitch" was 


the way one trooper put it after breaching stubborn defenses around that Alsatian 
stronghold. 17 


An impregnable wall along the Atlantic coast from northern Norway to the Pyrenees 
Mountains was a figment of Hitler's imagination, but the segment between Calais and 
Cherbourg, France, was indeed a troublesome stretch after Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took 
charge in November 1 943. "Believe me, Lang," he told his aide, "the war will be won or lost 
on the beaches. We'll have only one chance to stop the enemy, and that's while he's in the 
water . . . struggling to get ashore." 18 

Improvements proceeded at a feverish pace while half a million laborers poured so much 
concrete that little was left elsewhere in Western Europe. Flat-faced structures took 
precedence over curved surfaces to save time. They used steel sparingly, since it was in short 
supply, but builders cannibalized parts of the Maginot Line to compensate. More than 9,000 
strong points appeared, some with walls up to1 2 feet thick (3.6 meters). Rommel personally 
designed medieval-like obstacles and emplaced half a million astride high water marks before 
D-Day: concrete tetrahedrons, Czech hedgehogs that consisted of three railway rails set in 
concrete at right angles, and telephone pole-sized stakes pointed seaward, some capped with 
land mines or tipped with "can opener" blades to rip the bottoms off landing craft. Other 
mines by the millions covered beach exits, anti-airborne "Rommel asparagus" stakes strung 
together with trip wires discouraged glider landings in open fields, and deliberately flooded 
lowlands impeded movement from landing sites inland. Most fortified resort hotels and 
summer homes could sweep beaches at point-blank range with overlapping automatic 
weapon and artillery fire. 19 

General Eisenhower, with last-minute misgivings before the D-Day assault, scribbled a 
note to himself that read, "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a 
satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops .... If any blame or fault attaches to 
the attempt, it is mine alone." 20 Allied forces, of course, seized lasting lodgments on June 6, 
1944, at less cost in lives than the most optimistic predictions, despite touch-and-go 
situations in the U.S. sector, where First Army's after-action report recorded 1,465 dead, 
3,1 84 wounded, 1,928 missing, and 26 captured on what became known as "the longest 


Security always has been, and still is, the primary function of fortifications, but tunnels that 
go under rather than over, around, or through enemy positions occasionally appeal to 
devotees of strategically and tactically indirect approaches that take devious paths to achieve 
objectives through surprise. 


Offensive armed forces balked on the surface have long burrowed beneath enemy positions 
to inflict damage, a classical siegecraft technique. Belligerents on the Western Front during 
World War I applied that practice on a scale never duplicated before or since. The biggest 
blast behind or under enemy lines erupted in Belgium between Ypres and Warneton on June 
7, 1 91 7, when Australians and Canadians at 1 1 sites along an 8-mile (1 3-kilometer) stretch 


of Messines Ridge detonated 933,000 pounds of explosives (466 tons), mainly ammonol. No 
official estimate of German casualties ever was released, but 1 0,000 men were missing and 
7,350 were prisoners of war when the battle was over. 21 


Investigators in the Republic of Korea (ROK), alerted by suspicious subterranean explosions, 
found three large tunnels in the mid-1970s and a fourth in 1990, each deeply embedded 
beneath the mountainous demilitarized zone and each large enough to accommodate 
quarter-ton trucks together with enemy troops four abreast. Searches for 1 6 more along that 
155-mile (250-kilometer) demarcation line continued in response to further audible 
rumblings, information derived from sensors, and North Korean defectors. ROK officials all 
the while feared that if war occurred North Korean light infantry, commandos, and other 
special operations forces would pour through, surround Seoul, cut off reinforcements, sever 
supply lines, and form a second front south of the DMZ. Speculators alternatively suggested 
that decisionmakers in Pyongyang might deposit nuclear weapons at mid-point in one or 
more tunnels, detonate them when windborne fallout from subsurface bursts would drift 
south, then launch a full-scale offensive through cracked coalition lines while confusion 
reigned and electromagnetic pulse blacked out U.S. and ROK radio communications as well 
as computers. Eruptions along Messines Ridge would seem minor in comparison/ 



The advent of the Nuclear Age increased the value of subterranean fortifications by some 
orders of magnitude, because the strongest installations on or near the surface simply could 
not survive assaults by accurate weapons with yields measured in kilotons (much less 


Neutrals as well as potential belligerents sought sanctuaries beneath bedrock. Sweden, for 
example, early on created a gigantic cavern with more than 1,000 rooms and tunneled from 
shorelines into mountainsides to shelter its fleet. 23 The United States and the Soviet Union 
installed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in silos, some of which could withstand 
overpressures of 10,000 pounds (4,535 kilograms) per square inch, but super lethal 
weaponry outclassed super hardening. Senior officials of North American Air Defense 
Command (NORAD), ensconced in the bowels of Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado 
Springs, often wondered whether a huge direct hit would vaporize their headquarters despite 
blast-proof doors and several thousand feet of overburden. How well such shelters might 
have worked will never be known, because none ever were tested in combat, but most 
students of nuclear war are skeptical about survival prospects/ 



The Berlin crisis of 1 961 precipitated the first U.S. civil defense shelter program, but only half 
the sites in existing structures ever were marked or stocked with rudimentary survival kits. 
Half of those were located in business districts that were heavily populated only during 
daylight hours and empty on weekends as well as holidays. All save the most avid advocates 


soon lost interest in do-it-yourself family shelters, which were widely advertised in the early 
1 960s, but never became numerous. 25 

Soviet emphases on civil defense conversely were strong throughout the Cold War. 
Urban planners accordingly sought to restrict population densities, develop satellite towns 
around large cities, and create firebreaks. Some contemporary sources cited new production 
facilities, dispersed and hardened. Soviet programs reportedly included actions to replace 
glass with solids; fireproof roofs; reinforce weak structures; and improvise shields for or bury 
selected utility stations, plus power and water conduits. Redundant structures and stockpiles 
were standard procedures. 26 U.S. defense analysts agreed that such plans were imposing on 
paper, but extents to which they were implemented remain debatable. 26 


Chemical and biological warfare (CW, BW) agents that creep into nooks and crannies can 
overcome occupants of citadels able to survive the blast, heat, and radiation that accompany 
high-yield nuclear detonations, unless secure ventilating systems and vapor locks safeguard 
every entry. Surefire protective measures are conceivable, but are costly to install. 


The simplest field fortifications offer significant protection against conventional and 
nuclear weapons. 

The strongest fortifications are buried in solid bedrock with few fractures. 

Amphibious landing forces can bring less military power to bear against small islands 
than ground foces can exert against solitary forts inland. 

Fortified lines are most effective if topographical obstructions make it impossible for 
them to be outflanked. 

Subterranean fortifications can protect inhabitants against all effects of nearby nuclear 
detonations, but few will be able to withstand direct hits by high-yield weapons. 

Fortifications that lack secure ventilating systems and vapor locks are vulnerable to 
chemical and biological warfare attack. 


1 . John R. Calvin, Air Assault: The Development of Airmobile Warfare (New York: Hawthorn 
Books, 1969), 21-28; Rudolf Bohmler and Werner Haupt, The German Paratroops (Dorheim, West 
Germany, and New York: Altmark International, 1971), 37-47. 

2. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, eds. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, 
Nj: Princeton University Press, 1976), 393-414 (quotations and other key points on 397, 407, 414). 

3. Yigal Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, vol. 1 (Norwich, England: larrold and Sons, 
International Publishing, 1963), 32-35. 

4. Surveys that cover prehistory to modern times include Martin H. Brice, Forts and Fortresses 
(New York: Facts on File, 1990); Ian Hogg, The History of Fortification (New York: St. Martin's Press, 

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1 981). See also Dale E. Floyd, Military Fortifications: A Selective Bibliography (New York: Greenwood 
Press, 1992). 

5. Christopher Duffy, 5/ege Warfare: The Fortress in the Early Modem World, 1494-lbM), and 
5/ege Warfare, vol. 2, The Fortress in the Age ofVauban and Frederick the Great, 1bh()-17H9 (Boston, 
MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1 979 and 1 985). 

6. FM 5-15: Field Fortifications (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, June 27, 1972) 
(superseded by FM 5-103: Survivability, June 10, 1985, restricted distribution); Hogg, The History of 
Fortification, 200-207. 

7. Donald R. Morris, The Washing of the Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation (New 
York: Simon and Schuster, 1965), 389-420. For a tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless perceptive 
assessment of lessons learned, see E. D. Swinton, The Defence of Duffer's Drift (Wayne, NJ: Avery 
Publishing, 1986; orginally published in 1907). 

8. Robert B. Roberts, Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneers, and Trading Posts 
of the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1 987). 

9. Brice, forts and Fortifications, 1 34-1 45, and Hogg, The History of Fortification, 1 68-1 81 . 

1 0. Rafael Steinberg, Island Fighting (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 978), 1 04-1 31 , 1 66-1 91 . 
For detailed topographical descriptions, see William Herbert Hobbs, The Fortress Islands of the 
Pacific (Ann Arbor, Ml: J. W. Edwards, 1945). 

1 1 . Hogg, The History of Fortification, 1 90-1 94, 1 96-1 98. 

1 2. Tom Mangold and John Penycate, The Tunnels of Cu Chi (New York: Random House, 1 985). 

13. Ibid. 

1 4. The Value of Field Fortifications in Modern Warfare, prepared for Defense Nuclear Agency 
(Washington, DC: Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO), December 1, 1979), 14, 

1 5 . Brice, Forts and Fortifications, 34-35. 

1 6. Ibid., 1 46-1 47, 1 61 ; Hogg, The History of Fortification, 208-213; Norman Runnison, "For 
Sale: The Maginot Line," Arizona Republic, April 2, 1 967, 1 2B. 

1 7. Charles B. McDonald, "The Siegfried Line Campaign," in The United States Army in World 
War II, The European Theater of Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Office of the Chief 
of Military History, 1963), especially 30-35, 44-47, 56-57, 66-69, 72-75; Franklin M. Davis, Jr., 
Across the Rhine (New York: Time-Life Books, 1980), 22, 25, 28, 73, 76-77; Dwight D. Eisenhower, 
Crusade in Europe (New York: Doubleday, 1 948), 450; Hogg, The History of Fortification, 212-21 4. 

1 8. Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 954), 27. 

1 9. Gordon A. Harrison, "Cross-Channel Attack," in U.S. Army in World War II, The European 
Theater of Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, 
1 951 ), 249-265; ibid., 22-29; Patrice Boussel, D-Day Beaches Pocket Guide, trans. F.M. Watkins 
(Paris: Libraire Polytechnique Beranger, Departement Technique des Presses de la Cite, 1 964), 1 5-20; 
Hogg, The History of Fortification, 228, 236-237. 

20. John Keegan, Six Armies in Normandy (New York: Viking Press, 1982), 66. 

21. Alexander Barrie, War Underground: The Tunnellers of the Great War (London: Tom 
Donovan, 1 961 ). See especially chapter 1 6. 

22. Defense White Paper, 1990, Seoul, Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea, 75-79; 
John M. Collins, Korean Crisis, 1994: Military Geography, Military Balance, Military Options, Report 
No. 94-31 1S (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, April 1 1, 1994), 14. 

23. G. Alison Raymond, "Sweden Digs In," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 80, no. 11 
(November 1954): 1223-1225. 

24. Jonathan E. Medalia, MX, "Midgetman," and Minuteman Missile Programs, Issue Brief 
IB77080 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, archived March 1, 1991), 2-3. 


25. Civil Defense in the Mid-1970s and Beyond (Washington, DC: Defense Civil Preparedness 
Agency, February 14, 1975). 

26. Leon Goure, War Survival in Soviet Strategy (Coral Cables, FL: Center for Advanced 
International Studies, University of Miami, 1 976), 131-1 60; Industrial Survival and Recovery after 
Nuclear Attack, A Report to the joint Committee on Defense Production (Seattle, WA: Boeing 
Aerospace, November 1 8, 1 976). 



PART THRttt ' : " 


Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. 
No one is entitled to his own facts. 

James R. Schlesinger 
Testimony before Congress, 1 973 


whether they are entitled to or not. Spokesmen for each Armed Service, who advise chiefs 
of state, foreign ministers, and senior defense officials, commonly possess dissimilar views 
concerning political-military problems and corrective actions, because they operate in 
distinctive geographic mediums and genuflect before different geopolitical gurus who 
variously advocate land, sea, air, or space power. Many (not all) members of each service 
are firmly convinced that their convictions are correct and believe competing opinions are 
flawed. The dominant school of thought in any country or long-standing coalition (such as 
NATO and the now defunct Warsaw Pact) consequently exerts profound effects on military 
roles, missions, strategies, tactics, plans, programs, and force postures. 


Warfare was confined largely to conflicts on land, the natural habitat of all human beings, 
until about 700 B.C., when Phoenician strategists introduced ships designed explicitly for 
combat at sea. Persian armed forces initiated major amphibious operations at Marathon in 
490 B.C. and a decade later engaged a Greek fleet at Salamis in the first large-scale naval 
battle. 1 Land and sea thereafter remained the only military arenas until the 20th century, 


when air forces, then military operations in space, added third and fourth dimensions that 
generate ceaseless interservice jockeying to consolidate or expand geographical jurisdictions. 
The four thumbnail sketches that follow illustrate fundamental philosophical differences. 


Army generals, who revere the Clausewitzian treatise On War, 2 subdivide continents into 
theaters, areas of operation, and zones of action within which terrain features limit 
deployments, schemes of maneuver, weapon effectiveness, and logistical support. Ground 
forces engaged in conventional combat are loath to lose contact with adversaries until they 
emerge victorious and, if necessary, impose political-military control by occupying hostile 
territory. Armies once were self-sufficient, but dependence on aerial firepower currently is 
pronounced and, unless circumstances allow them to move overland, they can neither reach 
distant objective areas nor sustain themselves after arrival without adequate airlift and sealift. 
Senior army officials consequently tend to favor command structures and relationships that 
assure essential interservice support whenever and wherever required. 3 

Terracentric advocates of land power trace their roots to Friedrich Ratzel who, in 1 897, 
for the first time formally correlated continental land masses with political-military power. 
James Fairgrieve, Karl Haushofer (who made Lebensraum a household word in Nazi 
Germany), and Nicholas J. Spykman were subsequently prominent, 4 but none attracted 
greater international attention than Sir Halford J. MacKinder, whose 1 904 study entitled, 'The 
Geographical Pivot of History/' assigned prime importance to central Eurasia which, because 
it coupled splendid isolation with vast space and resources, seemed to comprise a defensible 
base from which to project decisive power. MacKinder in 1 91 9 added a good deal of Eastern 
Europe to the Pivot Area, designated it as the Heartland, recognized the rest of Eurasia as an 
Inner or Marginal Crescent (sometimes called the Rimland), and conceived an Outer or 
Insular Crescent that included Africa south of the Sahara, Australia, Britain, Japan, large 
archipelagos like Indonesia, and the Americas (map 41). Europe, Asia, and Africa became 
the World-Island, at which point he postulated: 

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland. 
Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island. 
Who rules the World-Island commands the world. 5 


Free-wheeling marecentric forces, unlike armies, rely little on joint service cooperation, enjoy 
a global reach channelized only by geographic choke points, and generally determine 
unilaterally whether, where, and when to fight, because they most often are able to make 
or break contact with enemy formations as they see fit. Admirals as a rule accordingly resent 
bureaucratic restrictions on naval freedom of action and defy anybody to draw recognizable 
boundaries across their watery domain, which is a featureless plane except along littorals 
where land and sea meet fa (go-it-alone policies during World War II made Secretary of War 
Henry L. Stimson lament the "dim religious world where Neptune is God, Mahan is his 
prophet, and the U.S. Navy the only true church" 7 ). Topographic obstacles other than 
shallows, islands, and ice are foreign to surface sailors submariners have different 
perspectives but one prominent geographic limitation is inescapable: even navies with 


Map 41 . The World According to Mackinder 
(1904 and 191 9) 



superlative underway replenishment capabilities ultimately are tied to vulnerable bases 
ashore. 6 

The basic naval wartime objective, articulated in the early 1900s by British strategist Sir 
Julian Corbett, "must always be directly or indirectly either to assure command of the sea or 
to prevent the enemy from securing it/' 8 U.S. Navy Captain (later Rear Admiral) Alfred 
Thayer Mahan, in his political-military exposition entitled The Influence of Sea Power Upon 
History, preached that sea control indeed can determine decisions ashore. 9 Blockades were 
the principal instrument when he penned that document in 1 904, but carrier-based aircraft, 
specialized amphibious assault forces, and guided missiles enable modern navies to project 
power far inland. Admiral Mahan additionally predicted that armed forces positioned around 
Eurasia could contain land power emanating from MacKinder's Heartland, a postulation that 
the United States and its allies put to good use first during World War II, then during their 
prolonged Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union and its associates (map 42). 10 


Land-based air forces operate in a medium that surface navies might envy, where there are 
three dimensions rather than two, no choke points, no topographic impediments, and 
visibility to far distant horizons, being less limited by Earth's curvature, is restricted only by 
clouds except in mountainous terrain. Global reach is truly obtainable, given secure airfields, 
secure launch pads for long-range missiles, and essential logistical support from other 
services. Small wonder, therefore, that aerocentric generals (like admirals) prefer the greatest 
possible autonomy and are leery of boundaries that limit flexibility because, in the main, they 
believe that unfettered air power could be the decisive military instrument and make 
protracted wars obsolete. All services attach top priority to air superiority, without which 
most combat missions ashore or afloat become excessively costly, even infeasible. 1 

Italian Brigadier General Guilio Douhet began prophesying about the future of air power 
five scant years after the Wright Brothers first took flight. His Command of the Air (1 921 ), 
which visualized air strikes to destroy enemy population centers, industrial bases, and war- 
making potential, laid the foundation for strategic bombing concepts. Douhet, whose 
disciples are legion, vastly overrated the destructive potential of munitions then available and 
underrated rival air defenses, but nuclear weapons seemed to vindicate his theories during 
the Age of Assured Destruction. 12 Alexander de Seversky, whose book Air Power: Key to 
Survival (1950) updated and supported Douhet, unequivocally subordinated armies and 
navies to air forces. 13 His postulations not only put a north-south rather than east-west spin 
on superpower confrontations during the Cold War but identified an "Area of Decision" 
around the North Pole, where U.S. and Soviet dominance appeared to overlap (map 43). 
Nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with north-south trajectories 
strengthened his arguments in the 1960s, whereas submarine-launched ballistic missiles 
(SLBMs) had the opposite effect, because they could attack from diverse directions. 

No comparable philosophies with persistent and widespread approval underpin theater 
air power doctrines. Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell, who conceived division- 
sized parachute assaults in 1 91 8 and twice demonstrated the potency of air power against 
naval surface combatants (1921, 1923), may have come closest to "sainthood" but, like 
Douhet before him, was persecuted for his prescience. 14 

"""""""""TC"" ~~vQooom 


Map 42. U.S. and Allied Encirclement of the Soviet Union 

Adapted from Gerard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau, Strategic Atlas, 3rd ed. 



Map 43. De Seversky's View of the Globe 


An astrocentric school of thought devoted to military space, in early formative stages at this 
moment, concentrates on the Earth-Moon System (chapter 7), because interplanetary conflicts 
seem far in the future. The central theme is still indistinct, but may well revolve around lunar 
libration points L-4 and L-5, then adapt MacKinder's Heartland Theory with words something 
like these: 

Who rules circumterrestrial space commands Planet Earth; 
Who rules the moon commands circumterrestrial space; 
Who rules L-4 and L-5 commands the Earth-Moon System. 




Conflicting advice from land, sea, air, and space power advocates is valuable, because it 
provides senior officials with service-oriented opinions on any given political-military topic 
before they reach decisions. Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara even so was 
right when he wrote, "We can imagine many different kinds of wars the United States must 
be prepared to fight, but a war in which the Army fights independently of the Navy, or the 
Navy independently of the Air Force is not one of them/' 15 

Each service as it stands is superior in some environments and inferior in others. Armies 
generally function more efficiently than air forces in heavily forested regions and rugged 
terrain, whereas air power is especially advantageous over sparsely covered plains. Ballistic 
missile submarines at sea, being mobile as well as invisible to enemy targeteers, are less 
vulnerable to prelaunch attacks than "sitting duck" intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) 
in concrete silos ashore. Reasonable degrees of centralized control coupled with joint 
doctrines, joint education, and joint training programs that effectively integrate multiservice 
capabilities thus seem desirable. 

Some opinions that Mackinder, Mahan, de Seversky, and other geopolitical savants 
expressed many years ago may still be sound, but all require periodic reexaminations 
followed if necessary by fresh interpretations or replacements, because political, economic, 
social, scientific, and technological developments continually alter relationships between 
geographic circumstances and political-military power. 16 Mackinder, well aware of change, 
not only tacked Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau onto his Heartland in 1943 but, in light 
of events during World War II, repudiated his 1919 pronouncement, "Who rules the 
Heartland commands the World-Island/' 17 Not everyone concurred with his judgments, but 
his openminded attitude remains worth emulating in this turbulent world. 


Land, sea, air, and space forces operate in distinctive geographic mediums that vest 
them with very different perspectives, predilections, capabilities, and limitations. 

Each military service is superior to the others in its particular environment, but none 
performs equally well in all geographic milieus. 

Senior political-military officials benefit immeasurably from the unvarnished views and 
professional advice of each individual service before they reach decisions on any given 

The military service that national leaders favor at any given time is well positioned to 
exert profound influence on military matters of all kinds at every level. 

Military dogmas and doctrines require periodic updating to keep pace with ever- 
changing relationships between geography and political-military power. 



1 . R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, 4 th ed. (New 
York: Harper Collins, 1993), 1-41; J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, vol. 1 
(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1 954), 1 -52. 

2. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, eds. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, 
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976). 

3. J. C. Wylie, Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control (New Brunswick, NJ: 
Rutgers University Press, 1967), 49-56. 

4. Saul Bernard Cohen, Geography in a World Divided (New York: Random House, 1963), 
chapter 2, Geopolitical Perspectives; Edward Mead Earle, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: Military 
Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1 943), chapter 1 6. 

5. Halford J. MacKinder, "The Geographical Pivot of History," Geographical Journal XXIII 
(1904): 421-444, and Democratic Ideals and Reality (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1 942; original 
publication in London, 1919). 

6. Wylie, Military Strategy, 39-42, 49, 50, 56. 

7. Secretary Stimson is quoted in William Reitzel, "Mahan on the Use of the Sea," Naval War 
College Review (May-June): 1973, 73. 

8. Julian Corbett, 5ome Principles of Naval Strategy (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press), 
87. For elaboration, see B. Mitchell Simpson, III, ed., The Development of Naval Thought: Essays 
by Herbert Rosinski (Newport, Rl: Naval War College Press, 1 977). 

9. Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, American 
Century Series (New York: Hill and Wang, 1 957; originally published in 1 890). 

10. Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Problem of Asia and Its Effect Upon International Policies 
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1900). 

1 1 . Wylie, Military Strategy, 42-48, 56; Dennis M. Drew, "Joint Operations: The World Looks 
Different from 10,000 Feet," Airpower Journal 2, no. 3 (Fall 1988): 4-16. 

12. Guilio Douhet, Command of the Air, eds. Richard H. Kohn and Joseph P. Harahan, trans. 
Dino Ferrari (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1983). See also Bernard Brodie, "The 
Heritage of Douhet," Air University Quarterly Review VI (1 953): 64-69, 1 20-1 26. 

13. Alexander de Seversky, Air Power: Key to Survival (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 950); 
Makers of Modern Strategy, chapter 20. 

1 4. Burke Davis, The Billy Mitchell Affair (New York: Random House, 1 967). 

1 5. Robert S. McNamara, The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office (New York: Harper & 
Row, 1 968), 91 . 

1 6. Preston E. James, "Dynamics of National Power," Military Review (May 1 963): 1 7-25. 

1 7. Sir Halford J. MacKinder, "The Round World and the Winning of the Peace," Foreign Affairs 
(July 1943): 595-605. 



Good fences make good neighbors. 

Robert Frost 
Mending Wall, 1914 


masses of humanity pursue conflicting purposes. Many sore spots and flash points have 
geographic origins, of which contentious territorial claims and environmental altercations 
perhaps are most common. Good fences may not always make good neighbors, but mutually 
agreeable boundaries and environmental practices that avoid adverse regional (even global) 
side effects generally help reduce the number of potentially explosive international disputes 
that otherwise could lead to armed combat. 


Sparsely settled or empty spaces separated sovereign territories when small human 
populations were widely scattered, valuable resources were relatively abundant, and 
surveying skills were rudimentary. The first sharply-defined political boundary appeared on 
May 4, 1493, when Pope Alexander VI promised Portugal all newly found lands east of a 
north-south line 100 leagues (300 miles, 483 kilometers) west of the Azores and Cape Verde 
Islands and allocated to Spain all newly-found lands west of that latitude. Brazil formally 
became a Portuguese possession after the Treaty of Tordesillas drew the line 81 miles (1 ,285 
kilometers) farther west the following year and Pope Julius II approved in 1506. De jure 
boundaries rapidly replaced de facto borders and ill-defined frontiers early in the 17th 
century when nation states proliferated. 


Boundaries are much easier for cartographers to draw on maps than for statesmen and armed 
forces to find on Earth's surface, because markers at best are intermittent and at worst are 
nonexistent. Approximately 8,200 pillars are distributed along the 3,146-mile (5,063- 
kilometer) border that separates the United States from Canada, for example, whereas only 
22 dot the 970-mile (1,560-kilometer) wasteland between Mauritania and Western Sahara, 
of which half are located around Cap Blanc. 


Topographical Boundaries. Easily recognizable topographic features may seem to be 
ideal boundaries, but marks that follow the loftiest mountain crests displease governments 
that, for various reasons, want lines along watersheds. River boundaries that stick to either 
bank, a median line, or the deepest channel are subject to shifts that add territory on one 
side, subtract from the other, and raise questions concerning islands in stream 1 recurrent 
clashes between Soviet and Chinese border guards in the Amur and Ussuri Valleys were 
tightly controlled during tense days after the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s, because local 
brawls could have escalated to dangerous levels. 2 Lake boundaries cause similar problems 
that neolithic Nipmuc Indians near present day Webster, Massachusetts, solved when they 
named their lake Chargoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaugg ("you fish on your 
side, Til fish on mine, no one fishes in the middle"). 

Abstract Boundaries. International boundaries often follow straight lines that cut across 
landscapes with little or no regard for people who live thereon. Several abstractions of that 
sort on the Arabian Peninsula disappear without a trace in the Rub' al-Khali (the Empty 
Quarter), which is lightly populated by only a few Bedouin tribes but contains potentially rich 
natural resources. European colonists long ago laced Africa with straight lines. 3 The 38 th 
Parallel arbitrarily separated North and South Korea from August 1 945 until July 1 953, when 
an armistice line that bisected a demilitarized zone (DMZ) replaced it. The 1 7 th Parallel and 
DMZ similarly separated North and South Vietnam for 21 years between July 1 954 and April 

Squiggly as well as straight line boundaries sometimes correlate poorly with real world 
considerations, a fact perhaps best confirmed by Israel, which has been barricaded behind 
armistice lines and the unofficial borders of occupied territories since 1948. States that 
contain two or more discontinuous segments seldom enjoy great longevity. Hitler, for 
example, forcibly reunited East Prussia with the German Fatherland in 1 939, just 20 years 
after the Treaty of Versailles interposed the Danzig Corridor between that province and its 
parent. East Pakistan and West Pakistan, 900 miles apart (1,450 kilometers), persisted fewer 
than 25 years from their inception in 1947, when they separated from India, until East 
Pakistan became politically independent Bangladesh in 1971 . 

Some terrestrial boundaries drawn with little regard for physiographic, cultural, or 
economic realities stabilize sooner or later (the United States and Canada settled their last 
significant border dispute in 1903), but many become geopolitical sore spots. Historical 
experiences bear close observation, lest troubles erupt unexpectedly. 


Offshore boundaries that separate territorial waters from high seas and limit the sovereignty 
of adjacent coastal states raise highly-charged political-military and economic questions for 
which statesmen and lawyers have not yet found universally acceptable answers, even 
though 112 states and other entities by 1 997 had ratified a comprehensive United Nations 
Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which included the following provisions: 4 

A 12-nautical mile (22 kilometer) limitation on territorial seas within which foreign 
vessels are authorized to exercise the right of "innocent passage" in peacetime 


A contiguous zone up to 12 more nautical miles within which coastal states are 
authorized to exercise control over laws and regulations concerning customs, fiscal 
matters, immigration, and sanitation 

A 200-nm (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) within which coastal states 
are authorized to exercise sovereignty over natural resources and jurisdiction over some 
scientific research and environmental projects 

EEZs may extend seaward a maximum of 350-nm (650 kilometers) wherever the true 
continental shelf extends that far 

All areas beyond the continental shelf are reserved for "the common heritage of 

Naval ships and merchant marines are authorized freedom of navigation in narrow 
territorial waters, more than one-third of which are less than 24 nautical miles wide. 

All states are authorized to overfly EEZs. 

Loopholes nevertheless remain. Each coastal state is free to define "innocent passage" in 
ways that promote its interests. Sovereignty claims still range from 3 to 200 nautical miles 
(5.5 to 370 kilometers), with several African and South American countries in the latter 
category. The Maldives and Philippines both profess territorial water rights within boundaries 
that include their outermost islands and atolls. The United States, which opposes provisions 
that deter development of deep sea-bed mineral resources, has not ratified the Convention. 5 


"How high is up?" will remain an enigma until laws of air and space complement laws of the 
sea, which seek to answer the question, "How far is out?" The atmosphere over every 
country to some unspecified altitude currently is sovereign territory that allows owners to 
forbid transit without their approval, which is not always forthcoming. 6 Italy, Greece, 
Austria, and Switzerland denied U.S. Armed Forces direct routes from Germany to staging 
bases in Turkey when the President of Lebanon requested military help in 1 958. 7 U.S. attack 
aircraft based in Britain had to take long detours around France and Spain en route to Libya, 
where they bombed parts of Tripoli and Benghazi on April 15, 1986, in retaliation for a 
terrorist attack that "Revolutionary Leader" Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi previously backed in 
Berlin. 8 The spectacularly successful hostage rescue operation at Entebbe, Uganda, in July 
1 976 was possible only because Israeli flight crews violated the air space of African countries 
that lacked modern air defense systems. 9 No document yet prescribes vertical or horizontal 
boundaries that define territorial sovereignty on the moon or in free space. 


Ancient words warn, "You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars ... for nation shall rise 
against nation and kingdom against kingdom." 1 Certainly, there is no shortage of 
geopolitical friction as the 20th century draws to a close, nor any sign that armed conflicts 
will soon cease (table 24). 11 Boundary disputes, contentious sovereignty claims, galloping 
population growth, insufficient natural resources, drought-induced starvation, resultant mass 
migrations, religious rivalries, racial-ethnic-tribal tensions, and intolerable environmental 
conditions are contributing factors. Contingency planners who try to put the lot in rough 
priority concentrate on embranglements that could endanger the globe, followed by apparent 



threats to regional security. Altercations that seem to have strictly local implications get 
shorter shrift, but accurate determinations often are elusive, because even small civil wars are 
liable to spread with little warning and unintended consequences. 

Table 24. Typical Trouble Spots, Mid-1990s 










Northern Ireland 



Sri Lanka 




Argentina vs. Chile 
Britain vs. Spain 
China vs. India 
China vs. Russia 
China vs. Taiwan 
China vs. Vietnam 
Cuba vs. United States 
Ecuador vs. Peru 
Egypt vs. Sudan 
Ethiopia vs. Somalia 
Greece vs. Turkey 

India vs. Pakistan 

Indonesia vs. Malaysia 

Iran vs. United Arab Emirates 

Iraq vs. Iran 

Iraq vs. Kuwait 

Iraq vs. Saudi Arabia 

Israel vs. Palestinians 

Israel vs. Syria 

Libya vs. Chad 

North vs. South Korea 

Russia vs. Japan 

Two strategic altercations on a grand scale are described below. One involved the Soviet 
absorption of buffer states in Central Europe, the other concerns simmering disputes between 
China and its Soviet neighbor. Disputes about the control of key straits illustrate strategic 
standoffs at a lower level. 


Generalissimo Joseph Stalin annexed three countries and parts of five others to provide a 
buffer zone between the Soviet Union and perceived enemies in Western Europe beginning 
in 1939 (map 44). Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Western Belorussia and Galicia (stripped 
from Poland), together with Northern Bukovina and most of Bessarabia (wrested from 
Romania), gave the Soviet Union relatively ice-free windows on the Baltic Sea and added 
depth farther south before Hitler invaded in June 1 941 . Soviet Armed Forces occupied all 
direct approaches to Leningrad from the west after Stalin acquired Karelia and the Vyborg 
District from defeated Finland in 1940. Finland's Pechenga Territory, 60 miles (95 
kilometers) west of Murmansk, afforded a bit more breathing room between that crucial port 
and Nazi-occupied Norway in 1944. The absorption of Ruthenia (Transcarpathian 



Map 44. Soviet Buffers in Central Europe 


I. Pechenga 

II. Karelia 

III. Vyborg 

IV. Baltic States 

V. Western 

VI. Galacia 

VII. Ruthenia 

VIM. Northern 


IX. Central + 









East Germany 









Czechoslovakia) in 1 945 not only extended the Soviet buffer zone all the way from the Baltic 
to the Black Sea but, as a bonus, united Slavic minorities with kindred Ukranians. 12 

Stalin thereafter swallowed most of Central Europe, then rang down an infamous Iron 
Curtain. Seven countries with communist-dominated regimes Albania, Bulgaria, 
Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and RomaniaCsigned the Warsaw Treaty 
of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance in 1955, after which all but one served 
as Soviet cat's paws and pawns until a bit before the Warsaw Pact formally disintegrated in 
July 1 991 (Albania severed ties in 1 968 because of policy disputes). 13 East and West Germany 



reunited on October 3, 1 990; Russia soon thereafter relinquished the three Baltic States and 
annexed lands in what now are Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldavia; several nations, despite 
Russian objections, sought membership in NATO, most notably Poland, Hungary, the Czech 
Republic, and Slovakia 14 The buffer zone that Stalin had assembled so methodically forty 
some years earlier in short disappeared. 


Boundaries that Chinese emperors and Russian tsars established in the mid-1 800s gave Russia 
sovereignty over 1 85,000 square miles (480,000 square kilometers) north of the Amur River, 
huge maritime territories east of the Ussuri, and 350,000 square miles (900,000 square 
kilometers) in Central Asia (map 45). Subsequently installed regimes in the Soviet Union and 
Republic of China agreed to reconsider mutual boundaries in 1924, but related actions 
remained in abeyance for the next 25 years, because Chinese leaders were preoccupied with 
civil wars and Japanese invaders. Eleven more years passed peacefully after Communist 
China emerged victorious in 1 949 and established strong links with Moscow, even though 
A Short History of Modern China, published in Beijing, laid claim to large parts of the Soviet 
Far East, Kazakstan, Kirghistan, and Tajikistan as "Chinese territories taken by imperialism. " 1S 

Map 45. Chinese Border Disputes 

Ceded to China in 19th century 

200 400 600 Miles 
I l_ 1 I I I I 

200 400 600 800 Kilometers 

Boundary disputes bubbled in earnest about 1 960, when the Sino-Soviet entente started 
to split. The first large-scale clashes occurred in Xinjiang Province during early autumn 1 964, 
when Muslim resentment against repressive Chinese rule motivated about 50,000 Kazakhs, 
Uighurs, and other ethnic groups to riot, then take shelter in the Soviet Union. Tensions along 
the Far Eastern frontier reached a fever pitch in 1 967 after howling mobs besieged the Soviet 



Embassy in Beijing for more than 2 weeks. Both sides briefly massed a total of 600,000 
troops along the border nearly 40 divisions on the Soviet side and perhaps 50 or 60 Chinese 
counterparts. Damansky Island (Zhanbao to the Chinese) was twice the site of stiff fighting 
in March 1969, followed in August by confrontations at Xinjiang's Dzungarian Gate, after 
which both sides took pains to defuse situations, partly because each at that point possessed 
nuclear weapons with delivery systems that could reach the other's core areas. 16 China, 
however, has never renounced its claims, which future leaders might vigorously pursue if 
Chinese military power continues to expand while Russian armed strength subsides. 


Arguments between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over control of Abu Musa, a tiny 
island that sits in the Strait of Hormuz like a cork in a bottle, 17 and squabbles between Britain 
and Spain about Gibraltar, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, 18 typify 
trouble spots that are of less strategic significance to disputants than to bystanders who 
routinely rely on sea lanes that pass through. Controversies that involve Argentina and Chile, 
both of whom claim sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan, 19 and rancorous relations 
between Russia, which has held the Kuril Islands since World War II, and Japan, typify 
quarrels that are of greater interest to the contestants than to outsiders. 20 


"Have not" nations, like children with noses against candy store windows, hunger for what 
"have" nations have. Speculation about what would happen after Hong Kong passed from 
British to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997, centered on that city's commercial value as 
a trading center at international crossroads. 21 The destitute Democratic People's Republic of 
Korea clearly would like to embellish its economic power base-by absorbing diversified 
industries, rich agricultural lands, and technologically advanced work forces south of the 
demilitarized zone, where the poorest inhabitants of South Korea are infinitely better off than 
all but elitists up north. 22 

Two economically driven trouble spots deserve elaboration, because both involve several 
competitors and both are barren on the surface. Six countries currently covet all or some of 
the Spratly Islands essentially because geological surveys suggest vast untapped oil and gas 
reservoirs offshore. Seven countries eventually could collide in Antarctica if, as expected, 
natural resources beneath the ice prove extensive, scientists devise cost-effective extraction 
procedures, and conflicting real estate claims prove irreconcilable. 


The Spratly Islands consist of 12 main islets and 600-odd cays, rocky outcroppings, coral 
reefs, atolls, sand bars, banks, and shoals in the South China Sea about 250 miles (360 
kilometers) east and southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, which most outsiders remember as 
Saigon (map 46). 23 The total land area, some of which is visible only at low tide, covers less 
than one square mile (about 2.3 square kilometers) Ito Abu, the largest islet, occupies 90 
acres. Few creatures other than turtles and sea fowl were fond of that forbidding habitat 
before competition for potentially rich oil reserves turned the Spratly Island complex into a 
Southeast Asian flashpoint. China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the Spratlys in toto, the 
Philippines seek entitlements to most of them, while Brunei and Malaysia covet small 


segments in the southern sector, although no nation maintains civilian settlements anywhere 
and none established a continuous military presence until after World War II. Taiwan, 
however, currently deploys a battalion-sized force on Ito Abu, where it built what passes for 
a small port and a short airstrip. All other contenders except Brunei position troops on 
several islets, and all take great pains to mark their claims prominently. The sharpest skirmish 
thus far occurred in March 1 988, when Chinese gunboats sank three Vietnamese ships that 
together lost 77 sailors, but most claimants continue to destroy rival markers, arrest rival 
fishermen, and take other actions that infuriate adversaries. 24 

Map 46. The Spratly Islands 



Hanoi ? -*- 
^ tHaiphong 




..Hue x 

Paracet Islands 



Hong Kong 


Chinese claim / 

/ n 




^ " *Ho Chi 

city Spratly 

| s |andS 

Kep. /^\ 


< o \ 

o ; 

Kep. Bunguran 
& Selatan 

' \_ ..^v^J 

.... y~ 





100 200 300 Miles 

1 l I I I I I 
I I Hi I I 

100 200 300 400 Kilometers 

Prospects that China might seek sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, as its 
spokesmen repeatedly imply, couples strategic with economic friction, because lifelines 
between Middle East oil fields and Northeast Asia pass through that body of water. 



Reconciliation of disputes in the Spratlys, perhaps by military means, consequently could 
some day have destabilizing effects that reach far beyond the immediate region. 


Isolated Antarctica, which surrounds the South Pole, is twice the size of Europe during its 
"summer" season and four times as large in winter, when ice shelves form along peripheries. 
No native land-based vertebrates save penguins brave the brutal cold that frequently dips 
below -1 00 F (-73.3 C) and blizzards whipped by winds that sometimes surpass 200 miles 
per hour (320 kilometers per hour), but economically valuable whales, food fish, and protein- 
rich crustaceans called krill teem in the frigid waters, while some explorers suspect the 
presence of lucrative oil reserves as well as abundant mineral deposits. 

Argentina, Australia, Britain, Chile, France, New Zealand, and Norway currently claim 
slices of Antarctica that, in several instances, overlap. Argentina and Chile additionally 
declare 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) off the sectors they say they own; 
the South Shetland Islands are subjects of tripartite disputes by Argentina, Britain, and Chile; 
and Argentina and Britain contest possession of the South Orkneys, South Georgia, and South 
Sandwich Islands, plus tiny Shag Rocks (map 47). 25 

The Antarctic Treaty of 1 961 , signed by 42 nations as of 1 997, froze existing territorial 
claims for 30 years, forbade new ones, banned military operations, outlawed nuclear 
weapons, and prohibited the disposal of radioactive waste anywhere on that continent to 
maintain in a pristine state the only place on Planet Earth that has escaped war, pestilence, 
and environmental pollution. Amendments in 1980 restricted the exploitation of marine 
resources and in 1 991 imposed a 50-year ban on mining. Loose ends dangle nonetheless, 
because neither Argentina nor Chile has relinquished territorial claims that coincide with 
those of Britain, and neither the United States nor Russia recognizes the claims of other 
powers or waives the right to establish its own. Ice-cold Antarctica could heat up if 
confirmed natural resources make neutral positions unprofitable. 


Bloodlines foster enduring enmities when cultural interests and lifestyles collide, because 
blood indeed is thicker than water. Catholics and Protestants have not yet found a formula 
that lets them coexist peacefully in Northern Ireland. 27 Stateless Kurds beset by all and 
befriended by none wander ceaselessly across mountainous frontiers in southeastern Turkey, 
northeastern Iraq, and northwestern Iran in search of a homeland. 28 Genocidal combat 
between Hutu and Tutsi tribes continues in Rwanda and Burundi, with spillovers into eastern 
Congo, where refugee camps became death traps in 1 996-97. 29 Ancient ethnic, religious, 
and linguistic animosities, accompanied by "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia-Herzegovina, flared 
throughout former Yugoslavia in the 1 990s among Orthodox Christian Serbs, Roman Catholic 
Croats, Slovines, Slavic Muslims, Albanians, Macedonians, Montenegrins, and perhaps 15 
smaller groups. 30 

Some cultural conflicts are local or regional, while others have widespread ramifications. 
Uncordial relations that involve conventionally-armed Ethiopians, Somalis, Kenyans, and 
Sudanese in the Horn of Africa, for example, seem unlikely to spread far beyond present 
boundaries, whereas altercations in Kashmir could quickly escalate in scope as well as 
intensity, because China, India, and Pakistan brandish nuclear weapons. 


Map 47. Territorial Claims in Antarctica 

t. Antarctica ; 
Wilkesland . 


500 1000 Miles 

'.I, |, t IN.'.' 



500 1000 1500 Kilometers 


The Horn of Africa, which British military historian John Keegan with good reason calls "the 
hungry lands/' has long been a hazardous place to live (map 48). 31 Starvation stalks, racial, 
linguistic, and religious antagonisms are rife, mutually exclusive social systems are endemic. 

Cultural Friction in Ethiopia. Nine states with ethnic groups as their nuclei, at least 70 
languages spoken as the mother tongue, and two distinctive religions make Ethiopia less 
cohesive than it seems on small-scale maps. Amharic-speaking Christians in the north, most 
of whom who practice subsistence agriculture, oppose nomadic Muslims in the Ogaden who 
have more in common with Islamic Somalia than with the government in Addis Ababa. 
Several insurgent and secessionist movements are active or waiting in the wings. 

Eritreans fought for freedom from 1 961 until they finally formed a separate state in 1 991 , 
but sporadic combat continued into the 1980s, related problems continue to fester, and 
malcontents in both countries could upset fragile relationships. The Ethiopian People's 
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which in 1 991 ousted the detested Marxist dictator 
Mengistu Haile Mariam, subsequently approved a constitution that grants special rights to 



Map 48. The Horn of Africa 

















1 Bardera 

> / sZm&fi& 

V" 1 vv\ 





International boundary 
National capital 

50 100 150 Miles 
| , ' ,' ,' 

50 100 150 Kilometers 



ethnic minorities, but it will take deeds as well as words to unite so many disparate factions 
on peaceful terms. 32 As if domestic troubles were not enough to keep the new government 
gainfully employed, strife along the western border began to brew in 1 996 when Ethiopia 
and Eritria (both slated to receive U.S. military assistance) decided to assist Sudanese 
insurgents who oppose the radical regime in Khartoum. 33 

Cultural Friction in Somalia. Poverty-stricken Somalia, which is much more 
homogeneous than Ethiopia, is populated primarily by Sunni Muslims who are ethnic 
Somalis, speak one of three main Somali dialects and, except for refugee-crowded 
Mogadishu, are pastoral peoples. A volatile mixture nonetheless is present, because six major 
clan families that revel in warrior traditions vie for internal control. Connivance and cunning 
are stocks in trade. The meek by no means inherit any part of their earth, as United Nations 
"peacekeepers" with no peace to keep discovered in 1 993, when they tried unsuccessfully 
to impose law and order. 34 Wars over water, cattle, wives, land, and political "turf (not 
necessarily in that order) are national pastimes. Irredentist claims in the Ogaden and parts 
of Kenya where Somali kinsmen live and the status of splinter groups who have proclaimed 
an independent Republic of Somaliland along the Gulf of Aden are muted but unrevolved. 35 

Prospects for Peace. Combustible situations that involve Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and 
the Sudan consequently could develop in Africa's hazardous horn. Dangerous escalation 
could occur if, as some suspect, Islamic fundamentalists in Iran and elsewhere foment a jihad 
(holy war) in retaliation against Ethiopian and Eritrean intervention in Sudan. 


Jammu and Kashmir, which nestle beneath south slopes of the Hindu Kush, Pamirs, 
Karakorum Mountains, and Himalayas, possess some of the world's most spectacular scenery 
(map 49). Pakistani farmers depend extensively on irrigation waters from the Indus, Chenab, 
and jhulum Rivers, but religious disputes rather than land rights make the region a perennial 
trouble spot. 

The Schism. The populations of Jammu and Kashmir were overwhelmingly Muslim (77 
percent) whereas Hindus (20 percent) comprised a clear majority mainly in Jammu City 
when India and Pakistan became independent nations on August 15, 1947. The local 
maharajah nevertheless was loath to decide on accession to either side until impatient 
Pakistani tribesmen applied pressure the following October, whereupon he formally asked 
then Governor-General Lord Louis Mountbatten for help from the Indian Dominion, 
acknowledging that "naturally they cannot send help asked for by me without my state 
[Jammu and Kashmir] acceding to India. I have accordingly decided to do so and attach the 
Instrument of Accession." The newly formed Pakistani government predictably found that 
Athe accession of Kasmir to India is based on fraud . . . and as such cannot be recognized/' 3 
Repetitious violence followed. 

Elusive Reconciliation. A U.N. commission arranged a cease-fire that terminated the first 
Indo-Pakistani war on January 1, 1949, and later established a 480-mile (770-kilometer) 
control line that allocated a bit more than one-third of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan and 
left the heavily Islamic Vale of Kashmir in Hindu hands. Further combat ensued in 1965, 
1 971, and 1 990 after repeated mediations failed. The presence of several hundred thousand 
Indian troops and terrorist attacks by militant Islamic separatist groups against targets in the 
beautiful Vale have devastated tourist trade that might benefit Muslims. 37 


Map 49. Boundary Disputes in Jammu and Kashmir 


1949 Ceasefire line 
in Kashmir 

Disputed between 
China and India 




1 - ; Srinaaar JAMMU AND 





Xt < Jammu 

..,*', fy 

j City ^ -i ,^-> f</ 

' x ^ Su/ 

so 100 Miles 






50 100 1 50 Kilometers / 


Sovereignty over the Aksai Chin salient, once described as a frozen, uninhabited 
wilderness without a blade of grass, has been subject to dispute since the 1 950s when China 
occupied about 6,000 square miles (1 5,000 square kilometers) and built a road that connects 
Tibet with Xinjiang Province. Chinese Armed Forces consolidated their positions in 1 962 
after fierce fighting with Indian troops and have remained solidly ensconced ever since. 
Additional Sino-lndian border disputes developed in 1963 because Pakistan, despite Indian 
objections, ceded to China a sizable chunk of its sector in Kashmir. Neither that bit nor the 
Aksai Chin boundary has ever been demarked to the satisfaction of all concerned. 38 

How long the current hiatus will last is subject to speculation. Deep-seated grievances, 
strong emotions, and possibilities that nuclear warfare might some day erupt meanwhile 
make jammu and Kashmir a tinderbox, arguably one of the most perilous trouble spots 
anywhere on this globe. 39 


Humanity needs habitats that ensure passably clean air, potable water, sources of sustenance, 
and sufficient wherewithal to make life worth living, but pollution, despoliation, and other 
degradations make it ever more difficult for Planet Earth to satisfy even minimum 
requirements of rapidly expanding world populations. 40 Befouled atmosphere, deforestation, 



agricultural mismanagement, over-harvested fisheries, oil spills, wanton use of water, and 
careless waste disposal typify environmental practices that degrade local, regional, even 
global habitats with short-, intermediate-, and long-term effects on ecosystems and human 
living conditions. 41 

Some consequences are clear, while the full relevance of others awaits further 
investigation. Corrective actions that increase short-term costs, exact sacrifices, exacerbate 
inequities, limit national power, or place lids on political ambitions are sourly received in 
every country that believes it might lose leverage. Acrimonies already have triggered trade 
conflicts that conceivably could culminate in armed combat. 42 


Atmospheric pollutants travel freely wherever capricious winds take them, without regard for 
international boundaries, checkpoints, or toll gates. Radioactive nuclear fallout periodically 
circled the globe during a 35-year period, mainly between 1 955 and 1 966, then ceased in 
October 1 980, when China conducted the last atmospheric test in the desert near Lop Nor, 43 
but fossil fuels annually pump several billion tons of carbon dioxide, sulfur, and nitrogen into 
the air. Acid rain had damaged almost one-fourth of all woodlands in Europe by 1990, 
according to a U.N. survey, and some lakes are so acidic that fish find them intolerable. 
Stratospheric ozone depletion, probably caused by manmade chemicals such as 
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), decreases the ability of Earth's atmosphere to shield the surface 
from ultraviolet radiation which, in turn, increases risks of cancer, cataracts, and respiratory 
ailments as well as lower crop yields. 44 


Gigantic rain forests, such as those in the Amazon Basin, Equatorial Africa, and Southeast 
Asia, are disappearing at a rate that knowledgeable observers estimate to be about 16,750 
square miles (46,000 square kilometers) each year, with monetary rewards frqm harvested 
timber and newly-available agricultural lands as basic objectives. Additional carbon dioxide 
emissions, soil erosion, and floods that often follow encourage mass migrations from poverty- 
stricken regions to destinations where governmental leaders have neither suitable spaces 
within which to accommodate many penniless immigrants nor the inclination to accept 
them. The extinction of countless plant and animal species that depend on woodland 
habitats moreover may have consequences that as yet are incalculable. 45 

Environmental warfare was widespread in the jungles of Vietnam, where something like 
46,000 toxic tons of a U.S. herbicide called Agent Orange defoliated woodland refuges in 
the 1 960s. Rome Plows uprooted vegetation to eliminate enemy ambush sites along-heavily 
traveled roads and remove covered enemy approaches to isolated U.S. fire bases. 4b The 
Principle of Military Necessity, which legally concedes "the right to apply that amount and 
kind of force [required] to compel submission of the enemy with the least possible 
expenditure of time, life, and money," implicitly justified those practices, 47 but the extent to 
which Agent Orange unintentionally afflicted U.S. military personnel and Vietnamese 
civilians as well as crops and livestock still prompt debates about relations between 
environmental costs and military benefits. 48 



Accidental oil spills in the Age of Supertankers (250,000 to 400,000 deadweight tons), the 
largest of which carry nearly 3 million barrels of crude oil apiece, understandably cause 
consternation among coastal countries that could suffer the loss of fisheries, tourist trade, 
other economically attractive advantages, and catastrophic environmental deprivation. The 
ill-starred U.S. tanker Exxon Valdez, for example, leaked 260,000 barrels into Alaska's Prince 
William Sound after it hit a reef in March 1989. Damage was confined only because the 
crew safely transferred another million barrels to sister tankers, but even so the slick 
eventually coated 1 ,1 00 miles (1 ,770 kilometers) of pristine shoreline and islands. Marine 
birds and mammals perished wholesale, sludge seriously threatened salmon and herring 
schools, and restitution payments totaled more than $1 billion. 

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in January 1 991 made the Exxon Valdez accident seem 
picayune when he dumped several million barrels of crude oil into the Persian Gulf from his 
Sea Island transshipment terminal, from five tankers tied up in port at Mina al-Ahmadi, and 
from huge storage tanks ashore. He eclipsed those abominations soon thereafter when he 
ordered henchmen to torch more than 650 producing wells and dynamite 82 others in 
Kuwait. Oily lakes formed death traps for birds around sabotaged wells, a sickening stench 
made human stomachs churn, 200-foot (60-meter) tongues of flame fed half a million tons 
of pollutants per day into the atmosphere, and greasy clouds towered 100 times that high 
before they wafted with winds that deposited "black rain" in Iran. Overall results, according 
to speculation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, may represent "one of the most 
extraordinary manmade environmental disasters in recorded history/' 4 


Water requirements often outstrip sources in regions where agricultural and industrial 
expansion coincide with arid climates and rampant population growth creates unprecedented 
demands. Poor sanitation practices, contaminated runoff from tilled fields, industrial 
pollutants, and raw sewage discharged upstream make potable supplies a luxury in many 
such countries. 50 

Scarcities accompanied by fierce competition have spawned the term "hydropolitics" in 
the Middle East, where more than half of the people depend on water that originates in or 
passes through at least one foreign country before it reaches consumers. Twenty-one dams 
and 1 7 hydroelectric power stations under construction along the upper Euphrates River in 
Turkey provoke protests by the Governments of Syria and Iraq, whose senior officials foresee 
future deprivation. Uncoordinated water control projects in Syria cause additional 
complaints in Baghdad. Nearly all water in Egypt flows down the Nile from catch basins in 
eight other countries that include unfriendly Sudan. 51 

Central and South Asia experience similar water supply problems. Deforestation in Nepal 
intensifies flooding along the Ganges while India, in turn, pursues water diversion projects 
that deprive delta dwellers in Bangladesh. The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest 
inland body of water, has split into two sections that altogether cover half as much area, 
contain one-fourth the volume, and are three times as saline as in 1960, because irrigation 
programs siphon so much water from the Amu and Syr Darya Rivers, which are its only 
feeders. Frequent dust storms full of salty sediments, toxic fertilizers, and pesticide residues 
from the exposed sea bed contribute to high infant mortality and low life expectancy rates 

;; : :-; ; .\-m<q. 


in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, where impure water 
causes typhoid fever, hepatitis, and kidney disorders. 52 


Fishermen the world over quadrupled their catch between 1 950 and 1 990, after which takes 
slumped largely because the best spots were "over fished/' Coast guards deployed to protect 
dwindling resources work overtime to ward off plundering fleets equipped with fish-finding 
sonars and nets that can haul in tens of tons on a single outing. Acrimonious encounters 
commonly occur 200 miles or so offshore in gaps that contain some of the globe's most 
lucrative fishing grounds between Exclusive Economic Zones. Poachers, well aware that 
increasing demands coupled with declining supplies cause prices to soar, penetrate far into 
EEZs when anticipated gains seem to outweigh risks, but international efforts to establish 
legal limits on harvests thus far fall on deaf ears. 53 


Toxic and infectious wastes in sufficient quantities or concentrations may cause or exacerbate 
insidious, often incapacitating (even irreversible) illnesses when improperly treated, stored, 
transported, or otherwise mismanaged. Flammable, corrosive, explosive, and radioactive 
substances also qualify as hazardous materials (HAZMAT). Means of disposal range from 
land fills and incineration to chemical conversion, burial underground or beneath the sea, 
and indiscriminate dumping. 54 Imprudent methods in many instances cause solely domestic 
concerns, but HAZMATs that contaminate other countries or international waters are 
increasingly sources of friction. 

Some authorities believe that the safest disposition of the most harmful HAZMAT may be 
watertight canisters buried on abyssal plains at the bottom of oceans where extremely deep, 
sticky sediments would seal them in protective cocoons that precipitating silts and 
decomposing organisms would strengthen eternally. One Texas-sized, plot under 
consideration lies 600 miles (965 kilometers) north of Hawaii several miles below the surface 
on a seabed that has been geologically stable for the last 65 million years. 55 


Unwanted chemical warfare munitions 5fa and nuclear materials 57 are exceedingly difficult 
to discard safely at acceptable costs. The former Soviet Union, indifferent to consequences 
at home and abroad, was one of the worst offenders. Feckless overseers dumped outdated 
nuclear reactors, spent fuel, and other radioactive waste along the coast of Novaya Zemlya, 
in the Kara Sea, and in the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan, where fragile ecosystems are 
especially sensitive to environmental insults. Few pollutants apparently have migrated from 
those locales thus far, but leakage and contamination of marine food chains eventually could 
be extensive. 58 


Members of the world community who view environmental plunder as a problem that 
threatens their respective lifestyles seek sensible solutions, 59 whereas exploiters who see 
opportunities for enrichment employ rapacious practices. U.S. National Security Strategy in 
1 995 warned that "increasing competition for the dwindling resources of uncontaminated 


air, arable land, fisheries, other food sources, and water, once considered 'free goods'" have 
become "a very real risk to regional stability around the world." Its authors predicted that 
"environmental depredation and resource depletion . . . will feed into immense social unrest 
and make the world substantially more vulnerable to serious internal frictions," despite 
generous allowances for scientific and technological countermeasures. b U.S. Armed Forces, 
which intend to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, have begun to 
reexamine doctrines, tactics, techniques, targeting procedures, and rules of engagement that 
perhaps gratuitously endanger environments. 61 


Political-military friction often has geographic roots. 

Territorial boundaries that statesmen draw with scant regard for geographic realities 
often become political-military trouble spots. 

Limitations that statesmen impose on territorial sovereignty at sea are difficult to 
enforce, partly because there are no visible terrain features. 

Territorial disputes in Earth's atmosphere and in space eventually will arise unless 
statesmen clearly specify how high. 

Contingency planners who put geopolitical trouble spots in order of priority should 
keep options open, because localized, small-scale conflicts of scant international interest 
are liable to spread with little or no warning and unintended consequences. 

Inconsiderate environmental practices are joining boundary disputes, contentious 
sovereignty claims, insupportable population growth, insufficient natural resources, 
religious rivalry, racial-ethnic-tribal tensions, and other facets of physical and cultural 
geography as potential causes of war. 

Military plans and operations designed to deal with geopolitical friction do best if they 
address causes of conflict as well as symptoms. 


1 . Boundary Concepts and Definitions, Geographical Report No. 1 (Washington, DC: The State 
Department Geographer, April 28, 1961). 

2. Ernst Kux, "Tension on the Ussuri," Military Review (June 1 969): 25-28. 

3. Ian Brownlie, African Boundaries: A Legal and Diplomatic Encyclopedia (Berkeley, CA: 
University of California Press for the Royal United Services Institute, 1979). 

4. Marjorie Ann Brown, Law of the Sea: The International Seabed Authority Its Status and 
Participation Therein, Rpt. Nr. 96-772 F (Washington: Congressional Research Service, September 1 6, 
1 996); Maritime AffairsCA World Handbook: A Reference Guide to Maritime Organizations, 
Conventions and Disputes, and to the International Politics of the Sea, a Keesings Reference 
Publication compiled and written by Henry W. Degenhardt, ed., consultant Brian Mitchell, gen. ed. 
Allan J. Day (Detroit, Ml: Gale Research, 1985), 3-14 and appendix 1; Limits of the Sea 36, National 
Claims to Maritime Jurisdictions (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, Office of the Geographer, 
March 6, 1985), updated telephonically. 

5. Limits of the Sea 36. 


6. "Convention on International Civil Aviation/' in Treaties and Other International Agreements 
of the United States of America, 1776-1949, vol. 3, Dept. of State Publication 8484, ed. Charles I. 
Bevans (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, November 1969). 

7. William B. Quandt, "Lebanon, 1958," in Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as a 
Political Instrument, eds. Barry M. Blechman and Stephen S. Kaplan (Washington, DC: Brookings 
Institution, 1978), 222-257. 

8. Anthony Cordesman, "The Emerging Lessons from the U.S. Attack on Libya," Armed Forces 
Journal (August 1 986): 355-360. 

9. William Stevenson, 90 Minutes at Entebbe (New York: Bantam Books, 1 976). 

1 0. The Holy Bible, Matthew 24: 6-7. 

1 1 . For overviews and analyses, see Ewan W. Anderson, An Atlas of World Flashpoints: A 
Sourcebook of Ceopolitical Crises (New York: Facts on File, 1 993); Border and Territorial Disputes, 
A Keesing's Reference Publication, 2 d ed., ed. Alan J. Day (Detroit, Ml: Gale Research Co., 1987); 
John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft, Zones of Conflict: An Atlas of Future Wars (New York: Simon 
and Schuster, 1986). 

12. Saul Bernard Cohen, Geography and Politics in a World Divided (New York: Random House, 
1963), 193-203. 

13. Robin A. Remington, The Warsaw Pact (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971); Malcolm 
Macintosh, Evolution of the Warsaw Pact, Adelphi Papers No. 58 (London: Institute for Strategic 
Studies, June 1969). 

14. Julie Kim, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary: Recent Developments, Issue Brief 
91089, April 1997, updated regularly; Paul Gallis, NATO: Congresses Addresses Expansion of the 
Alliance, Issue Brief 95076, April 1997, updated regularly; Steve Woehrel, NATO Enlargement and 
Russia, Rpt. Nr. 97-477F, April 21, 1997; all Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. 

1 5. Border and Territorial Disputes, 288-300. 

16. Ibid., 291, 293; Tai Sung An, The Sino-Soviet Territorial Dispute (Philadelphia, PA: 
Westminster Press, 1974); Raymond L. Garthoff, ed., Sino-Soviet Military Relations (New York: 
Praeger, 1966), 171-182. 

17. An Atlas of World Political Flashpoints, 1 -4. 
1 8. Border and Territorial Disputes, 90-1 01 . 

1 9. An Atlas of World Political Flashpoints, 1 23-1 26; Border and Territorial Disputes, 379-384. 

20. An Atlas of World Political Flashpoints, 113-116. 

21 . Kerry Dumbaugh, Hong Kong's Return to China: Implications for U.S. Interests, Issue Brief 
95119 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 1997, updated periodically). 

22. Eui-Gak Hwang, The Korean Economies: A Comparison of North and South (New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1993); Andria Matles Savada, ed. North Korea: A Country Study, DA 
Pamphlet 550-81 (Washington, DC: Federal Research Service, Library of Congress, 1994). 

23. Mark J. Valencia, China and the South China Sea Disputes, Adelphi Paper 298 (London: 
International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1995); Henry J. Kenny, "The South China Sea: A 
Dangerous Ground," Naval War College Review 49, no. 3 (Summer 1 996): 96-1 08. 

24. Ibid.; John H. Noer, Maritime Interests in Southeast Asia (Washington, DC: National Defense 
University Press, 1996). 

25. Ibid. 

26. An Atlas of World Flashpoints, 1 3-1 5; Border and Territorial Disputes, 439-442. 

27. Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles: Ireland's Ordeal 7966-7996 (Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart, 
1996); J. Bowyer Bell, The Irish Troubles: A Generation of Violence, 1967-1992 (New York: St. 
Martin's Press, 1 993); Border and Territorial Disputes, 57-72; An Atlas of World Flashpoints, 1 43-1 48. 

28. Alfred Prados, Iraq: Attack on Kurdish Enclave and U.S. Response, Report No. 96-73 9F 
(Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, October 17, 1996); U.S. Congress, Situation of 

itijtiMMMMHMMiM4MMM * iMMiMtM ^^ 


Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iran: Briefing by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe 
(Washington, DC: Government Printing Office,1993); Gerard Chaliand, The Kurdish Tragedy, trans. 
Philip Black (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books, 1994). 

29. John Pomfret, "Killing Spree Blamed on Troops of New Congo Leader," Washington Post, 
June 8, 1997, A1, A28; Congress, House, The Crisis in Rwanda, Hearing Before the Subcommittee 
on Africa of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, 103 d Congress, 2 d sess., May 4, 1994; Richard F. 
Nyrop et al., Rwanda: A Country Study, Dept. of the Army Pamphlet 550-84 (Washington: Foreign 
Area Studies, American University, 1982). 

30. Edgar O'Ballance, Civil War in Bosnia, 1992-94 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1 995); Roy 
Gutman, A Witness to Genocide: The 1993 Pulitzer Prize Winning Dispatches on the "Ethnic 
Cleansing" of Bosnia (New York: Macmillan, 1 993). 

31 . Graham Hancock, Ethiopia, The Challenge of Hunger (London: V. Gollancz, 1 985); John 
L. Hirsch and Robert B. Oakley, Somalia and Operation Restore Hope: Reflections on Peacemaking 
and Peacekeeping (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1 995). The quotation is from John 
Keegan, Zones of Conflict, 90. 

32. Thomas P. Ofcansky and LaVerle Berry, eds., Ethiopia: A Country Study, Dept. of the Army 
Pamphlet 550-28 (Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1993). 

33. John Lancaster, "Decades of Death on the Nile," Washington Post, February 6, 1997, A25, 
A28. For background, see Helen Chapin Metz, ed., Sudan: A Country Study, Dept. of the Army 
Pamphlet 550-27 (Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1992). 

34. Military Operations in Somalia: Message from the President of the United States Transmitting 
a Report on Military Operations in Somalia (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1993); 
Raymond W. Copson, Somalia: Operation Restore Hope and UNOSOM II, Issue Brief 92131 
(Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, updated 1994). 

3 5 . Metz; Border and Territorial Disputes, 126-132,144-150. 

36. Richard P. Cronin and Barbara Leitch LePoer, The Kashmir Dispute: Historical Background 
to the Current Struggle, Report No. 91 -563 F (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, July 
19, 1991); William C. Johnstone, "Jammu and Kashmir (1947-1949)," in Challenge and Response 
in Internal Conflict, vol. 1, The Experience in Asia, eds. D. M. Condit, Bert H. Cooper, Jr., et al. 
(Washington, DC: Center for Research in Social Systems, American University, February 1968), 306- 
329. The maharaja's request is reproduced in Border and Territorial Disputes, 31 8. 

37. Border and Territorial Disputes, 317-329; An Atlas of World Flashpoints, 100-102. For 
additional background, see Richard F. Nyrop, ed., Pakistan: A Country Study, Dept. of the Army 
Pamphlet 550-48 (Washington, DC: Foreign Area Studies, American University, 1984). 

3 8 . Border and Territorial Disputes, 279-286. 

39. Barbara Leitch LePoer and Nina Srinivasan, India and Pakistan Border Conflict: Background 
and Ongoing Problems, Report No. 96-437F (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, May 
15, 1996). 

40. Robert Leider, From Choice to Determinant: The Environmental Issue in International 
Relations (Washington, DC: Strategic Research Group, National War College, February 15, 1972); 
Joseph C. Conrad, Environmental Considerations in Army Operational Doctrine, a White Paper (Fort 
Leonard Wood: U.S. Army Engineer School, January 1 995), 1,5,6. 

41 . Early warnings were contained in Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston, MA: Houghton 
Mifflin, 1962). 

42. For a survey of contemporary issues, see Susan A. Fletcher, International Environment: 
Current Major Global Treaties, Report No. 96-884ENR (Washington, DC: Congressional Research 
Service, November 5, 1 996). 


43 . Nuclear Wastes in the Arctic: An Analysis of Arctic and Other Regional Impacts from Soviet 
Nuclear Contamination, OTA-ENV-623 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, September 
1995), 34. 

44. forest Conditions in Europe: The 7992 Report (Geneva, Switzerland: U.N. Economic 
Commission for Europe, September 14, 1992); Michael E. Kowalok, "Common Threads: Research 
Lessons from Acid Rain, Ozone Depletion, and Global Warming," Environment (July/August 1 993): 
12-20, 35-38. 

45. Environmental Quality: The Twenty Third Annual Report of the Council on Environmental 
Quality (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office,1993). 

46. Arthur F. McConnel, Jr., "Mission: Ranch Hand," Air University Review (January-February 
1 970): 89-94; Joseph M. Kiernan, "Combat Engineers in the Iron Triangle," Army (June 1 967): 42-45. 

47. Morris Greenspan, The Modern Law of Land Warfare (Berkeley, CA: University of California 
Press, 1 959), 313-314. See also, James P. Terry, "The Environment and the Laws of War: The Impact 
of Desert Storm," Naval War College Review 45, no. 1 (Winter 1 992): 61 -67. 

48. The effects of Agent Orange on human remains argumentive. See, for example, John E. 
Murray, Report to the White House Agent Orange Working Group, Science Subpanel on Exposure 
Assessment (Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology 
Policy, May 27, 1986); Frank R. Finch, This Land Is Ours: The Environmental Threat of Army 
Operations, a presentation at the Naval War College Symposium on the Protection of the 
Environment During Armed Conflict and Other Military Operations, September 20, 1 995; Karlheinz 
Lohs, Delayed Toxic Effects of Chemical Warfare Agents, a monograph (Stockholm, Sweden: 
Stockholm Peace Research Institute, 1975), 19-22. 

49. Walter G. Sharp, Sr., "The Effective Deterrence of Environmental Damage During Armed 
Conflict: A Case Analysis if the Persian Gulf War," Military Law Review (Summer 1 992): 24-28; John 
A. Miller, "Countering the Iraqi Eclipse," Military Engineer (January/February 1992): 4-7. 

50. Sandra Postel, "Carrying Capacity: Earth's Bottom Line," in State of the World, 1994: A 
World Watch Institute Report on Progress Toward Sustainable Society, ed. Lester R. Brown (New 
York: W. W. Norton, 1994), 3-21; Wade Roush, "Population: The View from Cairo/' August 26, 
1994, 1164-1167. 

51 . Joyce R. Starr, "Water Wars," Foreign Policy 82 (Spring 1 991 ): 1 7-25; Elizabeth, Anne Green, 
"Hydropolitics in the Middle East," Strategic Review 21, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 72-76; Carol 
Migdalovitz, Iraq-Kuwait Crisis: Is Water a Weapon?, Report No. 91-105F (Washington, DC: 
Congressional Research Service, January 23, 1991). 

52. Ibid. 

53. Tim Zimmerman, "If World War III Comes, Blame Fish," U.S. News & World Report, October 
21, 1996, 59-60. 

54. E. Willard and Ruby M. Miller, Environmental Hazards: Toxic Waste and Hazardous 
Material, A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1991); K. A. Gourlay, World of 
Waste: Dilemmas of Industrial Development (Mantle Highlands, NJ: Zed Books, 1992). 

55. P. J. Skerrett, "Nuclear Burial at Sea," Technology Review, February/March 1 992, 22-23. 

56. Chemical Weapons: Destruction and Conversion (New York: Crane, Russak for Stockholm 
International Peace Research Institute, 1980). 

57. Zdenek Dlouhy, Disposal of Radioactive Wastes (New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing, 

58. M. Feshback, Ecological Disaster: Cleaning the Hidden Legacy of the Soviet Regime (New 
York: Twentieth Century Press Fund, 1 995); Nuclear Wastes in the Arctic, especially 1-1 7. 

59. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, "American Diplomacy and the Global Environmental 
Challenges of the 21 st Century," address delivered at Stanford University, California, April 9, 1996. 


60. A National Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement (Washington: The White House, 
February 1995, 18-19). 

61 . Agreement Reached on Environmental Security Plan (Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant 
Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, July 16, 1 996). For some related requirements, see Kent Hughes 
Butts, Environmental Security: What Is DoD's Role? (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 
U.S. Army War College, May 28, 1 993); David Rubenson et al., Marching to Different Drummers: 
Evolution of the Army's Environmental Program (Santa Monica, CA: Arroyo Center, RAND, 1 994); 
Joseph C. Conrad, Environmental Considerations in Army Operational Doctrine, 2, 1 7-22, 23-24. 




Abbott Well, lets see now. We have on our team Who's on first, 

What's on second, I Don't Know's on third. 

Costello. Well, go ahead! Who's on first? 

Abbott Who is on first. 

Costello. What are you asking me for? I'm asking you who is on 

first? . . . 

Abbott Who. 

Costello. I'm asking a simple question. Who's on first? 

Abbott Yes. 

Costello. I'm asking you what's the guy's name on first base? 

Abbott Oh, no. What's on second. 

Who's on First 

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello 
First Broadcast on NBC, 1 942 


because confusion can put formations at cross-purposes that at best cause wasteful 
duplications and at worst leave key terrain uncovered. Sensible answers to that question 
commonly call for cleanly-cut areas of responsibility (AORs) that foster unity of effort, afford 
sufficient room for armed forces of particular types to operate effectively, and avoid overlaps 
that could needlessly incur casualties from so-called "friendly fire." 

Predominantly political, strictly military, or political-military considerations in some 
combination determine the size and shape of each AOR, depending on circumstances that 
feature physical and cultural geography. Areas of interest and abilities to influence actions 
usually extend well beyond assigned AORs, but plans and operations that overlap parts of 
neighboring bailiwicks require prior consultation and continuing coordination with all 
parties concerned. 


Nations that couple cosmopolitan interests with a global reach subdivide the world into areas 
of responsibility that best distribute military strength and maximize flexibility. The United 
States and Great Britain did so to mutual advantage during World War II. The U.S. 
Department of Defense has put lessons learned to good use ever since. 



President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in correspondence to British Prime Minister Winston 
Churchill on February 18, 1942, opined, "The United States is able because of our 
geographical position to reinforce [Australia and New Zealand] much better than you can. 
. . . Britain is better prepared to reinforce Burma and India and I visualize that you would take 
responsibility for that theater/' 1 

Two weeks later President Roosevelt proposed, and the British Chiefs of Staff agreed, that 
the Allies should subdivide the globe into three AORs to deal with Axis opponents: the 
Pacific (a U.S. responsibility); the Middle East and Far East (a British responsibility); and 
shared responsibility for Europe plus the Atlantic. Newly minted Major General Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, Chief of the U.S. Army's Operations Division in the Pentagon, thereupon 
prepared a War Department study that defined those three areas as follows: 

The Pacific AOR included North and South America, China, Australia, New Zealand, 
the Dutch East Indies less Sumatra, and Japan. 

The Middle East and Far East included the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian 
Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and all land areas contiguous thereto from Gibraltar to Singapore. 

The European and Atlantic AOR reached from the U.S. east coast to Russia. 

Churchill advised President Roosevelt on March 18, 1942, that he saw "great merits in 
simplification resulting from American control over the Pacific sphere and British control over 
the Indian sphere and indeed there is no other way," provided operations everywhere be 
directed by "the Combined Chiefs of Staff acting directly under you and me." He accordingly 
concluded that U.S. "proposals as I have ventured to elaborate and interpret them will 
achieve double purpose namely (a) integrity of executive and operational action and (b) 
opportunity of reasonable consultation for those whose fortunes are involved." 2 
Implementing measures took shape almost immediately. 


U.S. experiences during World War II demonstrated that commanders in chief (CINCs) of 
unified combatant commands can bring military power to bear most efficiently and 
effectively only if some rational system fosters joint operations, dampens jurisdictional 
disputes, avoids undesirable duplication of effort, and leaves no significant gaps. Related 
requirements became urgent at the onset of the Cold War, when apprehensive allies on six 
continents looked to the United States for leadership and global responsibilities settled on 
U.S. Armed Forces for the first time since their inception in 1 775. 3 

Original U.S. Areas of Responsibility. President Harry S Truman on December 1 4, 1 946, 
approved the first in a long series of unified command plans, the Outline Command Plan, 
which prescribed seven geographically oriented unified commands with the following 
fundamental missions and areas of responsibility: 4 

Far East Command (FECOM): Perform occupation duties in Japan, Korea, the Ryukyus, 
Philippines, Marianas, and Bonin Islands; command U.S. Armed Forces in China if 
required; prepare for a general emergency. Established January 1, 1947. 


Pacific Command (PACOM): Conduct operations to secure sea and air lines of 
communication across the Pacific Ocean; protect the United States against attacks from 
that quarter; prepare for a general emergency. Established January 1 , 1 947. 

Alaska Command (ALCOM): Defend Alaska, including the Aleutian Islands; protect 
the United States against attacks through Alaska and adjacent arctic regions; prepare for 
a general emergency. Established January 1, 1 947. 

European Command (EUCOM): Occupy Germany; support U.S. national policy in 
Europe; plan for a general emergency. Established March 1 5, 1 947. 

Caribbean Command (CARIBCOM): Defend the United States, the Panama Canal, 
and U.S. outposts in the Caribbean from bases in Panama and the Antilles; defend sea and 
air lines of communication in collaboration with Atlantic Command; support U.S. Atlantic 
Fleet; prepare for a general emergency. Established November 1, 1 947. 

Atlantic Command (LANTCOM): Defend the United States against attack across the 
Atlantic Ocean; support U.S. Armed Forces in Europe, the Mediterranean, the [North 
American] Northeast, and the Caribbean; prepare for a general emergency. Established 
December 1, 1947. 

U.S. Northeast Command (USNEC): Maintain security in Newfoundland, Labrador, 
and Greenland; protect sea and air lines of communication in area; protect the United 
States against attack from that quarter; prepare for a general emergency. Established 
October 1, 1950. 

Subsequent U.S. Areas of Responsibility. Twenty-one U.S. unified commands have been 
established at various times since 1947, of which nine remained 50 years later. EUCOM, 
ACOM (formerly LANTCOM), PACOM, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and U.S. 
Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) focus on geographic areas. All expressed intense interest 
in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but none could apply military power selectively 
across such a huge AOR (map 50). The President and the Secretary of Defense therefore 
retained oversight responsibilities and delegated duties as they saw fit until UCP changes put 
Ukraine, Belarus, Moldava, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan within the EUCOM AOR 
(effective October 1, 1998), while CENTCOM picked up Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, 
Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan (effective October 1, 1999). Only Russia among 
the former Soviet republics will remain unassigned. 

Periodic Boundary Revisions. Title 10, United States Code, requires the JCS Chairman 
not less than every 2 years to review "missions, responsibilities (including geographic 
boundaries) and force structures for the combatant commands and recommend [changes]." 
AORs in particular require close scrutiny in this rapidly changing world, taking political 
ideological, topographical, cultural, technological, and military considerations into account, 
because boundary revisions may create problems more serious than those they solve unless 
planners are sensitive to many subtle implications. 5 

The current Unified Command Plan, for example, assigns to three CINCs areas of 
responsibility that include parts of Islamic Africa, Southwest Asia, and neighboring bodies of 
water. CENTCOM' s AOR covers the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of 
Oman, and 18 countries, all of which except Kenya are entirely Muslim or have Muslim 
pluralities. European Command's AOR incorporates Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, together with 
four Islamic states along Africa's Mediterranean littoral (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and 


Map 50. U.S. Cold War Areas of Responsibility 



Libya). Pacific Command's AOR, which abuts GENICOM at the border between India and 
Pakistan, embraces the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. 

Such rough seams complicate coordination and invite miscalculations when troubles crop 
up, yet adjustments that initially seem simple almost always appear complex after 
investigation. Some problems are traceable to Service chiefs and CINCs who prefer the status 
quo for bureaucratic reasons, 6 while others have their roots in the region. Central 
Command's AOR indeed could cover all Middle Eastern countries, but redrawing boundaries 
to do so likely would alienate U.S. Arab allies who see Israel as their enemy, put a serious 
crimp in intelligence-sharing, and make coalition planning practically impossible. Similar 
friction would ensue if the Unified Command Plan put religious rivals like India and Pakistan 
within one AOR. Sensitivity for Muslim concerns ostensibly makes CENTCOM better suited 
than EUCOM to deal with explosive situations in Islamic North Africa, but land, sea, air, and 
amphibious assets assigned to European Command are located more conveniently. And so 
on. Fewp/vma facie cases that favor AOR boundary adjustments are evident anywhere else. 


Political sensitivities, traditional spheres of Service influence, threats, and available combat 
power as well as geographic circumstances commonly shape regional as well as global areas 
of responsibility. The subdivision of NATO's Allied Command Europe (ACE) into three major 
subordinate commands and repeated revision of AORs for U.S. unified commands illustrate 
associated problems. 


General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his first annual report as Supreme Allied 
Commander, Europe (SACEUR), perceptively analyzed his area of responsibility: 

Western Europe, from North Cape to Sicily, had to be surveyed as a whole. There is the main 
land mass, stretching from the Baltic to the Adriatic peninsula, when viewed in perspective, 
of that greatest of all land masses, which is Europe and Asia combined. On the flanks of this 
main peninsula we have two main outcrops apart from the Iberian peninsula and the British 
Isles. The one is Denmark, almost touching the tip of Scandinavia, whose western half, 
Norway, is among our brotherhood of nations sworn to defend freedom. The southern 
outcrop is Italy, projecting into the Mediterranean, and affording us its strong position for 
flanking forces with valuable air and sea bases. It seemed sound to divide the command of 
Western Europe into three main sectors: Norway and Denmark as one buttress, Italy and the 
adjacent waters as the other, and the central mass as the main structure. 7 

NATO's Basic Subdivisions. NATO in April 1951 accordingly began to form three 
geographically oriented AORs, stacked from north to south (map 51 ). Allied Forces Northern 
Europe stood guard on the Nordic flank, Allied Forces Southern Europe did likewise south 
of the Alps, while Allied Forces Central Europe became the bulwark in between. 

Denmark and West Germany's Schleswig-Holstein Province, although topographically 
inseparable from NATO's center sector, were assigned to CINCNORTH because, in 
collaboration with Norway, they controlled straits that connect the Baltic and North Seas. 
U.S. Sixth Fleet furnished most combat power for the south flank, but interim command 


Map 51 . NA TO's Basic Areas of Responsibility 



arrangements had to suffice until 1953, when the British Mediterranean Fleet became the 
nucleus of a new lashup under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten whose status was coequal 
with that of NATO's CINCSOUTH, an American. 8 

Haphazard AORs in AFCENT. Three land corridors cut across the Iron Curtain from 
Warsaw Pact countries into West Germany, which was AFCENT's forward line of defense. 
The most dangerous avenue, tailor-made for armored thrusts, traversed the North German 
Plain over first-rate highways and rolling farmlands that facilitated cross-country movement, 
whereas rough, wooded terrain farther south generally restricted vehicular traffic to the Fulda 
Gap, which points toward Frankfurt-am-Main, and to the Hof Corridor which heads for 
Munich (map 52). 

NATO's dispositions athwart those three approaches resulted from historical accidents 
rather than design, because British, French, and U.S. areas of responsibility generally 
paralleled their respective occupation zones at the end of World War II and all Allied forces 
took full advantage of West German peacetime garrisons. Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) 
covered the crucial North German Plain with four corps, of which the Netherlands, West 
Germany, Britain, and Belgium provided one apiece. Central Army Group (CENTAG), in 
sharp contrast, was positioned on far more defensible terrain and possessed far greater 
combat power that included two U.S. corps, two more that belonged to the West German 
Bundeswehr, and a Canadian mechanized brigade in reserve. Defense of the Fulda Gap 
might best have rested with a single command, but German and U.S. Army formations shared 
responsibility for that high-speed approach, which straddled the boundary between them. 
Such maldeployments were militarily unsound, but no adjustments of much consequence 
took place before the Cold War ended, because exchanges would have weakened defenses 
while in progress, diplomatic objections were discouraging, and moving costs would have 
been enormous. 10 


Competition between the United States Army and the Navy over respective responsibilities 
and authority in the Pacific strained relationships during early stages of World War II and 
persisted until Japan capitulated. Jurisdictional disagreements that subsequently surfaced in 
Northeast Asia intensified after the Korean War erupted. Similar problems complicated 
military operations in Vietnam. 

Disputes in the South Pacific. The Pacific area of responsibility that President Roosevelt 
and Prime Minister Churchill agreed upon in 1 942 was for the most part a watery domain 
best suited for sea services, but armies and land-based air forces had prominent roles to play 
when U.S. holding actions ceased and offensive operations commenced against Japanese 
Armed Forces entrenched on an arc of island strongholds that constituted the first line of 
defense for their homeland. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), after carefully considering 
recommendations from political-military officials in Australia and New Zealand, 
consequently established a Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) and installed General Douglas 
MacArthur as CINC, with purview over Australia, New Guinea, neighboring islands as far east 
as 160 degrees east longitude, all of the Dutch East Indies except Sumatra, and the 
Philippines. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, simultaneously designated Commander in Chief 
Pacific Ocean Area (CINCPOA), retained New Zealand and the rest of the Pacific Ocean in 


Map 52. AFCENT Areas of Responsibility 





I. North Grman Plain 


II. Fulda^Gap 




III. Hohcorridor 







his area of responsibility, less a slice off Central and South America that remained within the 
Pacific Sector of Panama Sea Frontier (map 53). 11 

Competition between the two regional commanders in chief was keen from the start. 
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, after hearing all arguments, put Australia in the Southwest 
Pacific Area and New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean Area so the Navy could safeguard sea 
lines of communication between the United States and New Zealand, although the Army 



repeatedly pointed out that similar lines led to Australia and lobbied to control terminals in 
both countries. The JCS moved General MacArthur's eastern boundary from the 160 th to the 
1 59 th Meridian before ink dried on their original directive and thereby divided responsibility 
for the Solomon Islands so Admiral Nimitz could direct operations against Guadalcanal. The 
two CINCs, already engaged in fierce rivalry for scarce resources, thereafter proceeded along 
roughly parallel paths toward the Philippines, each firmly convinced that his AOR deserved 
top priority, but in May 1 943 the JCS approved a dual drive that satisfied neither of them. 12 

Disputes in Northeast Asia. Far East Command (FECOM) reported directly to the JCS 
throughout the Korean War (June 1950- July 1953), but in 1956 most of the Joint Chiefs 
concluded that FECOM had outlived its usefulness in light of dwindling U.S. deployments in 
Northeast Asia and voted to transfer all functions to Pacific Command. Army Chief of Staff 
General Maxwell D. Taylor, the lone dissenter, advised enlargement to include Taiwan, the 
Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia where, in his opinion, the Army was better 
prepared than the Navy to block communist encroachment. FECOM disappeared on July 
1, 1 957, only after the Secretary of Defense broke the deadlock and approved in its place a 
pair of unified commands subordinate to CINCPAC: a four-star Army general became 
Commander in Chief of the U.N. Command and Commander, U.S. Forces Korea; a three-star 
Air Force general became Commander, U.S. Forces Japan. Questions concerning the efficacy 
of a Far East Command nevertheless resurface periodically, most recently during the roles and 
missions review in 1995. 13 

Disputes in Southeast Asia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, well before U.S. Armed Forces 
became deeply involved, debated two basic command arrangements for operations in North 
and South Vietnam: Option A left both nations within Pacific Command's area of 
responsibility, where they had been since their establishment in 1954, and activated a 
unified command subordinate to CINCPAC; Option B envisaged an independent command 
on the same level as PACOM. The JCS recommended Option A, CINCPAC concurred, the 
Secretary of Defense approved, and U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) 
emerged in 1962, but the new lashup never worked the way official "wiring diagrams" 
indicated. COMUSMACV often bypassed CINCPAC to deal directly with superiors in 
Washington, DC, including the President and Secretary of Defense, who played active parts 
in daily operations. CINCPAC conducted the air war and surface naval operations, while 
COMUSMACV took charge on the ground. 14 

General William C. Westmoreland, who was Commander, U.S. Military Assistance 
Command Vietnam from June 1964 until March 1968, observed in retrospect that an 
independent unified command for all of Southeast Asia would have clarified responsibilities 
and increased operational flexibility. "Instead of five 'commanders' CINCPAC, 
COMUSMACV, and the American ambassadors to Thailand, Laos, and South Vietnam 
there would have been one man directly responsible to the President on everything. . . . Such 
an arrangement would have eliminated the problem of coordination between the air and 
ground wars that was inevitable with CINCPAC managing one, MACV the other."' 


A U.S. area of responsibility that formally embraced the Middle East and neighboring waters 
was unnecessary before the British Empire broke up in the late 1940s and British Armed 


Map 53. Pacific Ocean Area and Southwest Pacific Area 



Forces began to abandon outposts in that region. Secretary of Defense Thomas S. Gates, Jr., 
after heated JCS debates that pitted the Army and Air Force against the Navy and Marine 
Corps, in February 1 960 officially put the Commander in Chief of U.S. Naval Forces Eastern 
Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM) in charge of plans and operations for an AOR that 
enclosed lands east of Libya and south of Turkey, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay 
of Bengal. Secretary Gates concurrently enlarged Atlantic Command's AOR to include sub- 
Saharan Africa. 1b 

Those arrangements proved unstable. The JCS Chairman in 1 962, with active support from 
the Army and Air Force, accordingly proposed that the Commander in Chief of newly created 
Strike Command be assigned responsibility for the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and 
southern Asia (MEAFSA). As it stood, they reasoned, CINCLANT and CINCNELM "are 
required to execute operations with forces they do not have, using force employment plans 
developed by other commands/' The Chief of Naval Operations, backed by the 
Commandant of the Marine Corps, resisted change because CINCNELM was thoroughly 
familiar with Middle East problems and the likelihood of major U.S. military involvement 
anywhere in Black Africa seemed remote. The Secretary of Defense found the Chairman's 
arguments persuasive, added MEAFSA to CINCSTRIKE's responsibilities, and disbanded NELM 
on December 1, 1963. 17 

Disputes nevertheless persisted, expedient operations predominated, and continuity was 
elusive. The President and Secretary of Defense discontinued Strike Command and 
CINCMEAFSA in April 1971, tacked the eastern Mediterranean littoral, the Red Sea, the 
Persian Gulf, and Iran onto European Command, and left Africa south of the Sahara 
unassigned. Permanent improvements awaited the appearance of U.S. Central Command, 
which replaced an interim Rapid Deployment joint Task Force on January 1, 1983. 
CENTCOM's geographic area of responsibility, which has endured since that date, consists 
of Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, all in the Horn of Africa; Saudi 
Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, all on the Arabian 
peninsula; and Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. 18 


The Caribbean Basin and U.S. national security have been inseparable for more than 200 
years, in peacetime as well as war. 19 Command arrangements for that crucial region, which 
had been within CINCLANT's area of responsibility since 1 956, worked smoothly during the 
Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and U.S. operations in the Dominican Republic 3 years later, 
but heated debates about AORs began in October 1 979 soon after President Carter deplored 
what he perceived to be ever greater Soviet encroachment and Cuban influence. 20 

CINCSOUTH and the Army Chief of Staff postulated that general war was a remote 
possibility, but if it did occur, LANTCOM would have to rivet attention on the Atlantic Ocean 
whereas Southern Command, armed with a wealth of Latin American experience, was ready, 
willing, and able to counter Communist activities that posed clear and present dangers to 
U.S. interests throughout the Caribbean. CINCLANT contended that it would be imprudent 
to pass responsibility for the Caribbean from his command to SOUTHCOM, given U.S. 
policies that encouraged greater vigilance and military capabilities in that volatile region. 
The Joint Chiefs found in favor of Atlantic Command, which they concluded was better able 
to safeguard vital sea lanes through the Caribbean to NATO Europe and from Venezuelan oil 


fields to the United States under emergency conditions. Secretary of Defense Caspar 
Weinberger approved their recommendations on November 2, 1 981 . 21 

Different U.S. policies and priorities in response to different threats, however, appeared 
the following decade after possibilities of general war virtually disappeared for the 
foreseeable future. JCS Chairman General John M. Shalikashvili recommended, Defense 
Secretary William Perry concurred, and President Bill Clinton approved alterations that gave 
CINCSOUTH control over all U.S. military activities in the Caribbean basin as well as 
Central and South America effective June 1, 1 997, primarily to remove troublesome seams 
that adversely affected counternarcotics operations. President Clinton on January 1, 1996, 
additionally transferred to SOUTHCOM responsibility for ocean waters around Central and 
South America from 30 West to 92 West to improve U.S. interactions with Latin American 

navies. 22 


Members of the Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J-5) of the Joint Staff developed, and 
the JCS Chairman approved, six principles for use during the 1 995 JCS review of the Unified 
Command Plan. All six still serve as yardsticks with which to measure how well assigned 
areas of responsibility suit each regionally oriented combatant command. 23 Each AOR must: 

1 . Support U.S. national security interests 

2. Be consistent with the current U.S. national security strategy, national military 
strategy, and public law 

3. Take international and interservice sensitivities into account 

4. Facilitate unified military operations during peacetime as well as war 

5. Be consistent with the CINCs span of control, so that reach does not exceed grasp 

6. Be consistent with plans, programs, and force deployments that are realistic, 
affordable, and salable. 

Thoughtful application of those principles might have ameliorated many AOR problems 
in the past and similarly could reduce the incidence of international and interservice discord 
in the future. Points 3 and 6 have special significance, because areas of responsibility almost 
invariably are unsatisfactory if statesmen, Service spokesmen, or holders of purse strings 
(Congress in the United States) strongly oppose. 


Theater commanders in chief, who exercise operational control over land, sea, air, and 
amphibious forces within respective jurisdictions, as a rule delegate to major subordinate 
commands authority and accountability over parts of their AORs for operational, logistical, 
and administrative purposes. Tactical areas of responsibility (TAORs) facilitate control and 
coordination at lower levels. The boundaries that CINCs and other commanders draw are 
designed to facilitate freedom of action within assigned zones, ensure adequate coverage of 
objectives and target suites yet avoid undesirable duplication of effort, prevent confusion, and 
reduce risks of fratricide from so-called "friendly fire." 


Theater and tactical AORs differ from global and regional subdivisions in several 
important respects: international sensitivities tend to diminish (but do not disappear), whereas 
interservice rivalries remain strong; areas of interest and influence tend to blur boundary 
lines; and TAORs are subject to frequent change during fluid operations. 


Operation plans and orders employed by land and amphibious forces at every level 
commonly prescribe boundaries and other control lines to prevent gaps and forestall 
interference by combat and support forces with friendly formations on either flank, to the 
front, or toward the rear. Well drafted boundaries wherever possible follow ridges, rivers, 
roads, city streets, and other geographic features that are clearly recognizable on maps as 
well as on the ground. They neither divide responsibility for dominant terrain between two 
or more commands nor position forces from one command on both sides of formidable 
obstacles unless sensible alternatives seem unavailable. 

Boundaries During Offensive Operations. Overlays marked with lateral boundaries that 
extend beyond objectives help military commanders coordinate artillery and air strikes 
against enemies. Land boundaries moreover may "pinch out" elements, as shown in figure 
38, to increase maneuver room for formations that are progressing toward objectives faster 
than adjacent units, to reconstitute reserves, or for other cogent reasons. 

Boundaries During Defensive Operations. The linear frontage that any given size ground 
force can defend depends in large part on topography, vegetative cover, and soil conditions 
which, taken together, limit cover, concealment, observation, and high-speed avenues 
available for use by counterattacking forces as well as enemies. Abilities to overcome 
geographic adversities and capitalize on opportunities in turn hinge on states of technology. 
Frontages were invariably narrow when soldiers armed with muskets and short-range 
cannons stood shoulder to shoulder and the best control measures consisted of shouts, hand 
signals, semaphore flags, messengers, bugle calls, and pyrotechnics. Modern weapon 
systems, electronic communications, sophisticated sensors, and other technological 
innovations permit much greater dispersion, but defensive fronts still are (and probably will 
always be) severely restricted by rough terrain, forests, and manmade structures that afford 
poor fields of fire for flat trajectory weapons and attenuate radio waves. Bald flatlands 
conversely allow small forces with requisite mobility or long-range weaponry to cover 
relatively large areas. 

Lateral boundaries for front line companies in defensive positions normally extend 
forward to the limit of observation from combat outposts, whereas divisional boundaries 
reach at least as far as the maximum effective range of organic or attached artillery. Division, 
corps, field army, and theater commanders also draw rear boundaries that identify areas of 
responsibility for forces with administrative, logistical, rear area security, and damage control 

Coalition Boundaries. National pride and political considerations other than military 
exigencies sometimes shape military areas of responsibility. The liberation of Paris was not 
one of General Eisenhower's immediate aims during the allied drive from beachheads in 
Normandy to the German border. But, after much bickering, the honor of first entry went to 
the 2d French Armored Division because the symbolic restoration of French freedom 
outweighed strictly military requirements. 24 Arab ground forces within the multinational 


Figure 38. Offensive Force Boundaries 


XX - Boundary, 29th and 1st Infantry Divisions 


I I - Boundary, 1st and 2nd Battalions, 16th Infantry Regiment 

B - Frontline Rifle Companies, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry 

Reserve Rifle Company, 
1st Battalion, 16th Infantry 

- Objectives 

coalition that defeated Iraq in January-February 1 991 for similar reasons were first to cross 
the border between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, then were first to enter Kuwait City while U.S. 
Marines, as planned, assisted their passage. 25 

Linkup Boundaries. Military operations that proceed through hostile territory to link up 
with friendly armed forces on the far side require careful coordination. Associated problems 
are doubly touchy when both sides are in motion, which often is the case, and increase 
severalfold when converging forces come from two or more countries that find it difficult to 
communicate face-to-face, much less over air waves. Standard procedures designed to 
prevent mishaps require units to report when they cross mutually recognized phase lines 
and to display prearranged recognition signs when contacts become imminent. 

General Eisenhower, to cite one real world case, noted that "the problem of liaison with 
the Russians grew constantly more important as we advanced across central Germany." 
Converging commanders, "anxious to have an easily identified geographical feature" serve 
as the junction line, selected the Elbe River, where troops of the U.S. 69 th Infantry Division 
safely met Russian counterparts on the afternoon of April 25, 1 945, just 2 weeks before Nazi 
Germany surrendered unconditionally. 26 




Sea services as a rule abhor boundaries that inhibit freedom of action. Command and control 
lines on open water, however, often are convenient and are unavoidable during amphibious 
assault operations. 

Boundaries Between Naval Areas of Responsibility. Naval forces en route from one AOR 
to another commonly change operational control (CHOP) at predesignated times or places. 
Ships home-ported on the U.S. west coast or in Hawaii pass from Third Fleet control to 
Seventh Fleet when they cross the International Date Line headed for the Far East and reverse 
that process upon return. Seventh Fleet ships bound from PACOM to CENTCOM become 
subordinate to Fifth Fleet a specified number of steaming hours north or west of Diego 
Garcia, Second Fleet ships based on the U.S. east coast CHOP to Sixth Fleet west of Gibraltar 
before they enter the Mediterranean Sea, and so on. Each ship at CHOP time electronically 
transmits to the receiving command a status of resources and training report that summarizes 
its readiness to perform anticipated missions. 

Amphibious Assault Boundaries. Boundaries drawn to coordinate amphibious forces 
before and during assaults on defended shores establish areas of responsibility (often over- 
the-horizon beyond the sight of observers on land) where troops transfer from ships to air 
cushion vehicles, helicopters, landing craft, or other conveyances. Boundaries on water also 
demark lanes from the line of departure to designated beaches, tell underwater demolition 
teams where to clear mines, and ensure that AORs ashore include adequate exits inland. 
Map 54 depicts such arrangements at Tarawa atoll in 1 943. 


Air forces detest imaginary lines in the atmosphere as much as navies deplore boundaries 
drawn on the sea, but senior commanders sometimes assign sectors for reasons they rightly 
or wrongly believe promote the safest, most efficient use of airspace. Three instances, one 
related to airlift, a second to combat operations, and a third to peacekeeping, are illustrative. 

The Berlin Airlift. Technically, four roads, four rail lines, and one barge canal tied Allied 
occupation forces in West Berlin to West Germany during the period of the U.S., British, 
French, and Soviet occupation after World War II, but only one railway and the Autobahn 
to Helmstadt were actually open, and Soviet Armed Forces sealed both from June 22, 1 948, 
until September 30, 1 949. Food and fuel for West Berliners were at a low ebb when Allied 
air forces with civilian air line assistance launched Operation Vittles over three 20-mile-wide 
corridors from Hamburg, Hanover, and Frankfurt-am-Main (see map 6, page 23). Transport 
aircraft flying night and day on split-second schedules delivered more than 2.3 million tons 
of desperately needed supplies before the Soviet Politburo allowed trucks and trains to 
resume shipments. 27 

Air AORs Over North Vietnam. Control problems arose as soon as U.S. Air Force 
squadrons in South Vietnam and naval aircraft based on carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin began 
Rolling Thunder bombing campaigns against North Vietnam in March 1965. A joint USAF- 
Navy Coordinating Committee thereupon advanced three optional control plans, all of which 
were controversial. 

Air Force members first proposed time-sharing arrangements that would reserve 3-hour 
periods within which one service, then the other, could attack approved targets. The Navy 
counterproposed responsibility on a north-south axis that reserved coastal targets for carrier 


Map 54. Amphibious Boundaries at Tarawa 

Boat Rendezvous 

November 20, 1943 

Line of 




0.25 0.5 Kilometers 

0.5 Miles 

Red Beach 1 3d Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment l 
Red Beach 2 2d Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment 
Red Beach 3 2d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment 

Adapted from Martin Russ, Line of Departure: Tarawa (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975), 61, 67 



aircraft, which lacked enough range to reach far inland without in-flight refueling, but some 
targets in that case would have received too little attention and others too much. The 
Coordinating Committee, despite Air Force objections, compromised with so-called "Route 
Packages," as follows (map 55): 28 

Route Package I (Air Force) included enemy staging bases near the demilitarized zone 
and heavily-traveled Mu Gia Pass, which led into the Laotian panhandle. 

Route Package II (Navy) covered enemy logistical activities around Vinh, targets along 
the coastal highway, and littoral traffic. 

Route Package III (Navy) concentrated on supply lines that fed Pathet Lao and North 
Vietnamese forces on and near the Plain of jars. 

Route Package IV (Navy) encompassed major marshaling yards, the Thanh Hoa 
bridge, and North Vietnam's only all-weather airfield south of Hanoi. 

Route Package V (Air Force), twice the size of and farther inland than any other parcel, 
embraced enemy bases between North Vietnam and northern Laos, including Dien Bien 

Route Package VI (divided between the Air Force and Navy along the highly-visible 
northeast railroad) was a heavily-defended, target-rich environment centered around 

Those AORs remained in effect until October 1972 when, "to improve efficient use of 
resources and to attain mass application of force where indicated," Admiral Noel Gayler, in 
his capacity as Commander in Chief Pacific, designated Route Package VI around Hanoi as 
"an integrated strike zone" wherein USAF and Navy aircraft could "schedule strike missions 
into one another's geographical area." 29 

Not everyone was satisfied with that decision, which pertained to only one AOR in North 
Vietnam. Skeptics such as General William W. Momyer, who commanded U.S. Seventh Air 
Force at the time, soon thereafter wrote that "any arrangement arbitrarily assigning air forces 
to exclusive areas of operation will significantly reduce airpower's unique ability to quickly 
concentrate overwhelming firepower wherever it is most needed." 30 He concurrently cited 
the following words of British Air Marshal Tedder to buttress his case: "Air warfare cannot 
be separated into little packets; it knows no boundaries on land or sea other than those 
imposed by the radius of action of the aircraft; it is a unity and demands unity of 
command." 31 

"No Fly Zones" in Iraq. The United Nations Security Council in April 1991 passed 
Resolution 688, which directed Iraq to cease repressing Kurdish communities within its 
northern borders and Shi'ite Muslims in the far south. The United States and key allies shortly 
thereafter imposed two air exclusion zones to ensure compliance. U.S., British, and French 
aircraft that participate in Operation Provide Comfort from bases in Turkey have flown daily 
sorties since May 1 991 to deny Iraq any use of its airspace north of the 36 th Parallel. Patrols 
associated with Operation Southern Watch in August 1 992 began to "sanitize" Iraqi airspace 
south of the 32 d Parallel, mainly from Saudi Arabia, then expanded coverage to include the 
33 d Parallel in September 1996. Such flights, as a bonus, perhaps help deter rash moves by 
Saddam Hussein toward Kuwait and other countries on the Arabian Peninsula. 32 


Map 55. Route Packages in North Vietnam 

N 150 30' East Longitude 




Dien Bien Phu 

Plain of Jars 

-lit- Silt' Sill' Sjt- 


25 50 75 Miles 

I I I l l l 

20 40 60 80 100 Kilometers 




Y_ _ _ rs 

lV NamPinh 







Mu Gia Pass 





Every U.S. military service seeks to stake out claims beyond tactical areas of responsibility in 
a "no man's land" where areas of interest, areas of influence, and the reach of long-range 
weapons overlap. Competition is intense, because the winners receive more money and a 
larger share of scarce resources with which to perform related roles, functions, and missions. 
Lack of mutual trust makes each supplicant loath to rely on others and prompts each, like the 
Prophet Isaiah, to plead, "Here am I; send me." 

Land forces almost everywhere establish fire support coordination lines (FSCLs) or 
equivalents thereof designed to maximize freedom of action for air forces and long-range 
weapons yet simultaneously minimize interference with ground schemes of maneuver and 
forestall fratricide by aerial weapon systems that deliver munitions in direct support of front- 
line troops. Land- and carrier-based aircraft as a rule may strike surface targets on the 
friendly side of FSCLs only after consultation with and approval of appropriate land force 
commanders but, in most cases, are authorized to conduct air-to-surface and surface-to- 
surface attacks on the hostile side as they see fit. 33 

Those rules of engagement were reasonably satisfactory until land forces armed with 
missiles began to impinge on air force and naval preserves. The U.S. Army, for example, 
currently is armed and equipped to identify targets at 185 to 310 miles (300 to 500 
kilometers) and engage targets regardless of weather conditions at ranges that exceed 60 
miles (1 00 kilometers). Army spokesmen justify the use of such systems with quotations from 
U.S. joint doctrine, which prescribes areas of operation large enough for land commanders 
to protect their forces and fight at extended ranges. 34 Air Force rebutters contrarily contend 
that only USAF and naval airmen should fight high and deep, because Army interference 
fosters interservice coordination problems, invites disastrous collisions between aircraft and 
projectiles, promotes senseless redundancies, and incurs unconscionable costs. It would be 
equally "absurd," one critic said, for the U.S. Air Force to insist on its own tank battalions to 
defend air bases in event of enemy breakthroughs. 35 Deep battle disputes nevertheless will 
likely linger in the United States and elsewhere until senior decisionmakers determine how 
much (if any) overlap is advisable and prescribe crisply-demarked areas of responsibility for 
each military service. 


Article IV of the Treaty on Outer Space, in force since October 1 0, 1 967, states, "The moon 
and other celestial bodies shall be used by all [signatories] for peaceful purposes. The 
establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of 
weapons, and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden." 

No treaty, however, forbids military activities in free space. U.S. Space Command wants 
the President to declare that void as a regional AOR. 3b Geosynchronous, geostationary, polar, 
lunar, and other prearranged orbit patterns probably would determine tactical areas of 
responsibility should he choose to do so, at least until technologists devise maneuverable 
spacecraft at some unpredictable future date. Military boundaries on the moon or other 
celestial bodies likely would share most attributes of those on Earth if any nation eventually 
deploys armed forces in such places. 



Strategic, operational, and tactical areas of responsibility constitute geographic entities 
within which one unified commander possesses the authority to plan and conduct 
operations that may involve more than one Military Service. 

Crisply-defined AOR boundaries foster unity of effort, ensure adequate territorial 
coverage, and avoid wasteful duplications. 

Traditional spheres of Service influence, threats, and available combat power as well 
as geographic circumstances commonly shape areas of responsibility 

The best laid global and regional boundaries take political sensitivities and cultural 
factors into account. 

The size and shape of coalition AORs often depends more on diplomatic demands than 
on strictly military considerations. 

Friction is probable when areas of interest and influence overlap areas of responsibility. 

Global and regional areas of responsibility require periodic reviews to ensure that they 
serve required purposes despite political, economic, military, technological, and other 

Proposed AOR changes that initially seem simple almost always appear complex after 
investigation, partly because the elimination of any given seam almost inevitably creates 
other undesirable features. 


1 . Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942, 
The United States Army in World War II (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 
1990), 165-166. 

2. Ibid., 166-168. 

3 . Walter S. Poole et al., The History of the Unified Command Plan, 1946-1993 (Washington, 
DC: Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 1 995). 

4. Ibid., 12-13, 127-129. 

5. Phillip E. Oates and Lawrence J. Stewart, Unified Command in a Unipolar World, National 
Security Program Discussion Paper (Cambridge, MA: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard 
University, June, 1991). 

6. Poole et al., The History of the Unified Command Plan, 1 -7. 

7. Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Annual Report of the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers 
Europe (Paris: Public Information Division, SHAPE, April 1952), 14. 

8. Stephen E. Ambrose with Morris Honick, "Eisenhower: Kindling the Spirit of the West," in 
Generals in International Politics: NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (Lexington, KY: 
University of Kentucky Press, 1 987), 1 8-22. 

9. See, for example, Congress, Senate, NATO and the New Soviet Threat, Report of Senator 
Sam Nunn and Senator Dewey Bartlett to the Committee on Armed Services, 95 th Congress, 1 st sess., 
1977; U.S. Air and Ground Conventional Forces for NATO: Overview (Washington, DC: 
Congressional Budget Office, January 1 978); Richard D. Lawrence and Jeffrey Record, U.S. Force 
Structure in NATO: An Alternative (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1 974). 

1 0. Harold Brown, Department of Defense Annual Report for FY 1979, 237-238. 


1 1 . Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942, 1 68-1 73; Rafael 
Steinberg, Island Fighting (New York: Time-Life Books, 1 978), 20-23. 

12. Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942, 258-265; Maurice Matloff, Strategic 
Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, 1994, 91, 96-97, 137-138, 185-196, 453-459. 

13. Poole, et al., The History of the Unified Command Plan, 20, 26-27. 

1 4. Ibid., 36-37; Report on the War in Vietnam, Admiral U. S. C. Sharp, Commander in Chief 
Pacific Command, Section I, Report on Air and Naval Campaigns Against North Vietnam and Pacific- 
Wide Support of the War, June 1964-July 1968; and General William C. Westmoreland, 
Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Section II, Report on Operations in South 
Vietnam, January 1964-June 1968 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1968). 

1 5. William C. Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1 976), 

1 6. Poole et al., The History of the Unified Command Plan, 1 6, 29-3 1 . 

17. Ibid., 32-34. 

18. Ibid., 39-41, 64-70, 74-78. 

1 9. See, for example, Alfred Thayer Mahan, "The Strategic Features of the Gulf of Mexico and 
Caribbean Sea," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October 1887, 680-691; The Caribbean A 
Military Perspective, Executive Summary and vol. I, Technical Report No. 83-2 (Washington, DC: 
Naval Sea Systems Command, December 1983). 

20. The History of the Unified Command Plan, 26, 31-32, 70. 

21. Ibid., 71-74. 

22. Unified Command Plan: Atlantic and Southern Command Participation in 1995 Review 
(Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, December 1996). 

23. Ibid., 13. 

24. Martin Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit, U.S. Army in World War II, The European Theater 
of Operations (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1 961 ), chapter 29. 

25. Persian Gulf Conflict: Final Report to Congress (Washington: Department of Defense, April 
1 992), 41 0; Prince Khaled Ibn Sultan, Desert Warrior: A Personal View of the Gulf War by the Joint 
Forces Commander (New York: Harper Collins, 1 995), 391 -41 9. 

26. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1 948), 41 0- 
41 1 ; Cornelius Ryan, The Last Battle (St. James Place, London: Collins, 1 966), 371 -372. 

27. Ann and John Tusa, The Berlin Airlift (New York: Athenium, 1 988). 

28. William W. Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, new imprint (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, 1985), 89-94; Sharp, Report on the War in Vietnam, Section I, 16-48, 53-54. 

29. Corona Harvest Report, USAF Air Operations in Southeast Asia, 1 July 1972-15 August 1973, 
vol. 2 (Hickam AFB, Hawaii: Dept. of the Air Force, Pacific Air Force, 1 973), IV-34. 

30. Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, 94-99. 

31 . Marshal of the Royal Air Force the Lord Tedder, Air Power in War, the Lees Knowles Lectures 
(London: St. Paul's House: 1947), 91-92. 

32. Kenneth Katzman, Iraqi Compliance with Cease-Fire Agreements, Issue Brief 92117 
(Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, March 1997), updated regularly; Alfred B. Prados, 
The Kurds of Iraq: Status, Protection, and Prospects, Report No. 94-423 F (Washington, DC: 
Congressional Research Service, May 12, 1994). 

33. Joint Pub 1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms 
(Washington, DC: Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 23, 1994), 146; FM 100-5: 
Operations (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, June 1 993), 6-1 4; Air Force Doctrine Directive 1 -1 , 
vol. 2 (Washington DC: Dept. of the Air Force, March 1 992), 1 61 -1 64. 


34. Deep Battle (Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, Roles and Missions Directorate, November 
15, 1994). 

35. Merrill A. McPeak, Presentation to the Committee on Roles and Missions of the Armed 
Forces, revised (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, September 1 4, 1 994), 1 5-1 7, 34-35, 
37, 39-40, 50-55; William W. Momyer. "An Organization for Theater Operations: From a 
Commander's Perspective," in Thomas A. Cardwell, III, Command Structure for Theater Warfare: The 
Quest for Unity of Command (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, September 1984), 131-134. 

36. Douglas Berenson, "U.S. Space Command Wants Space Declared Its 'Regional' Area of 
Operations," Inside the Pentagon, February 20, 1 997, 1 . 


A few of the 650 Kuwaiti oil wells that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein torched in February 1 991 burn brightly 
and blacken the sky with acrid smoke. Unprecedented efforts were required to extinguish the flames, restore 
production, and cope with an ecological disaster of grand proportions (U.S. Air Force photograph). 

Local laborers in Assam and Burma routinely transferred supplies and equipment from ox carts to U.S. C-46 
cargo aircraft bound for Kunming, China, via perilous routes over the Himalayan Hump. Nationalist Chinese 
divisions were the principal beneficiaries at that destination (U.S. Army photograph). 


Allied and captured enemy quarries equipped with 
rock crushers come in handy when military 
requirements call for materials with which to 
construct, repair, or maintain roads, railways, 
airfields, and other military infrastructure that 
demand solid foundations (U.S. Army photograph). 

The Berlin Airlift (Operation Vittles) supplied 
beleaguered West Berlin under trying 
circumstances during a protracted Soviet blockade 
that lasted from June 1948 until May 1949. 
Grateful citizens, who depended almost entirely on 
that aerial lifeline for food and fuel, lined high 
ground in good weather to cheer the arrival of 
precious shipments (U.S. Army photograph). 

Expeditionary airfields, such as this one in the 
midst of a South Pacific palm grove, facilitate the 
rapid exploitation of land-based airpower for 
diverse purposes. Emergency strips may be 
operational within a day or two. Greater 
capabilities demand longer times that depend on 
local topography, land clearance requirements, soil 
stability, the availability of construction materials, 
and the early arrival of bare base kits (U.S. Navy 


* t fcfc7-"BP^ &- 


Hastily constructed helipads surrounded by triple canopy rain forests look like holes blasted in green blankets 
when viewed from above. Observers at ground level see a tangle of felled trees until chain saws complete the 
clearance process (U.S. Army photographs). 


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Dragons' Teeth were merely the most 
visible defenses along the Siegfried Line 
that buttressed Germany's borders with 
France, Luxembourg, and Belgium during 
World War II. Some U.S. troops rolled 
through almost unopposed in September 
1 944 when the Wehrmacht was in disarray 
and those fortifications were lightly 
manned, but six more months elapsed 
before breakthoughs occurred on a broad 
front (U.S. Army photograph). 

Cobblestones such as those on this stretch of Utah 
Beach in Normandy multiply the effects of artillery 
fire, because ricocheting rocks can be just as lethal 
as metal shards and high explosives (U.S. Army 

Armored vehicles trapped on narrow lanes 
between hedgerows atop steep earthen 
banks were easy targets for antitank 
gunners in Normandy, as the crew of this 
German Mark-5 tank discovered (U.S. 
Army photograph). 



Mulberry "A", an expedient port installed off Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day, was an engineering marvel. 
A devastating storm that struck on June 1 9, 1 944 (D+1 3) reduced the primary structure to twisted wreckage, 
but not before thousands of troops, vehicles, and tons of supplies passed through its portals (U.S. Army 


Top: This scene near the border between Laos and Vietnam illustrates a typical bypass and ford where Route 
9 crossed a shallow stream in 1968. The rickety bridge that engineers installed when Laos was a French colony 
would no longer support even light vehicular traffic (U.S. Air Force photograph). 

Bottom: A Marine Lance Corporal astride a baby bulldozer seeks to improve "Highway" 9 between Khe Sanh 
and the Laotian border. The badly eroded right of way, paralleling a shallow stream on one side and precipitous 
slopes on the other, was barely 6 feet (2 meters) wide in that locale (U.S. Marine Corps photograph). 





Eternal truths will be neither true nor eternal unless they have fresh meaning 
for every new . . . situation. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

Address, University of Pennsylvania 

September 20, 1 940 


and political-military geography on military plans, programs, and operations at every level, 
because the significance of any given area fluctuates in response to seasonal, cyclical, and 
random changes that commanders and staffs must evaluate in consonance with missions, 
situations, forces available on both sides, and technological proficiencies. Computer-assisted 
intelligence collectors amass, sort, and disseminate much of the data needed for area 
analyses, but accurate interpretations and sound conclusions depend on incisive minds. Most 
professionals follow a format similar to the one briefly described below. 


Data bases that deal with all pertinent geographic facts lay the foundation for each area in 
much the same way that Parts One and Two of this document underpin Parts Three and Four. 
Salient considerations such as spatial relationships, topography, oceanography, weather, 
climate, demography, urban patterns, transportation networks, and manmade structures 
indeed parallel the Table of Contents herein (see table 25). 


Table 25. Area Analysis Format 


Physical Geography 


Land Forms 

Sea Water 
Sea Ice 
Tides and Currents 
Waves and Surf 

Light Data 



Cultural Geography 

Population Patterns 






Ethnic Croups 

Military Bases 


Tribes and Clans 

Military Facilities 





Public Health 



Offensive Combat 
Defensive Combat 
Logistical Support 
Search and Rescue 

Unconventional Warfare 
Civil Affairs 

Psychological Operations 
Humanitarian Assistance 


Strategic Analyses 

Tactical Analyses 

Logistical Analyses 


Critical Terrain 


Core Areas 
Strategic Mobility 

Fields of Fire 
Cover and Concealment 



Avenues of Approach 

Medical Care 


Effects on Friendly Courses of Action 

Effects on Enemy Courses of Action 




The full significance of basic geographic intelligence begins to emerge only when put into 
context with military missions. Distinctive requirements, for example, rippled down chains 
of command as soon as the U.S. -British Combined Chiefs of Staff on February 12, 1944, 
instructed General Eisenhower to "enter the continent of Europe and, in conjunction with 
other Allied nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction 
of her armed forces." A U.S. -British-Canadian coalition thereupon prepared to land on the 
Normandy coast, consolidate five beachheads, then drive inland. The First U.S. Army 
prepared airborne and amphibious assaults to seize lodgments along its stretch of invasion 
coast, U.S. V Corps prepared to land on Omaha Beach, the 1 st and 29 th U.S. Infantry 
Divisions prepared to hit respective subsections at H-Hour on D-Day. Battalions, companies, 
platoons, and squads prepared to accomplish ever more detailed missions within ever smaller 
AORs. 1 Each organization required a formal or informal area analysis slanted specifically 
to meet its unique needs. 

Land, sea, and air force commanders in this day and age additionally must prepare to 
accomplish such diversified missions as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disaster 
relief, nation building, hostage rescue, counterterrorism, drug interdiction, and other 
operations short of war. Mission-oriented area analyses in each instance are essential. 


Detailed diagnoses occupy strategic, tactical, and logistical categories that respectively serve 
national policymakers and planners, combatant commanders, and support forces that 
specialize in supply, maintenance, transportation, construction, and medical care. 


Area analyses at the national level concentrate on political-military matters much like those 
that Part Three of this document addresses, together with lines of communication needed to 
reach distant areas of responsibility, abilities to form coalitions after arrival, and the 
availability of militarily useful infrastructures. 

Strategic analyses also assess enemy core areas that contain targets of great political, 
economic, military, or cultural value, the seizure, retention, destruction, or control of which 
would afford marked advantage. U.S. analysts during the Cold War identified several 
agglomerations in European Russia that would have been vitally important to Soviet national 
security in the event of a general nuclear war: Moscow, Leningrad, heavy industries in the 
Donets Basin and Ural Mountain complex, oil fields and refineries around Baku. Subsidiary 
cores centered around Tashkent, the Kuznetsk Basin, Lake Baikal, and Vladivostok were 
regionally important, but the Soviet Union could have survived as a strong state without them 
(map 56). 2 


Area analyses developed for combat forces emphasize critical terrain, avenues of approach, 
natural and manmade obstacles, cover, concealment, observation, and fields of fire. A few 
words about each suffice. 



Map 56. Soviet Core Areas 




Critical Terrain. Marked advantages accrue to armed forces that hold, control, or destroy 
critical (sometimes decisive) terrain, which is a lower level analog of strategically crucial core 
areas. Typical examples range from commanding heights and military headquarters to 
geographic choke points, telecommunication centers, logistical installations, power plants, 
dams, locks, airfields, seaports, railway marshaling yards, and road junctions. Features that 
qualify differ at each echelon, because senior commanders and their subordinates have 
different perspectives. Three- and four-star officers, for example, might see an entire 
peninsula as critical terrain while successively lower levels focus first on one coastal city, 
then on the naval shipyard therein, the next layer down on harbor facilities, and finally on 
pierside warehouses. 

Avenues of Approach. The value of avenues on land, at sea, and in the air also varies 
with levels of command. Field Marshal Graf von Schlieffen, who was Chief of the German 
General Staff at the turn of the 20th century, visualized a single high-speed corridor between 
Saxony and France, adequate for 34 divisions abreast if "the last man on the right brushed 
the English Channel with his sleeve/' 3 whereas haggard platoon leaders at the bottom of his 
heap felt lucky when they found a suitable stretch 1,000 meters long. Approaches that are 
attractive to friendly armed forces seldom suit enemy schemes of maneuver and vice versa, 
but useful avenues in neither event need follow the most obvious paths on the contrary, 
savvy commanders occasionally pick inauspicious routes precisely because they facilitate 

Obstacles. Representative obstacles along land avenues of approach include mountains, 
unfordable streams, swamps, steep slopes, deep snow, dense forests, flooded lowlands, reefs, 
shoals, urban centers, minefields, antitank ditches, roadblocks, blown bridges, cratered 
airport runways, and "dragons' teeth." Distance and overland accessibility don't always 
correlate closely, as evidenced by Tibet, which is reached more easily from Chongqiang, 
China, north of the Himalayas than from Calcutta south of that awesome wall. Impediments 
perpendicular to avenues of attack cause offensive ground forces to lose forward momentum 
and temporarily bunch up, which increases vulnerabilities. Polisario guerrillas in Western 
Sahara, for example, never were able to mount large-scale assaults across the huge berm that 
Moroccan troops built as a defensive barrier. 4 

Solid obstructions are absent in the air and uncommon on sea surfaces (ice, islands, 
reefs, and shoals are important exceptions), but underwater topography inhibits submarines, 
bad weather commonly interferes with operations aloft and afloat, rugged terrain limits flight 
paths, and intangible obstacles such as the denial of overflight rights for political reasons may 
impede the use of airspace. 

Observation and Fields of Fire. Ground forces for millenia have spilled countless buckets 
of blood in efforts to seize, hold, or destroy observation posts in church steeples, on water 
towers, or atop dominant peaks such as Monte Cassino (Italy) and Mount Surabachi (Iwo 
Jima). The loftiest perches, however, provide the best visibility only if lines-of-sight are 
unobstructed by terrain masks, dense vegetation, rain, drizzle, swirling snow, dust, fog, 
smoke, smog, mirages, or other obscurants that also limit aerial surveillance. Darkness 
reduces visibility for land, sea, and air forces alike unless they possess night vision devices. 
Topographic features, vegetative cover, and buildings commonly restrict air-to-ground 
as well as surface-to-surface weapon systems. North Korea is a cogent case in point, because 
low-hanging clouds often cover mountain tops, valley winds blow strongly, and many 



lucrative targets are deeply buried in tunnels at the bottom of shadowy, steep-sided ravines 
that face north. Contour-flying aircraft, "smart bombs/' and terminally-guided missiles 
assuredly would be hard-pressed to make sharp, high-speed turns in such close quarters. 5 
Cover and Concealment. Military personnel, command posts, weapon systems, and 
installations benefit more from cover, which connotes protection, than from concealment, 
which merely prevents observation. Camouflage nets and lilac bushes, for example, may 
frustrate prying eyes, but provide no better shields that buttons on battle jackets. Foxholes and 
folds in the ground that stop bullets and flying shards afford scant security against chemical 
warfare agents that seek the lowest levels. 


Logisticians get little satisfaction from area analyses that emphasize critical terrain, avenues 
of approach, obstacles, observation, fields of fire, cover, and concealment. Their interests 
in supply, maintenance, transportation, construction, and medical care instead demand up- 
to-date data concerning such diversified subjects as the effects of weather and terrain on 
needs for specialized food, clothing, and shelter; the availability of stone quarries and lumber 
yards needed to construct or maintain roads, airfields, seaports, cantonments, depots, and 
other military installations; bottlenecks along, and throughput capacities of, potential main 
supply routes; the presence or absence of plentiful water supplies and the location of 
alternative sources; indigenous sanitation problems and endemic diseases; quantitative and 
qualitative characteristics of local labor forces. Civil affairs and psychological operations 
forces similarly require area analyses prepared expressly for their purposes. 


The culmination of each area analysis evaluates and compares geographic influences on 
friendly and enemy courses of action. Results give the clearest possible views of advantages 
versus disadvantages before staff officers make recommendations and commanders make 
decisions. Chapters 1 8 and 1 9 present two dissimilar area studies that show effects on U.S. 
and enemy courses of action in the relatively recent past. Case 1 investigates influences on 
airborne and amphibious assaults that opened a second front in Western Europe during 
World War II. Case 2 explores the geographical antecedents of logistical problems that 
plagued plans to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos during President Lyndon Johnson's 
administration. Key findings are instructive, because geographical facts of life will similarly 
confront future statesmen, who must determine whether armed force is the most appropriate 
instrument in any given instance, and military commanders at every level, who must decide 
where, when, how, and in what strength to apply power most effectively given assigned 



Data bases normally lay solid foundations for area analyses only if they address cultural 
and political as well as physical geography. 

Skilled analysts consistently reach sound conclusions only if they apply time-tested 
techniques to ensure that all relevant considerations receive adequate attention. 

Land, sea, air, and space forces individually prepare area analyses to fulfill specialized 
needs of combatant and support commands at every echelon. 

Area analysts tailor each assessment to satisfy specific military missions, each of which 
requires unique interpretations. 

Geographical influences over friendly and enemy courses of action generally are of 
equal importance. 

Area analyses are perishable, because the military significance of any given plot 
fluctuates in response to seasonal, cyclical, and random changes as well as missions 


1 . Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command (1954), 53, and Cordon A. Harrison, Cross 
Channel Attack, chapter 8, "The Sixth of June" (1951), 269-335, both in a series entitled United 
States Army in World War II, The European Theater of Operations (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, 1947- ). 

2. John M. Collins, U.S.-Soviet Military Balance, 1960-1980 (Washington, DC: McGraw-Hill 
Publications, 1980), 130-133. 

3. Trevor N. Dupuy, A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945 
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977), 130-147. 

4. Patrick O'Sullivan, "The Geography of Wars in the Third World," 40, and William H. 
Lewis, "War in the Western Sahara," 1 1 7-137, in The Lessons of Recent Wars in the Third World: 
Approaches and Case Studies, eds. Robert E. Harkavy and Stephanie G. Neuman (Lexington, MA: 
D. C. Heath, 1985). 

5. Mark Hibbs and Margaret Ryan, "Experts Say U.S. Weapons Can't Destroy DPRK Nuclear 
Facilities," Nucleonics WeeA:, April 7, 1994, 15. 



The landing beaches were just one x in an algebraic equation that contained half the 
alphabet. What we wanted was a lodgment area into which we could blast ourselves and 
from which our main bodies, having suitably concentrated themselves within it, could erupt 
to develop the campaign eastward. 

Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan 
Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander 

Overture to Overlord 


in 1942, by which time the Nazi German juggernaut had overrun western Russia, Ukraine, 
and was well on its way toward the oil-rich Caucasus. 1 Operation Overlord, which took 
shape over the next 2 years, planned to land in Normandy, battle across France and Belgium, 
destroy enemy armed forces west of the Rhine, then "clean out the remainder of Germany/' 2 
This case study concentrates on Operation Neptune, the cross-channel assault. 3 

Geographic factors influenced plans and operations from selection of the lodgment area 
through the D-Day landings to the breakout from consolidated beachheads on July 25, 1 944 
(D+50). Time, distance, light data, coastal topography, tides, drainage patterns, weather, 
climate, land use, settlements, and transportation networks all affected courses of action on 
both sides. Enemy fortifications caused additional Allied concerns. 


Campaigns in North Africa (September 1940-May 1943) and thereafter in Italy simulated 
Second Fronts, 4 but neither of those "sideshows" satisfied Stalin who needed massive help 
of a more direct nature, nor would much-debated Anglo-American operations in the Balkans 
threaten Hitler's primary sources of military power. 5 The key question therefore became, 
"Where should Allied armed forces enter Western Europe on their way to the Third Reich?" 


British Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan, as Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied 
Commander (COSSAC), began to search for a satisfactory lodgment area well before General 
Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived on scene (map 57). He quickly discarded Norway because 
"to debouch therefrom southward in battle array would be quite something." Denmark's 
narrow Jutland Peninsula was likewise unappealing. Prevailing winds off the North Sea 


whipped beaches in Belgium and Holland, which lacked convenient outlets through 
waterlogged lands that not only were criss-crossed with canals but, being below sea level, 
were subject to widespread inundation. Portugal and Spain south of the Pyrennes Mountains 
were far from objectives inside Germany. 6 

Map 57. Potential Lodgments in Western Europe 



100 Miles 

1 i'l .'.'l .'. I 

160 Kilometers 




The focus on northern France sharpened swiftly. COSSACs staff believed that beaches at 
Dunkirk and in Brittany were much too small to support amphibious assaults followed by 
rapid buildups on envisaged scales. Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt, who then was German 
Supreme Commander in the West, later acknowledged that Allied landings near the thinly 
held Loire valley would have been ideal in most respects Major General Gunter Blumentritt, 
his Chief of Staff, confided that a company commander on that coast had to cycle all day to 
inspect his sector but both breathed easily because they knew that the Loire Valley was well 
beyond the reach of "short- 1 egged" fighter bombers based in England. Serious 
considerations, according to COSSAC, thus "whittled themselves down to two: direction Pas 
de Calais or direction western Normandy/' 7 

Calais at first seemed attractive, because the 22-mile (35-kilometer) cross-channel trip 
was short enough to maximize loiter times for fighter-bombers, minimize shipping 
requirements, and limit losses due to anticipated enemy U-boat attacks. Straight-line routes 
to the German border moreover measured barely 150 miles (240 kilometers). Debits, 
however, outweighed credits. COSSAC wryly noted that defenders who could read maps as 
well as he had made Calais the pivot point of Atlantic Wall fortifications. Nearby beaches 
were small, widely spaced, and exposed to storms, seaports along that stretch of coast were 
hopelessly inadequate even in perfect condition, and actions to seize Antwerp or Le Havre 
would necessarily parallel German dispositions for the full distance and thus be subject to 
flank attacks. 8 

The Baie de la Seine between Caen and the Cotentin Peninsula in contrast was much 
better sheltered than littorals east or west, beach capacities coupled with port facilities at 
Cherbourg seemed adequate to satisfy initial needs, COSSAC planners found no serious fault 
with distances from England, and air power could delay German reinforcements by blowing 
bridges over the Seine and Loire Rivers, which respectively bounded prospective objective 
areas on the north and south. Northwestern Normandy thus seemed to be the best possible 
compromise. 9 


The lodgment area that COSSAC selected in Normandy occupied the Departments of 
Manche and Calvados (the equivalent of U.S. counties), both bounded on the north by the 
Baie de la Seine and on the south by rough, wooded terrain that the locals call "bocage." 
Geographical data bases in support of Operation Neptune addressed relevant factors in four 
distinctive regions, along with overlapping phenomena. 10 


Land forms and land use on Manche's Cotentin Peninsula, in western Calvados, eastern 
Calvados, and in the hilly hinterland are dissimilar in many important respects, but cross- 
compartments are common, wide open spaces are conspicuously absent, and most terrestrial 
corridors that connect northwestern Normandy with the rest of France parallel the coast. All 
four regions encourage close combat rather than fluid warfare (map 58). 

Map 58. Natural Regions in Northwestern Normandy 

Bate de la Seine 




Basically Bocage 

(Hills and Hedgerows) 



The Cotentin Peninsula. The Cotentin Peninsula, which comprises the northernmost part 
of Manche, projects into the English Channel like a stubby finger. Topography at the tip, 
which is devoid of hospitable beaches, features bare granite rocks that stone cutters quarry 
on the back slopes of a semi-circular escarpment around Cherbourg. Thin, infertile soils are 
the rule in that rough terrain, which slopes gently toward the south and east where forests 
give way to orchards, then to checkerboards of thick, high hedges that enclose small fields. 
Marshy meadowlands and mud flats called "Prairies Marecageuses" follow river valleys in the 
extreme southeast and thrust long fingers into hills farther west (map 59). Dikes, drainage 
ditches, and locks along inland waterways plus scattered farmsteads are the only manmade 
structures in that desolate land. A few narrow causeways cross swamps that separate flat 
beaches from the first firm ground about a half mile inland (somewhat less than one 

Western and Eastern Calvados. Bluffs incised by shallow draws back discontinuous 
beaches that nestle between limestone cliffs where western Calvados meets the Cotentin 
Peninsula. Tablelands beyond the crest gradually rise southward for about 2,000 yards 
(1,825 meters) until they overlook the lower Aure River, which is more than 60 feet wide and 
1 2 feet deep (1 8 by 3.6 meters) at Isigny-sur-Mer. Landscapes in Eastern Calvados, which are 
less formidable, consist primarily of a low, undulating plain that fronts on sandy beaches. 
Cultivated fields that begin to displace hedgerows beyond Bayeux become increasingly 
widespread southeast of Caen. The Orne River valley and the canal that connects Caen with 
its outport at Ouistreham are among the most prominent terrain features. 11 

Basically Bocage. Thick blackthorn hedgerows and stone walls, many of them buttressed 
by large trees and high earthen embankments that follow no consistent alignment, serve as 
fences in parts of the Cotentin Peninsula and coastal Calvados, but bocage is most prevalent 
in hilly country farther south, where some fertile valleys and lower slopes sport 300-400 
oddly shaped fields per square mile. Easy access from one enclosure to another normally is 
available only at corners where two or more join. Heath or oak, beach, chestnut, and 
hornbeam forests, plus stands of planted pines, cover heights that are unsuitable for orchards 
or pasture. High-speed corridors that cut clear through the bocage from north to south are 
widely-spaced. 12 



Map 59. Drainage Patterns in Northwestern Normandy 

Bate dela Sietie 


1 Areas subject to inundation 


10 20 Miles 
i I i I 


1 ' 1 ' 1 

10 20 30 Kilometers 


Successful amphibious assaults against the seacoasts of northwestern Normandy initially 
depended on intimate knowledge of treacherous currents and tides in the English Channel 
as well as geographic information about the Baie de la Seine, a comparatively shallow, 
trough-like depression. Intelligence collectors therefore turned attention to water depths, the 
location of reefs, rocky ledges, other obstructions, beach gradients, shoreline characteristics, 
and avenues inland. Operation Neptune planners soon narrowed the search to a stretch 
between Quineville on the southeastern Cotentin coast and the mouth of the Orne River in 
eastern Calvados (map 60). 13 

Utah Beach. The most favorable Cotentin site, destined to become Utah Beach, centered 
on Les Dunes de Varville just north of the Vire Estuary where 4 miles of level, firm sand 700 
yards wide (640 meters) terminate against low dunes and a masonry sea wall. Gradients 
above low water average 1:130 for the first 500 yards, then steepen somewhat, but 
approaches are clear, surf normally is negligible, landings are feasible at any stage of the tide, 
and a sheltered anchorage for transport ships lies 2.5 miles (3.6 kilometers) offshore. Motor 
vehicle exits unfortunately are confined to a few tracks that lead through marshy meadows 
to a coastal road. The best of them in June 1 944 was an unsurfaced causeway, scarcely 1 2 
feet wide (4 meters) and barely above the muck during dry weather. 



Map 60. Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches 

Omaha Beach. The outlook in western Calvados was less attractive. Swamps and rocky 
outcroppings offshore, succeeded by sheer walls that sometimes exceed 1 00 feet (30 meters), 
characterize the coast for more than three miles east of the Vire River until a crescent-shaped 
strand appears beneath steep bluffs below Vierville-sur-Mer and Colleville-sur-Mer. That site, 
which Neptune's planners designated Omaha Beach, occupies the next 7,000 yards or so 
before palisades reemerge. 

Waters off Omaha Beach, unlike those at Utah, not only experience tricky rip tides, 
eddies, and moderately strong offshore currents, but are open to northerly and easterly winds. 
Vehicles and waders find traction uncertain in the shallows, even though low tides expose 
about 300 yards of gently sloping (1 :1 88), well-compacted sand, because submerged bars 
and runnels run at right angles to the beach. Gradients increase sharply to 1 :47 during the 
final 250 yards below high water, then to 1 :8 before tidal flats terminate in a low, wave-cut 
embankment that large, loose shingle stones and a solidly-constructed wall supplement in 
some places. A level, marshy shelf thereafter connects beaches to bluffs that before D-Day 



were broken by five wooded draws just wide enough to accommodate one narrow road, 
cart track, or trail apiece. No other exits were available for vehicular traffic. 

Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. More than 1 5 miles (24 kilometers) of chalky cliffs and 
rocky flats separated U.S. Omaha Beach from British Gold Beach, which is narrowest near 
Arromanches-les-Bains and widens toward the east. Low tide uncovers 800 yards of solid 
sand and the so-called "Plateau de Calvados" reaches seaward another three-quarters of a 
mile (1 kilometer) at depths no greater than 2 or 3 feet, after which the bottom drops off 
rapidly enough to allow good anchorages. Gold Beach above the high water mark is almost 
level, but a massive stone sea wall bridged only by two ramps inhibits vehicular access to 
heavily traveled roads that link Courseulles with Bayeux and Caen. 

Nearly contiguous Juno Beach, reserved for Canadian troops during Operation Neptune, 
straddles rocky approaches that mar tidal flats for almost a mile (1 .7 kilometers). Juno ashore 
is similar to Gold, except for a line of low, unconsolidated dunes along the waterfront. 
Seaside resorts, which are almost absent behind Utah and Omaha Beaches, dot the coast all 
the way from Arromanches past the mouth of the Orne River. Ramps and stairways on Juno 
Beach help personnel and motor vehicles cross a promenade that otherwise comprises a 
formidable barrier, village streets thereafter accommodate two-way traffic, and two 
macadamized roads lead to Caen. 

British amphibious forces that landed at Lion-sur-Mer on the westernmost part of Sword 
Beach found about half a mile of solid sand between high and low water, whereas flats on 
the eastern flank at Ouistreham are well over twice that wide and gradual gradients 
approximate 1 :300. Views from the water see soft sand and loose dunes ashore, plus a 
formidable wall with few ramps or stairs, but the going is easier on hard-surfaced roads 
beyond those barriers. 


Northwestern Normandy, adjacent to the English Channel, enjoys moderating climatic 
influences in every season (the Cotentin Peninsula is almost insular). Mild winters, cool 
summers, humid conditions, and brisk breezes predominate (table 26). 14 

The Department of Manche is the rainiest in all of northern France, with Calvados a bit 
farther east and Brittany a bit farther west as close contenders. Maximum precipitation, 
mainly in the form of drizzle or showers, falls most frequently in October, although some 
weather stations along the littoral show a secondary peak in June or July and downpours 
occasionally deliver more than two inches (60 millimeters) in a single day. Persistent rains 
adversely effect the trafficability of poorly-drained soils like those behind Utah Beach and 
along lower reaches of the Taute, Vire, Aure, Seulles, and Orne Rivers where water tables 
habitually are close to the surface. 

Fog and low clouds are most evident in winter, but poor visibility coupled with ceilings 
below 2,000 feet (610 meters) often limit air operations during early morning hours in 
summertime. May, June, and July offer the best chances for 5 or more consecutive days of 
fine flying weather. The phenomenon of very long days and very short nights at 50 degrees 
North Latitude during those months not only maximized daylight available to Allied aviators, 
but allowed German ground forces minimum time to move troops and supplies under cover 
of darkness. 



Table 26. Selected Climatic Statistics for Manche and Calvados 









































St. L6 










































































Rural residents of northwestern Normandy were widely dispersed among hundreds of hamlets 
and isolated farmsteads, although territories within 5 to 15 miles of the coast (8 to 24 
kilometers) generally were "off limits" to all but professional fishermen in 1 944. The last pre- 
war census statistics for cities, towns, and villages, compiled in 1 936, indicate that regional 
centers such as Cherbourg, St. L6, and Caen were relatively small (table 27), but even those 
figures were inflated, because German occupation forces moved about 100,000 French 
civilians inland well before D-Day. 1S 



Table 27. Populated Places in Manche and Calvados 
(1936 census) 




(per square mile) 
















St. Laurent-sur-Mer 

St. L6 

Ste. Marie-du-Mont 

Ste. Mere Eglise 




Villiers Bocage 




















Roads within Neptune's lodgment area never were designed for sustained heavy traffic. Even 
the arterial Cherbourg-to-Paris highway carried more tourist trade than commerce, while 
most other routes served strictly local needs. The lattice in Manche and Western Calvados 
lacked first-rate north-south roads. The Prairies Marecageuses moreover restricted vehicular 
traffic near the base of the narrow Cotentin Peninsula to a pair of vulnerable avenues on 
relatively high ground, both of which, like routes from Omaha Beach inland, thereafter 
threaded through an untold number of defiles and bridged many streams. Attractive exits to 
the south and east consequently emanated mainly from Caen on Neptune's left flank. 16 


First COSSAC, then General Eisenhower and subordinates in every U.S., British, and 
Canadian armed service at every level, assessed mountains of information concerning the 
lodgment area to ascertain the influence of geographic factors on plans and programs for 
Operation Neptune. Appraisals below emphasize "big pictures." 17 




Three urban centers within the lodgment area constituted core areas of great political, 
economic, and military significance: 16 

Cherbourg, the second largest city in the lodgment area, clearly was indispensable. 
Its main harbor was the premiere transatlantic passenger terminal in France during the 
1 930s, the inner roadstead could accept transoceanic cargo ships except when neap tides 
lowered water levels, the Care Maritime could discharge cargoes directly into trucks, and 
no other port between Rotterdam and Bordeaux possessed greater capacities, according 
to pre-invasion studies. 

Caen, the capital of Calvados and the principal transportation node in northwestern 
Normandy, radiated major roads and railways. Control over that city first could block 
enemy reinforcements and supplies headed west, then facilitate breakouts from Gold, 
Juno, and Sword Beaches toward relatively open ground south and east. 

St. L6, the capital of Manche, was another transportation hub from which routes 
reached in all directions. Allied ground forces on the Cotentin Peninsula and in western 
Calvados could not strike far south through bocage country without ousting adversaries 
from that pivot point. 


Key terrain viewed by Allied strategists and tacticians stretched from just beyond the water's 
edge to targets deep in enemy territory: 

Beach exits were high on all planners' lists because, as COSSAC put it, "If an invasion 
battle takes place on the beach, one is already defeated. There must be as little delay as 
possible in getting the troops and their multifarious goods inland." 18 

The dam and lock at la Barquette just north of Carentan, which regulated water depths 
along the lower Douve, Merderet, Taute, and Vire Rivers, were early D-Day objectives, 
because overflows would create a lagoon from Carentan to Quineville, impede progress 
inland from Utah Beach, and complicate efforts to consolidate Utah with Omaha. 

Bridges over the unfordable Orne River and Orne Canal, which followed parallel 
paths between Caen and Ostreham, likewise were worthy D-Day objectives because early 
capture could help secure the lodgment's east flank until assault troops and follow-on 
forces were firmly ashore. 

Neptune's planners never lost interest in enemy coastal fortifications or the artillery 
atop cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which reportedly could bring withering fire to bear on Utah 
as well as Omaha Beach. 

Allied air forces in spring 1944 intensified strikes against road and railway bridges 
over the lower Seine and Loire Rivers to isolate the battlefield well before combat began 
on the beaches. 19 


COSSAC and his staff concluded, and General Eisenhower later concurred, "It was out of the 
question to make the whole assault north of the Vire estuary." The beaches were inadequate, 
exits inland crossed an easily flooded morass, and enemy armed forces might seal off the 
Cotentin Peninsula at its base and thereby bottle up the entire Allied expedition indefinitely. 


Divisions put ashore exclusively along the Calvados coast conversely would be hard pressed 
to seize essential port facilities at Cherbourg in anything like acceptable time. Beaches on 
both sides of the Vire therefore were required to establish a strong presence ashore and build 
strength rapidly. 20 

Allied armed forces foil owed cross-channel avenues from marshaling areas in England to 
drop zones, glider landing zones, and beaches in Normandy. Amphibious assault and 
successive waves took a second set of approaches from ships to shore, whereafter all fanned 
out along land lines that led through, then out of, Neptune's initial lodgments. 

Cross-Channel Avenues. Men and equipment destined to implement Operation Neptune 
reported to sausage-shaped staging areas from Cornwall to East Sussex beginning the second 
week in May 1944, where they were quarantined pending cross-channel trips that look 
deceptively simple as plotted on map 61, but in fact were incredibly complex. U.S. and 
Royal Navy planners would have faced formidable problems if one naval task force had been 
sufficient, but in fact there were five filled with military ships and craft of every description, 
all scheduled to arrive at designated spots in the Baie de la Seine at about the same time. 
Plans called for all five to rendezvous near the Isle of Wight, which minimized air cover and 
minesweeping requirements, then begin the run south through treacherous waters where 
flood tides athwart the north-south course from England to France flow from west to east 
while ebb tides reverse direction. Each avenue at the half way point divided into fast and 
slow lanes so lumbering amphibious ships could steer clear of battleships, cruisers, other 
surface combatants, and troop transports. 

Task Force U, which numbered 865 convoy escorts, 21 fire-support ships, troop carriers, 
landing ships tank (LSTs), smaller craft, and auxiliaries, loaded 12 separate convoys at nine 
widely separated locations. Minesweepers cleared lanes through Cardonnet Bank, after 
which flotillas set sail for the transport area 22,500 yards (20,575 meters) off Utah Beach, 
where ship captains dropped anchor shortly before 0300 on D-Day. Task Forces O and B en 
route to Omaha Beach followed similar procedures, as did British and Canadian contingents 
on their way to Gold, Juno, and Sword. Airborne divisions dog-legged from distant departure 
airfields. 21 

Ship-to-Shore Approaches. Low tide landings would have simplified tasks for underwater 
demolition specialists whose job was to blow gaps between obstacles that were concealed 
only at high tide, but heavily-laden assault forces wading through shallow water for half a 
mile or more would have taken terrible casualties long before they reached shore. Neptune's 
planners therefore scheduled landings to start three hours before rising tides reached their 
peak, so amphibious craft that beached early could later float off (a one-foot tidal rise, for 
example, inundates nearly 200 feet of flat sand off Omaha Beach, where gradients generally 
average 1 :1 88). Ideal conditions, however, were not simultaneously obtainable at all five 
beaches, because high water reaches Cotentin coasts about 40 minutes earlier than it does 
in Eastern Calvados and the sites selected were neither equally level nor equally obstructed. 
H-Hour on D-Day consequently occurred at 0630 on Utah Beach, 15 minutes later at 
Omaha Beach, and 0745 on Gold. 


Map 61 . Cross-channel Routes from England to Normandy 



6 June 1944 

(""*) Main Embarkation Areas 

> Sea Routes 

Air Routes 

E23 Mine Fields 50 Miles 

80 Kilometers 

Causeways over marshlands between Utah Beach and the nearest coastal road were 
crucially important, but five draws that climbed the bluffs behind Omaha Beach were more 
so, because that steep terrain otherwise blocked tracked as well as wheeled vehicles (figure 
39). A rough trail at Exit F-1 on the left flank scrambled up a narrow valley where slopes 
exceeded 1 percent; an eight-foot-wide cart track at neighboring E-3 led to Colleville, 2,000 
yards inland; Exit E-1 , which tilted 1 00 feet in 500 yards, and the D-3 Exit at les Moulins both 
headed for St.Laurent-sur-Mer as soon as they cleared the crest. Grades were less demanding 
at Exit D-3 on the right flank and the road was graveled past Vierville until it met macadam. 
Assault troops that reached the top were much better off than on the beach, because German 
defenses- in-depth were nearly nonexistent. 

Land Avenues Inland. Avenues inland from Neptune's drop zones and beaches were 
geographically inviting only to the east and southeast, because the Aure River valley and 
bocage-covered hills separated landing sites in coastal Calvados from tank country due south. 
Narrow necks of dry ground that form the watershed between the Vire and Taute Rivers 
channelized movement from the Cotentin Peninsula and Carentan toward St. L6, severely 
limited maneuverability in lower Manche even for foot soldiers, and confined vehicular 
traffic to roads. Pre-invasion phase lines that anticipated fairly rapid headway despite adverse 



Figure 39. Exits Inland from Omaha Beach 


sxCM 5 


< CO HI 

Adapted from Robert J. Kershaw, D-Day: Piercing the Atlantic Wall. 



terrain accordingly proved optimistic, whereas progress after Allied forces broke into the 
open was faster than predicted/ 



Natural and manmade obstacles astride the avenues just described blocked all beaches to 
some degree and impeded progress inland, then helped German defenders pen Allied armed 
forces inside the lodgment area from June 6, 1 944, until late July. Formations able to bypass 
one set of obstructions often ran head-on into others as bad or worse. 

Beach Fortifications. The objective of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel obviously 
was to stop invaders before they reached the water's edge, then annihilate them with 
interlocking, overlapping cones of fire, 24 but beach defenses on D-Day varied considerably 
because preparations were incomplete. Only two artillery positions along Juno Beach, for 
example, were under concrete, while the rest occupied roofless bunkers or bare earthen 
pits. 25 The aggregate nonetheless could best be described as awesome. 

Defensive bands studded tidal flats with twisted steel girders called "hedgehogs," pilings 
driven deeply into firm sand at angles calculated to gut incoming landing craft, other 
diabolical devices, and millions of water-proofed mines. Tetrahedral antitank barriers, 
caltrops, ditches, concrete blocks, more mines, and concertina wire littered beach shelves 
and coastal dunes, while immobile roadblocks and "Belgian Gates" mounted on rollers 
guarded every exit. Fortified beach-front villas, promenades, and sea walls were especially 
prominent in eastern Calvados the highest bastion, at Arromanches-les-Bains, measured 1 5 
vertical feet (almost 5 meters). Automatic weapons and artillery housed in cleverly- 
concealed, well-camouflaged concrete pillboxes and casements were well-sited to cover 
Allied approaches from maximum to point-blank ranges. 25 

Obstacles Inland. Fears about floods along the lower Aure Valley and behind Utah Beach 
were well founded. Amphibious forces slogged their way inland without excessive difficulty, 
but many heavily loaded paratroopers drowned when 1 2 air transports overshot designated 
drop zones and dumped them in swamps astride the Merderet River. Defenders who sought 
to discourage parachute assaults and glider landings also seeded the few open spaces with 
several hundred thousand sturdy stakes known as "Rommel's asparagus," mined the tops, and 
interlaced the lot with tripwires. 27 

Sturdily constructed villages and farmsteads, often ringed with stone walls, became 
impromptu German strongpoints across Manche and Calvados, especially those located on 
dominant ground or at bitterly contested road junctions. Fort du Roule atop a steep granite 
promentory above Cherbourg fell on June 25th after fierce fighting, but some hardened sites 
nearby held out for another week. 28 

"The Normandy Campaign" above all became almost synonymous with "The Battle of the 
Hedgerows" in summer 1 944. Fields of fire for flat trajectory weapons were exceedingly 
short in the bocage, where poor observation severely limited the effectiveness of mortars, 
artillery, and close air support. Land combat consequently was risky business. Front-line 
infantrymen in broad daylight often lost contact with friends a few yards away and could hear 
but seldom saw enemies except for bodies left behind during hasty withdrawals. Allied tanks 
went belly up against shoulder-high embankments topped by vegetative ramparts several feet 
thick until innovative Master Sergeant Curtis E. Culm converted German hedgehogs and 


tetrahedons into hedgerow cutters that let tanks plow through without losing speed 
appreciably. 29 


Four additional geographic effects on Allied courses of action merit brief explanations, 
because they determined the day and hour that Operation Neptune commenced and strongly 
influenced staying power. Coastal hydrography and weather conditions were primarily 


Light data and tides determined H-Hour, the time the first wave of landing craft was 
scheduled to drop ramps and discharge assault troops ashore. Darkness was undesirable, 
because control would be difficult in the absence of night vision devices which had not yet 
been invented. Neptune planners, who preferred a time soon after dawn, picked the 
Beginning of Morning Nautical Twilight (BMNT) plus 40 minutes, which they deemed ample 
time for Allied aircraft and fire-support ships with aerial spotters to "soften" targets ashore 
before battles began on the beaches, while enemy observers still in relative darkness on the 
ground would lack clear lines-of-sight seaward. Unloadings moreover had to commence not 
earlier than 3 hours before high tide and terminate not later than three hours thereafter or 
assault troops would be stranded far from shore. Similar tidal conditions in late afternoon 
allowed follow-on echelons to land before dark. 

Airborne assaults behind Utah Beach and near Caen were timed for 0200 on D-Day, well 
before H-Hour, to take full advantage of a late-rising moon that would allow transport pilots 
to approach in darkness but easily discern drop and landing zones (bad weather made that 
impossible). Captain Frank L. Lillyman, whose 101 st Airborne Division pathfinder team 
leaped at 001 5 local time (12:15 A.M.), was first to set foot on French soil. 30 


Ideal conditions for amphibious operations in northwestern Normandy combined spring tides 
with a full moon, a coincidence that normally occurs three days each month. June 5, 1 944, 
the first day that satisfied those specifications during the most favorable month, thus became 
top choice. Prognoses, however, were poor when the final conference to approve or reject 
that date convened at 0400 on June 4th, because the worst June storm in 20 years had begun 
to punish the English Channel with low clouds, high winds, and white-capped water. Air 
support would be impossible, naval gunfire ineffective, and small boats subject to capsize, 
according to authorities at the table. General Eisenhower reluctantly ordered a 24-hour 
weather delay, even though so doing disrupted time-sensitive schedules. Convoys already at 
sea turned back to refuel while ships fully loaded with seasick soldiers fretted in port. 
Meteorologists the following day fortunately foresaw a small "hole" in the weather though 
which Neptune's naval task forces might pass before a second storm stuck. Further 
postponement would create monumental logistical muddles, troop morale would plummet, 
and secrecy would be hard to ensure. The Supreme Allied Commander mulled a moment, 
then said, "I don't like it, but we'll go." Signals flashed to the fleets and forces on shore: 



Neptune's planners from the onset knew that Cherbourg port never could satisfy all early 
needs even with assistance from logistical operations over open beaches. 32 They therefore 
issued prescriptions for two artificial harbors code-named Mulberry A and Mulberry B, each 
with throughput capacities about equal to that of Dover. Preliminary construction, which 
began in 1943 at scattered locations in Britain, produced 10 miles of piers, 23 pierheads, 93 
floating breakwaters called "Bombardons," and more than 100 gigantic concrete caissons that 
looked like six-story buildings lying on their sides. A motley fleet of seagoing tugboats towed 
that cantankerous armada to Normandy beginning just before D-Day, accompanied by 80- 
some aging blockships loaded with sand ballast and enough high explosives to tear their 
bottoms out when properly positioned off Omaha and Gold Beaches (see expedient port 
operations in chapter 1 1 for additional details). 

Performance exceeded expectations until D+1 3, June 1 9, 1 944, which dawned cold and 
gray with gale force winds by mid-afternoon. Meteorologists even so predicted good weather 
and anxious beachmasters found further reassurance in their "Bible," the Channel Pilot, 
because the column that counted the average number of stormy June days in the Baie de la 
Seine contained a great round "O". Long- and short-range forecasts unfortunately were both 
wrong. Wild winds and surf pounded Mulberry A so severely that little was left except 
salvage parts with which to rebuild Mulberry B at Arromanches-les-Bains. Good news 
nonetheless was mixed with bad: Allied forces in midchannel would have been unable to 
reinforce or resupply assault forces ashore if General Eisenhower had postponed D-Day from 
the original June 5th to June 1 9th, the earliest acceptable alternative date. 33 


The first emergency landing strip in Normandy appeared at Pouppeville near the southern 
edge of Utah Beach on D-Day, followed by second one at St. Laurent-sur-Mer on D+2, but 
Allied fighter-bombers based in Britain urgently required forward facilities that allowed faster 
turn-around times and used less fuel. Responsive engineers in the U.S. sector hastily 
constructed 20 fully serviceable expeditionary airfields suitable for daylight operations (seven 
of them by D+20), despite enemy action and geographic conditions that confined all 
installations to islands of solid ground where bocage was least obtrusive (map 62 and table 
28). Runways, taxistrips, and "hardstands" were surfaced with huge rolls of tar paper or 
"chicken wire" mesh firmly pegged down after bulldozers and scrapers cleared proper spots. 
Those primitive airfields were designed to last 2 or 3 months under "normal" conditions, 
which did not pertain because deep ruts appeared as soon as the wheels of bomb-laden 
aircraft crushed pliable tar paper into soggy earth and billowing clouds of powdery dust 
trailed pilots down wire mesh runways on dry days. Air base engineer battalions struggled 
manfully around the clock, but many strips were fast becoming unserviceable by early August 
and were abandoned as soon as more favorable sites became available outside Neptune's 
lodgment area. 


Map 62. U.S. Expeditionary Airfields in Manche and Calvados 

Bate de la Seme 


Table 28. U.S. Expeditionary Airfields in Manche and Calvados 



Operational Date 

Emergency Landing Strip (ELS-1 ) 
Emergency Landing Strip (ELS-2) 

Pouppeville (Utah Beach) 
St. Laurent (Omaha Beach) 



St. Pierre-du-Mont 













Deux Jumeaux 
le Molay 

D+2 8 
D+2 9 




A-1 4 






A-1 2 
A-1 3 



A-2 6 
A-1 6 






Geographical information concerning northwestern Normandy was incomplete and often 
inaccurate on D-Day, even though that region had been prominent in European history for 
more than 1,000 years. Obsolete charts of coastal waters, misleading climatic mean statistics, 
and belated appreciation of the bocage are just a few among many problems that plagued 
U.S., British, and Canadian forces during the June 1 944 landings and buildup. 

Operation Neptune nonetheless was an astounding success. Allied assault forces 
"entered the continent of Europe" despite perverse weather and terrain, consolidated 
footholds, and linked all five beachheads during the first week. Allied expeditionary forces 
by July 2nd had deposited ashore 1,000,000 men, 24 divisions (13 U.S.,11 British, 1 
Canadian), 566,000 tons of supplies, and 1 71 ,000 vehicles at a cost of 60,770 casualties, of 
whom 8,975 were killed. 34 The sacrifices of those valiants initiated the long-awaited Second 
Front and, in accordance with General Eisenhower's orders, began "operations aimed at the 
heart of Germany and the destruction of her Armed Forces." 


Geographical constraints make amphibious and airborne forcible entries among the 
most complex of all military operations. 

The presence, capacities, and locations of staging bases strongly affect avenues of 
approach to selected lodgment areas. 

The presence or absence of suitable ports and airfields in lodgment areas strongly 
affects military missions and the assignment of objectives. 

Far-sighted planners anticipate and prepare for disruptions caused by adverse weather 
conditions, which strongly affect assault and support forces en route to lodgment areas. 

Tides and light data determine the most favorable dates and times for amphibious 

Topographical features that narrow the number of suitable drop zones, landing zones, 
and amphibious landing sites generally favor defenders who can concentrate power at 
probable points of decision. 

Commanders who prepare alternative breakout plans that take advantage of assorted 
avenues are best prepared to exploit unexpected opportunities. 


1 . Don A. Harrison, "Cross-Channel Attack," United States Army in World War II, European 
Theater of Operations (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office), 73-74, 423-426; Douglas 
Botting, The Second Front (New York: Time-Life Books,1978), 4; John Keegan, Six Armies in 
Normandy (New York: Viking Press, 1 982), chapter 1 . 

2. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1 948), 228- 

3. For many pertinent maps and diagrams, see John Man, Facts on File D-Day Atlas (New York: 
Facts on File, 1994). Refer also to Colin F. Baxter, The Normandy Campaign, 1944: A Selected 
Bibliography (New York: Greenwood Press, 1 992). 


4. Richard Collier, The War in the Desert (New York: Time-Life Books, 1977), and Robert 
Wallace, The Italian Campaign (New York: Time-Life Books, 1978). 

5. Richard M. Leighton, "Overlord Versus the Mediterranean at the Cairo-Tehran Conferences/' 
in Command Decisions, ed. Kent Roberts Greenfield (Washington, DC: Government Printing 
Office, 1 960), 255-285. 

6. Sir Frederick Morgan, Overture to Overlord (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1950), 
1 32-133; Report on Operation Overlord, 15 July 1943-26 March 1944, Chief of Staff to the Supreme 
Allied Commander (COSSAC). 

7. Ibid.; Basil H. Liddell Hart, The German Generals Talk (New York: William Morrow, 1 948), 

8. Morgan, Overture to Overlord, 1 34, 1 41 ,1 42; Report on Operation Overlord (COSSAC). 

9. Ibid., 139-141, 142. 

1 0. Descriptions of the lodgment area, unless otherwise cited, were drawn from John Collins, 
Military Geography of the Normandy Campaign (Master's thesis, Clark University, Worcester, MA, 
1951). Sources included many Secret and Top Secret documents declassified after World War II. 

1 1 . Jean Gottman, A Geography of Europe, 4 th ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 
1969), 329-331. 

12. St. 16, American Forces in Action Series (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 
August 21, 1946), 2-4, 6. 

13. Normandy West of the Seine, Interservice Information Series, Report on France, CB 4096J 
(15), vol. 2, part 5 (A), Coasts, Beaches, and Exits, January 1943, 18-22, 30-33; Utah Beach to 
Cherbourg, American Forces in Action Series (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, October 
1 , 1947), 3-4; Omaha Beachhead, American Forces in Action Series (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, September 20, 1945), 10-16. 

14. Meteorological and Oceanographic Conditions for June 1944 in the Neptune Area, 
Detachment "M," 21 st Weather Squadron, Ninth Air Force, May 3, 1944; Weather & Climate As 
Related to Military Operations in France, Report 644, Weather Division, Army Air Forces, April 1 944. 

1 5. First U.S. Army Report of Operations, 20 October 1943- 1 August 1944, annex 1,111-115, 
annex 2, 204-206. 

16. Ibid., annex 1, 101-105; annex 12, 18; Normandy West of the Seine, vol. 2, part 3 (B), 
Roads, May 1943. 

1 7. For assessments of the lodgment area, see note 1 0. 
1 8. Morgan, Overture to Overlord, 1 40. 

1 9. Humphrey Wynn, Prelude to Overlord: An Account of the Air Operations Which Preceded 
and Supported . . . the Allied Landings in Normandy (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1 984). 

20. Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Normandy to the Baltic (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 
1948), 20-50; Morgan, Prelude to Overlord, vi-vii, 143-150; Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 230 

21 . James F. Tent, E-Boat Alert: Defending the Normandy Invasion Fleet (Annapolis, MD: U.S. 
Naval Institute Press, 1996). 

22. Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 1 2-1 3; Omaha Beachhead, 8-9. 

23. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 244 and the Overlord Forecast Map between 224-225. 

24. Hans Speidel, Invasion 1944: Rommel and the Normandy Campaign, trans. Theo W. 
Crevenna (Chicago, IL: Regnery, 1950); Samuel W, Mitcham, Rommel's Last Battle: The Desert Fox 
and the Normandy Campaign (New York: Stein and Day, 1983). 

25. Keegan, 5/x Armies in Normandy, 1 30. 

26. lames H. Herzog, Breaching Fortress Europe: The Story of U.S. Engineers in Normandy on 
D-Day (New York: Kendall/Hunt, 1944); Omaha Beachhead, 20-25; Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 4-8; 
Botting, The Second Front, 1 2-20. 

27. M. Devlin, Paratrooper (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1 979), 387. 


28. Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 1 83-208. 

29. St. Ld (7 July-1 9 July 1 944), American Forces in Action Series (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office, August 21, 1946); Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 268-269. 

30. Devlin, Paratrooper! 280-281. See also S. L. A. Marshall, Night Drop: The American 
Airborne Invasion of Normandy (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1962); Richard N. Gale, With the 6 th 
Airborne Division in Normandy (London: S. Low, Marston, 1 948). 

31 . Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's Six Great Decisions (New York: Longmans, Green, 1 956), 
50-55; Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 249-250; Sotting, The Second Front, 60-63. 

32. Morgan, Overture to Overlord, 144, 148. 

33. Kenneth Edwards, Operation Neptune (London: Collins, 1 946), 228-232; 200-201 . 

34. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 270. 



I'd like to go to Tchepone, but I haven't got the tickets. 

General William C. Westmoreland 

to General Creighton W. Abrams 

Saigon, Vietnam, March, 1968 


Laotian panhandle in the 1 960s and early 1 970s, was an indispensable source of supplies for 
Communist forces south of the 17 th Parallel. 1 U.S. air interdiction campaigns and special 
operations forces slowed, but by no means stopped the flow. 2 President Lyndon B. Johnson, 
primarily for political reasons, disapproved air strikes against stockpiles around Hanoi and 
Haiphong, which arguably might have been more successful. 3 

General William C. Westmoreland, who was Commander, United States Military 
Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV), consequently commissioned Operation Plan 
(OPLAN) El Paso, a corps-sized operation timed to seal off the Ho Chi Minh Trail at Tchepone 
for 1 8 consecutive months during a dry season preceded and followed by torrential rains that 
would reduce vehicular traffic to a trickle. 4 Members of the small joint staff that prepared 
OPLAN El Paso between November 1967 and March 1968 found that geographic 
circumstances profoundly influenced proposed answers to every question connected with 
that large-scale, long-duration operation far from established support facilities. Results of their 
efforts follow, along with the unhappy outcome of Operation Lam Son 719, an ill-conceived 


The Ho Chi Minh Trail, which initially nourished Viet Cong guerrillas in South Vietnam, was 
nothing more than a skein of rustic traces through the wilderness when it opened in the late 
1950s. Dedicated men, women, boys, and girls bent bandy-legged beneath heavy loads 
trudged down those paths, all but ignored by senior officials in the United States and the 
Republic of Vietnam (RVN) because the invoices were unimpressive: a little rice, a few pitted 
handguns captured from the French, homemade weapons pieced together like Rube 
Goldberg toys. The tempo, however, gradually picked up and consignments increasingly 
included sophisticated items such as radios, pharmaceuticals, plastic explosives, recoilless 
rifles, and repair parts. Ammunition requirements multiplied exponentially after U.S. combat 
forces hit North Vietnamese regulars head on in 1 965. 5 



Brutal courses that in the beginning traversed several hundred miles of exhausting, saw- 
toothed terrain between Vinh and the demilitarized zone (DMZ) later continued the grind 
through Laos, which in some cases more than doubled the distance to ultimate destinations 
in South Vietnam (map 63). Human bearers and assorted beasts struggled to tote swelling 
loads, yet gaps between supplies and demands became ever wider, because individual 
burdens grew progressively heavier every 122-mm rocket, for example, weighed 102 
pounds (46 kilograms), more than most of the porters; fewer than five would buckle the 
knees of pint-sized Annamese elephants which push and pull better than they bear 
cumbersome loads. Requirements for routes that could accommodate truck traffic thus were 
obvious (table 29), but most passageways in the back country were primitive, largely 
bridgeless, initially pitted with water buffalo wallows, and subsequently battered by bombs. 

Table 29. Transportation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail 

Prime Movers 



Male Porters 

68 Ibs 

(31 kg) 

Female Porters 

55 Ibs. 

(25 kg) 


440 Ibs. 

(200 kg) 

Pack Bicycles 

525 Ibs. 

(238 kg) 

Ox Carts 

2,200 Ibs. 

(998 kg) 



4,400 Ibs. 

(1 ,996 kg) 


5,500 Ibs. 

(2,495 kg) 


7,720 Ibs. 

(3,500 kg) 

Senior decisionmakers in Hanoi accordingly initiated ambitious renovation and expansion 
programs to widen rights of way, span streams, level humps, fill in hollows, corduroy spongy 
spots, and establish way stations. The improved Ho Chi Minh Trail, constructed and 
maintained with tools that ranged from shovels to bulldozers and scrapers, incrementally 
became a labyrinth of motorable roads, cart tracks, foot paths, and navigable streams that by 
early autumn 1 967 furnished Communist forces in South Vietnam about one-fourth of all 
their supplies (more than 70 percent of arms and munitions). Aerial bombardments pocked 
those avenues like surfaces on the moon, but dogged peasants with military supervisors 
patched the wreckage and built bypasses, while convoys shuttled from point to point under 
cover of darkness and ever more effective antiaircraft umbrellas. 

Business was necessarily cyclical, since seasonal rains made the Ho Chi Minh Trail a 
mush from mid-April at least until late September. North Vietnamese logisticians on the lee 
side of mountains that block the Southwest Monsoon therefore amassed stockpiles inside their 
home border during summer months, when skies were sunny along the coast, in preparation 
for great surges south as soon as roads in Laos were dry. Communist base areas 
honeycombed with caves, tunnels, bunkers, and subterranean storage pits in Laos held stocks 
pending distribution to using units. 



Map 63. The Ho Chi Minh Trail 


o o 



20 40 60 80 100 Miles 

20 40 60 80 100 Kilometers 







The Laotian panhandle comprises three parallel regions roughly oriented from north 
northwest to south southeast: jumbled mountains straddle the eastern frontier; a rolling plain 
west of Muong Rhine stretches all the way to the Mekong; a rough, fever-ridden, sparsely 
settled transition zone occupies space in between. The Ho Chi Minh Trail traversed all three 
(map 64). 

Map 64. The Laotian Panhandle at Midpoint 


j>Jk Khe SanhQ 
: Lao Bao 



The Annam Mountain Chain. The highest peak along the border between Laos and 
Vietnam barely tops 5,500 feet (1,675 meters), and few other summits surpass 4,000 feet 
(1,220 meters), but such figures are deceptive, because mountain streams chisel razorbacked 
ridges and canyons from bedrock. Numerous inclines exceed 45 degrees or 100 percent 
(slopes climb one foot vertically for every horizontal foot). Topography is roughest north and 
west of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), where massive limestone deposits dissolve in tropical 
downpours, sculpting needle-shaped pinnacles, sink holes, and culs-de-sac. North 
Vietnamese Army (NVA) workshops, apartments, and stockpiles took advantage of giant 
caverns with cool, dry, blast-proof halls three or four stories high that extended 1 ,000 feet or 
more (300+ meters) into many hillsides. 

Few convenient apertures other than Mu Gia Pass and the Khe Sanh Gap cross that 
mountain wall, because swift streams that cascade west from the divide carve constricted 
corridors studded with rapids the Banghiang River traverses a gorge so steep that map 
contour lines sit one on top of another and slopes everywhere are as slippery as bobsled 
runs when greased by rain. 

Dank, gloomy, multistoried jungles with dense undergrowth mantle much of that redoubt 
with thick stands of teak and mahogany most of which tower 90 to 1 00 feet (27 to 30 meters), 
although occasional monsters are half again as high. Corded vines festoon the lower levels 
and lacerate unwary travelers with terrible barbs. Huge breaks of bamboo stretch from Khe 
Sanh to Ban Houi Sane, close clumped, almost impenetrable, some with stalks half a foot in 
diameter. Secondary growth quickly reclaims slash-and-burn plots that nomadic Montagnard 
tribes abandon. 

The Transition Zone. Topography in the transition zone between mountains on the east 
and relatively level terrain on the west features discontinuous uplands that chop the Laotian 
landscape into a series of acute angle compartments. Two prominent east-west ridges a few 
miles apart with a conspicuous trough in between follow parallel paths for nearly 50 miles 
(80 kilometers) from Khe Sanh past Tchepone, where the northern runner peters out. Its 
companion, which plunges on for another 50 miles, is a natural barrier breached in just four 
places. The Lang Vei cleft farthest east expires south of Route 9 in a maze of serrated 
highlands that might have been fashioned with pinking shears. A second portal at Ban Dong 
widens to form a shallow, oblong bowl that generally centers on Four Corners. Tchepone, 
the best natural hub, boasts breakthroughs that lead southwest, southeast, and east. The final 
opening, farthest west, comprises a broad pass at Muong Rhine. 

The Banghiang River, 3 feet deep and 100 yards wide at Tchepone under optimum 
conditions, always is an impressive obstacle. More than 50 perpendicular runnels that drain 
wooded, broken ground just north of the Ron River and corrugate its flood plains are 
militarily insignificant during dry seasons, but become raging torrents when it rains, while 
trackless palisades up to 800 feet high (243 meters) shadow the south bank for 1 5 miles (24 
kilometers) west of Ban Dong. 

Blobs of blue and red that represent friendly and enemy armed forces on tactical maps 
more often than not are isolated from each other in the Transition Zone, where no vehicles 
move far off roads and trails. Foot troops may hike a mile or two an hour in open forests, but 
vegetative tangles make military columns backtrack and double or triple straight-line 
distances. Youthful Paul Bunyons wielding machetes can hew through bamboo thickets at 
a rate that approximates 100 yards or so in 60 blistering minutes, provided they take an 



interest in their work, sergeants rotate point men frequently, and no one cares how much 
noise is made (the racket sounds like several unsynchronized Anvil Choruses). 

Desolation typified the Transition Zone. Tchepone, the largest village, once housed 
maybe 1,500 civilian men, women, and children, but fewer than half remained by the mid- 
1 960s. Most hamlets were deserted, their former inhabitants dead or departed. Panhandle 
life had shifted from traditional rural clusters to NVA base areas in dense woods or river 
towns that the Royal Laotian Government held. 

The Savannakhet Plain. The Savannakhet Plain, as its name implies, is relatively low, 
gently rolling real estate overgrown with brush and savanna grass, except where subsistence 
agriculture plots take precedence. Most of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1 967-68 was positioned 
well to the east, because its architects preferred better cover and more direct routes to 
destinations in South Vietnam. 


The Combined Intelligence Center in Saigon estimated that 90 percent of all NVA troops 
infiltrated into Laos through the demilitarized zone via Routes 103 and 102, after which some 
marched south while others swung back into South Vietnam along the Nam Samou River and 
Route 9, both of which showered tributary tracks like Fourth of July sparklers (map 64). 
Supplies and equipment, however, took different tacks in 1 967-1 968. 

Route 92. Route 92, a rude way no more than 1 or 1 2 feet wide (fewer than 3 meters), 
was passable to one-way motor traffic from the DMZ to Ban Dong, where trucks swam the 
Pon River during dry weather, then negotiated extremely tight turns and steep grades en route 
to Four Corners. Major improvements farther south transformed that byway into the 
preeminent infiltration corridor in southern Laos. 

Route 914. Route 914, which opened operations in 1965, sucked in traffic from 
numerous sources, including Mu Gia Pass and inland waterways, until, by early 1968, it 
became the most heavily traveled supply route between Tchepone and Route 9,2 at Four 
Corners. Its width varied from 8 to 30 feet (2+ to nearly 10 meters), and a laterite surface 
tolerated tractor-trailers as long as the weather was fair. Route 91 4 didn't exactly tip on end 
after it forded the Banghiang River, but the road climbed 23 percent grades before it found 
an easier course. 

Route 23. Route 23, the only other motorable north-south avenue on the Ho-Chi Minh 
Trail, went dormant and fell into disrepair as soon as convoys began to take the Route 914 
short-cut. Convoy traffic ceased in 1966 after fighter-bombers destroyed the triple-span 
Banghiang bridge, because the river at that point was unfordable, but revived a bit some 
months later when barges and bypasses appeared. Construction crews, however, never 
restored or replaced the battered bridge and wasted little time improving the natural earth 
roadbed, which at best was 7 or 8 feet wide. 

Route 9. Highway 9, the only east-west "turnpike" across the Laotian panhandle, in its 
salad days was a passing fair post road that connected Quang Tri Province on the Tonkin 
Gulf coast with the Mekong River town of Savannakhet, a distance of 200 miles (322 
kilometers). War and neglect had taken their toll, but that artery still had greater potential 
than any other: a stable base; crushed stone and laterite surfaces that averaged 1 3 to 1 4 feet 
wide, not counting shoulders; gradients that never exceeded plus or minus 3 to 5 percent, 


even through the Khe San Gap; and access to nearly every militarily significant feature in the 
study area, including transportation nodes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and NVA base areas. 
Notable liabilities nevertheless counterbalanced those assets. Several gullied or grossly 
overgrown stretches as much as a mile long restricted horizontal clearances to as little as 6 
feet (fewer than 2 meters). Many lengthy meanders around fallen trees and bomb craters 
additionally reduced throughput capacities and increased transit times. Few bridges that 
colonial Frenchmen installed survived U.S. air strikes, which systematically took them out 
starting in 1966. The rickety relics still standing were unable to hold fully loaded three- 
quarter-ton trucks, but light NVA vehicles routinely sloshed across everywhere, including the 
broad sand and mud Banghiang River bottom, whereas 12-ton U.S. semitrailers would have 
bogged down there in the absence a pontoon bridge or ferry. 


U.S. Marines at Khe Sanh possessed the only operational fixed-wing airfield in the study area 
after January 1 968. Six others were abandoned in various stages of disrepair (table 30). 

Table 30. OPLAN El Paso Airfields 






Airfield Name 





Lao Bao 

1,100 x 





Ban Amo 

2,250 x 





Ban Houei Sane 

3,560 x 






3,700 x 1 





Muong Rhine 

2,900 x 





Muong Nong 

1,300 x 





Khe Sanh 

3,897 x 





Lao Bao and Ban Amo. Neither Lao Bao nor Ban Amo was worth rehabilitating, because 
neither had been very capable in its hey day, and both were badly in need of repair. Time, 
manpower, and money could have been better expended elsewhere. 

Ban Houei Sane. Ban Houei Sane, on the outskirts of the sleepy village from which it 
took its name, served U.S. C-130 transports until January 1968, when North Vietnamese 
regulars overran it on their way to Khe Sanh shortly before Tet. The crushed stone and 
laterite runway received more than 20 deep craters at that time, but the rest was in fairly 
good shape and expansion room to the west was almost unlimited. 

Tchepone. The former French airbase at Tchepone, 23 air miles farther west (37 
kilometers), fell into Communist hands in 1 961, after the Laotian Forces Armees du Royaume 
(FAR) withdrew. U.S. engineers believed its well-drained, well-compacted 3,700-foot (1,128- 
meter) runway could be rehabilitated rapidly, even though one end was pocked with big 
bomb craters and blocked by elephant grass and brush. A knife-edged ridge, which rose 
abruptly about one mile to the south, might have made C-1 30 landings and takeoffs iffy, but 
would not have interfered with light assault transports such as C-1 23s and C-1 7s. 


Muong Rhine. The derelict runway at Muong Rhine, reclaimed by encroaching jungle, 
was scarcely visible from the air, but bomb damage was slight and its laterite surface overlaid 
a solid foundation. Refurbishment would have required extensive land clearing plus filling 
to repair erosion scars as well as one deep depression. Landings from and takeoffs to the west 
were unobstructed, although the runway unhappily pointed straight at a mountain mass in 
the opposite direction. 

Muong Nong. The stubby 1,300-foot earth-surfaced runway at Muong Nong butted into 
a loop of the Lanong River 20-some miles (30+ kilometers) south of Route 9. Even so, there 
was room to double that length by planing off humps and draining a small swamp. Engineers 
equipped with air transportable earth-moving machines could have produced a C-1 23 strip 
in about 2 weeks. 

Khe Sanh. The operational airfield at Khe Sanh combat base, just across the border in 
South Vietnam, was built on weathered basalt, a reddish substance that looks much like 
laterite, but contains few lateritic properties. Aluminum planking covered the runway, taxi 
strips, and parking area to ensure all-weather capabilities, because basalt churns to mush and 
ruts quickly after the slightest rain. Khe Sanh, unlike any other airfield in the study area, was 
fully-equipped with modern aids to navigation (TACAN and radio beacons), ground- 
controlled approach radar (CCA), and refueling facilities for helicopters as well as fixed-wing 


Open spaces that might serve as large-scale parachute drop zones (DZs) or helicopter landing 
zones (LZs) are scarce in the Laotian panhandle, except for sites on the Savannakhet Plain. 
Topography elsewhere is most often too formidable and vegetation too confining. 

Parachute Drop Zones. Rice paddies around Muong Rhine offered the only opportunities 
for sizable parachute assaults which, according to U.S. Seventh Air Force standards in 1 968, 
required a reasonably clear drop zone 2,925 yards long for 64 troopers in a C-1,30, which 
is more than a mile and one-half (2.67 kilometers) Smaller clearings around Tchepone, Four 
Corners, and Ban Houei Sane, however, were more than adequate for container deliveries 
of ammunition, rations, POL, and other high priority items (35,200 pounds per C-1 30). Well- 
qualified crews equipped with the Parachute Low Altitude Delivery System (PLADS) generally 
could put 2,000-pound bundles onto 20-yard-square bullseyes on isolated hilltops or in 
jungle clearings, and the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES) could slide 
1 8,000-pound platforms down any obstruction-free dirt road or other reasonably smooth 
surface 50 feet wide by 1,200 feet long. 

Helicopter Landing Zones. Helicopter transportation boded better than parachute 
delivery, although those versatile "birds" have definite limitations related to altitudes and 
temperatures, which affect lift capacities. Tilled flats bestraddling Muong Phine and 
interspersed along the Pon River could handle formation landings and takeoffs by multiple 
flights, but few open areas elsewhere could accommodate more than one or two ships 
simultaneously. High explosives and chain saws would have been required to create small 
chopper pads quickly in dense forests where no natural cavities reach the floor. 



Monsoonal rains, low ceilings, poor visibility, heat, humidity, and destructive winds 
complicated planning for Operation El Paso, because armed forces committed to combat in 
Laos would have to stage in and be supported from one distinctive climatic zone along the 
Tonkin Gulf coast yet fight in another that is diametrically different. Hard data were available 
for most stations in South Vietnam, where French meteorologists had compiled reliable 
records for many years, but U.S. intelligence services never found similar statistics for 
particular locations in Laos. Climatic predictions there involved guesswork. 

The Annamese Mountains, which present a perpendicular front to prevailing winds, 
separate climatic regimes just as surely as a slammed door (map 65 and figure 40). When the 
Northeast Monsoon soaks South Vietnam from mid-October until March Laos is dry; coastal 
regions bask in sunlight when the Southwest Monsoon takes over from May until early 
September, while wet weather saturates Laos. Indefinite circulation during transition periods 
produces instability and thunderstorms on both sides of the Geologic Curtain. 

Figure 40. Monsoonal Regimes at Tchepone, Khe Sanh, and Da Nang 

Annual Rainfall = 73.0" 

Annual Rainfall = 74.4" 

Annual Rainfall = 89.7" 




Khe Sanh 


Da Nang 

Average precipitation in inches 

Average number of days each month 
with ceiling/visibility less than 1000 ft. 
and 2.5 miles at 1000 hours. 

74.4 inches = 189 centimeters 
89.7 inches = 228 centimeters 
73.0 inches = 185 centimeters 
1 ,000 feet = 305 meters 
2.5 = 4 kilometers 

Spring rains in the Laotian panhandle, which generally commence in April, increase 
exponentially when the Southwest Monsoon hits the next month, accompanied by frequent 
downpours and local flooding. Fair weather roads turn into quagmires, fords vanish beneath 
roiling runoff, and vehicular traffic ceased on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 

The Northeast Monsoon revs up between the 4th and 24th of October, normally about 
the 1 2th. Precipitation perseveres in Laos for a week or two thereafter, then subsides rapidly, 
but low-hanging clouds close mountain passes along the eastern frontier half the days of 
some months (see Khe Sanh in figure 40). Military construction stops in South Vietnam and 



Map 65. Monsoonal Regimes in South Vietnam and Laos 

Northeast Monsoon 



( \ 


Southwest Monsoon 






flying weather over hill country becomes abominable as soon as the coastal rainy season 
starts. Fluctuations from the autumn norm moreover are fantastic. Hue, for example, has yo- 
yoed from 3.5 inches one year (8.9 centimeters) to 66 inches in another (1 68 centimeters), 
enough to float Noah's Ark. Typhoon Bess in September 1 968 dumped 20 inches of water 
on Da Nang in 1 day (51 centimeters). 


Operation Plan El Paso, which was designed to interdict traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 
proceeded apace after its architects identified the most logical lodgment area in Laos and a 
tactical area of responsibility (TAOR) within it. Thereafter, they determined optimum timing, 
postulated a concept of operations, estimated force requirements, and presented proposals 
to COMUSMACV for approval. 


The OPLAN El Paso mission, paraphrased as follows, was the soul of simplicity: 

Task Force Bottleneck seizes, secures, and as long as necessary blocks key choke points 
astride the Ho Chi Minh Trail beginning at H- Hour on D-Day to forestall the infiltration of 
NVA troops, supplies, and equipment from North Vietnam through the Laotian Panhandle 
into the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) and Communist sanctuaries inside Cambodia. 


Planning guidance earmarked one U.S. airmobile division, one U.S. infantry division, and 
the Army of Vietnam (ARVN) airborne division for Task Force Bottleneck, plus substantial 
combat and logistical support. Those allocations established requirements for a "cockpit" 
within which a corps-sized force could conduct sustained offensive and defensive operations 
without excessive risks or costs. 

The Logical Lodgment Area. Selection of the OPLAN El Paso lodgment area presented 
no special problems, because only one site meshed well with the mission: 

Blocking positions at Mu Gia and Nape Passes were assessed as unsuitable, because 
they would have been too remote from staging and support bases in South Vietnam, too 
expensive, probably untenable, and easily bypassed. 

Blocking positions at the western end of the DMZ were assessed as unsuitable, 
because they would scarcely have affected motor traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 

Blocking positions anchored on the Bolovens Plateau far to the south were assessed 
as unsuitable, because they would have afforded enemy troops, equipment, and supplies 
free access to much of embattled South Vietnam. 

Blocking positions between Khe Sanh and Muong Phine were assessed as suitable, 
because they covered most tracks and all motorable routes that led from North Vietnam 
through Laos to the Republic of Vietnam. Friendly armed forces could have installed 
roadblocks farther west in the unlikely event that enemy truck convoys side-slipped via 
the Savannakhet Plain where they would be exposed to U.S. and Royal Laotian air strikes. 


The Tactical Area of Responsibility. The tactical area of responsibility depicted on 
map 66 is a 2,400-square-mile (6,215 square-kilometer) oblate spheroid that measures 
roughly 40 by 60 miles (65 by 95 kilometers). It contained ample room within which to 
deploy the forces and enclosed seven key terrain features: 

The choke point and airfield at Tchepone 

The choke point and airfield at Muong Rhine 

The choke point at Ban Dong 

The choke point at Four Corners 

Ban Houei Sane airfield 

Khe Sanh combat base 

Highway 9. 

Tchepone, together with the huge, heavily defended North Vietnamese Army base area 
nearby, was the focal point for every motorable infiltration route from Mu Gia Pass except 
National Highway 23. Muong Rhine and Ban Dong were two other corks in the bottle. Four 
Corners offered a possible alternative to the hornet's nest at Tchepone, because road blocks 
there would have shunted all enemy motor vehicles onto vulnerable Route 23 well to the 
west of Vietnam. The C-130-capable airfield at Ban Houei Sane would have been essential 
for any large-scale operation other than a raid. Khe Sanh combat base, airfield, and 
communications center was the only U.S. or ARVN installation able to stage and support 
a corps-sized venture into Laos (it sat on the Xom Cham Plateau which, although small, 
offered adequate room for additional POL tank farms, ammunition pads, and helicopter 
maintenance facilities, which are voracious space eaters). Military planners seldom consider 
lines of communication to be key terrain, but Route 9 was an indispensable Main Supply 
Route (MSR), because no combination of fixed-wing and heliborne delivery systems could 
have borne long-term logistical loads. 


The OPLAN El Paso concept of operation called for the ARVN airborne division to drop on 
Muong Rhine at H-Hour on D-Day while U.S. airmobile brigades seized Tchepone, Ban 
Dong, and the airfield at Ban Houei Sane. U.S. tanks and infantry were to attack west from 
Khe Sanh simultaneously along Route 9 and link up as soon as possible. All three divisions 
and corps-level combat forces thereafter were to block enemy movement southward. 

Airfield rehabilitation and the conversion of Route 9 to a double-lane MSR were high- 
priority tasks for Army engineers. Restrictions consistent with the accomplishment of assigned 
missions were designed to keep supply tonnages down, since aerial delivery would have to 
suffice until those tasks were complete: few vehicles were to accompany assault echelons; 
rapid evacuation of personnel casualties and inoperative equipment promised to reduce 
requirements for medical and maintenance facilities in the TAOR; no base camps were to be 
built in Laos at any time. 


Map 66. OPLAN El Paso's Tactical Area of Responsibility 


The optimum time to spring the trap would have been in November before communist 
commissaries in Laos began to replenish depleted larders in South Vietnam. There was no 
mandate for Task Force Bottleneck to search and destroy once it cleaned out the base area 
around Tchepone the mission was merely to barricade the Ho Chi Minh Trail until the 
Southwest Monsoon again soaked Laos. One big "IF," however, remained: could U.S. 
logisticians sustain a three-division corps so far from established facilities? 




All basic ingredients needed to support OPLAN El Paso were already in place within 1 or 
1 2 miles (1 6 to 1 9 kilometers) of the Tonkin Gulf. Most dry cargo ships unloaded at the port 
of Da Nang, while petroleum tankers pumped bulk POL directly into storage bins at Tan My 
and Cua Viet. Fixed-wing aircraft, heavy-lift helicopters, and a meter-gauge railway 
transferred high-priority items to ultimate destinations. Armed forces and civilians shared 
coastal Highway 1, a heavily traveled artery that connected Saigon with Hanoi before 
Vietnam split in two at the 1 7 th Parallel, whereas military traffic predominated on Route 9, 
which wandered west from Dong Ha to Task Force Bottleneck's prospective area of 

Logistical limitations and tactical vulnerabilities associated with that setup were as 
restrictive for purposes of OPLAN El Paso as choke points on the Ho Chi Minh Trail were to 
North Vietnamese infiltrators, because throughput capabilities in 1 967-1 968 fell far short of 
I Corps Tactical Zone (I CTZ) requirements combined with those of the Bottleneck TAOR 
(map 67). Solutions to related problems took more thought and absorbed more time than any 
other planning aspect. 

Map 67. Supply Requirements Associated with OPLAN El Paso 





123,000 Troops 

60,000 Troops 
2,975 ST Daily 

21 5,000 Troops 
11, 265 ST Daily 


10 20 30 40 50 Miles 
I I I 




Da Nang could have handled all dry cargo requirements under adverse weather conditions 
with room to spare, but abilities to shift supplies and equipment north from that central 
market were clearly inadequate during the period under consideration. POL distribution 
problems were at least as perplexing. 

Coastal Waterways and Railroad. The cheapest way to move freight is by water or rail, 
but neither alternative showed much promise. Floods, tides, and littoral drift made a deep 
water port at Tan My impractical despite repeated proposals, while Logistics-Over-the-Shore 
(LOTS) operations at Wunder Beach a bit farther north were infeasible during the Northeast 
Monsoon. There was plenty of room for additional LST and LCU ramps at Cua Viet, but no 
way to move the burden inland; Seabees figured it would take 1 4 battalion months to build 
a road across coastal swamps. 

The railway trunkline was unserviceable and prospects for early rehabilitation appeared 
dim given the large number of demolished bridges between Da Nang and Dong Ha, 
including the whopper over the Perfume River at Hue. Optimistic members of the 
Vietnamese Railway System (VNRS) nevertheless wagered that in 70 days the line could be 
renovated for single-track, daylight operations at 10 miles per hour, and U.S. military 
engineers generally agreed, given sufficient physical security; North Vietnamese trains ran 
part of the time, they noted, despite savage aerial bombardments. 

Highway 1. Highway 1 fortunately showed definite promise. Upgrading already had 
shifted into high gear, galvanized by lessons learned during the Communists' February 1 968 
Tet offensive. Parts of seven Seabee battalions assisted by a U.S. Army engineer group and 
civilian contractors were rapidly widening and paving the roadway, straightening hairpin 
curves in Hai Van Pass, creating turnarounds, strengthening bridges, and improving drainage. 
Capacities increased accordingly. 


The only feasible Main Supply Route between the Tonkin Gulf coast and Task Force 
Bottleneck's proposed TAOR lay directly south of the demilitarized zone where it was 
painfully exposed to enemy action. No suitable alternative was available. 

Route 9. Maximum capacities of Route 9, which adequately served U.S. Marines at the 
Khe Sanh combat base, looked ludicrous compared with tonnages that OPLAN El Paso 
required. Enemy sappers had blown half of the 36 bridges east of Khe Sanh and ticklish 
bypasses cut in hillsides were impassable to heavy trucks. The roadway, which averaged 12 
to 14 feet wide (barely 4 meters at best), originally was surfaced with asphalt prime, a 
bituminous treatment less than one inch thick. Some remained in 1968, buried under mud 
slides and debris, but a good deal was gone and shoulders (where they existed at all) were 
God's natural soil. Glutinous gumbo alternately gripped tires like molasses or caused wheels 
to slide during rainy seasons and clearly would continue to do so unless Route 9 received a 
solid, waterproof surface. 

Petroleum Pipelines. Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces in 1 967-68 sported barely 1 
miles (16 kilometers) of 6-inch petroleum pipeline, which could pump 756,000 gallons 
(2,457 short tons) a day. Every drop of precious fuel for Khe Sanh consequently had to be 
trucked over Route 9 at that time. There was no possible way to satisfy Task Force 


Bottleneck's insatiable thirst for POL short of extending that embryonic pipeline system into 
Laos or paving the road for use while the Northeast Monsoon pelted South Vietnam. 


El Paso's planners assigned high priorities to road and airfield rehabilitation inside Laos 
beginning on D-Day, because blocking positions astride the Ho Chi Minh Trail otherwise 
would have been logistically unsupportable. Plans consequently called for some combat 
engineers to arrive by air and for others to follow closely behind ground linkup parties 
attacking west from Khe Sanh. 


Route 9, degraded by bomb craters, blasted bridges, erosion, and encroaching jungles, was 
in sad shape on the Laotian side of the border, but construction crews, confident that they 
could adhere to tight schedules (table 31 ), predicted that convoys could truck in 750 short 
tons a day as far as Muong Phine well before three weeks elapsed. Few streams would have 
demanded spans in the dry season, except the Banghiang River at Tchepone, where progress 
would stall for about a day while engineers installed a floating bridge after clearing assembly 
areas and preparing approaches through a welter of water-filled craters. Subsequent actions 
to widen rights of way and scrape out forward support areas where trucks could dump their 
loads would have taken somewhat longer, as table 32 indicates. 

Table 31 . OPLAN El Paso Road Opening Schedules 







Lang Vei to 
Lao Border 






Lao Border to 






Ban Houei Sane 

Ban Houei Sane to 






Ban Dong 

Ban Dong to 
Tchepone Airfield 






Tchepone Airfield to 
Muong Phine 






Suitable materials could have come first from basalt beds just west of Khe Sanh, which 
is rather remote, then from the dry stream beds of many Pon River tributaries which have 
rocky bottoms and steep banks. There would have been no rush to widen Route 9 as far as 
Muong Phine, garrisoned at most by one or two light ARVN airborne brigades. 


Table 32. Schedules for Dual-Laning Route 9 in Laos 

Section Miles Companies Days Completion 

LangVeito 11.8 3 37 D+40 

Ban Houei Sane 

Ban Houei Sane to 8.7 2 40 D+47 

Ban Dong 

Ban Dong to 17.4 3 54 D+66 

Tchepone Airfield 


No airfield in Task Force Bottleneck objective areas would have been serviceable on D-Day. 
Those at Tchepone and Muong Rhine demanded immediate actions to clear obstructions, 
grade and compact surfaces, apply dust palliatives, then construct taxiways, parking lots, and 
cargo-handling areas. The runway at Ban Houei Sane looked like moldy cheese in mid-1 968, 
but that strip otherwise was almost as good as new. D+1 1 was not an unreasonable date to 
anticipate full operational status. 


Operation Plan El Paso was stillborn. COMUSMACV never got the "tickets" he needed to go 
to Tchepone, which consisted of additional muscle firepower, mobility, supplies, 
equipment, funds and, above all, political approval. President Lyndon B. Johnson in March 
1 968 announced his decision not to seek reelection and Richard M. Nixon, his successor, 
initiated "Vietnamization" programs that caused U.S. Armed Forces and military presence in 
Southeast Asia to shrink instead of expand. 


No one will ever know whether Operation Plan El Paso would have succeeded, but a few 
speculations seem appropriate. The mission would have been hard to accomplish with or 
without determined enemy opposition in the empty Laotian lands west of Khe Sanh, which 
were remote from every established military facility and magnified all the miseries of combat 
in Vietnam, including merciless terrain, malevolent jungles, heat, malaria, typhus, leeches, 
and running sores. Unopposed operations moreover seem most improbable, because North 
Vietnam had a vested interest in motorable routes through the Laotian panhandle, which 
constituted the lifeline of Communist forces in South Vietnam and Cambodia. 

General Giap, who could read a map as well as General Westmoreland, might have 
framed his own mission as follows: 'Task Force Spoiler severs Routes 1 and 9 between the 
Tonkin Gulf coast and Laos beginning at H-Hour on D-Day to prevent U.S. and South 
Vietnamese Armed Forces from blocking the Ho Chi Minh Trail." Task Force Bottleneck 
would have been on the knife edge of existence if the North Vietnamese Army successfully 
isolated the port of Da Nang from the TAOR while blockading brigades were living on daily 

.w.v.v.-.ra.sarav.-.-.-.-.. - ..v.^fr^faftffi.-... v.ffigjOKXiMOMMOK 


replenishment and logisticians were struggling to build up supplies in objective areas. A few 
well-placed enemy mortar rounds plumped periodically on airfield runways at Muong Rhine, 
Tchepone, and Ban Houei Sane, plus attacks on ammunition pads and POL bladder farms, 
would have been particularly cost effective. The Bottleneck corps might have repulsed all 
such efforts, but the price in blood and sweat, if not tears, almost surely would have been 


"Vietnamization" programs designed to strengthen South Vietnam's defensive capabilities and 
concomitantly reduce U.S. casualties, cut budgetary costs, and enable U.S. Armed Forces to 
disengage gradually began to take shape in 1969, soon after President Nixon took office. 6 
He and Henry A. Kissinger, who headed the National Security Council staff, contemplated 
a strictly South Vietnamese amphibious thrust against North Vietnam near Vinh or an 
incursion into Cambodia the following year as a test to determine progress, but in December 
1970 settled instead on a sizable incursion into the Laotian panhandle, which South 
Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu, U.S. Ambassador to Saigon Elsworth Bunker, and 
COMUSMACV General Creighton W. Abrams preferred. Secretary of State William P. Rogers, 
Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird, Richard Helms, the Director of Central Intelligence, 
and Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who then was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
acquiesced. Ambassador G. McM. Godley obtained prior approval from Laotian Prince 
Souvanna Phouma. 7 

Plans and Preparations. ARVN I Corps, minus U.S. advisers but with U.S. tactical air, 
helicopter, and long-range artillery support from bases in South Vietnam, launched Operation 
Lam Son 719 on February 8, 1 971, to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail and obliterate the North 
Vietnamese base area centered on Tchepone. Few factors, however, favored success: 

D-Day occurred too late to achieve greatest benefits, because NVA supply lines from 
larders in Laos had been active since the dry season began 3 months earlier., 

Planning and preparation times for such an ambitious operation were painfully short 
after President Nixon turned on the green light in late January 1971 . 

Essential elements, such as the ARVN 1 st Logistical Command, until the last minute 
were excluded from those closely held processes for security reasons. 8 

Enemy commanders and most participants received notifications almost 
simultaneously when embargoed press reports leaked. 9 

Assault units never received the latest tactical intelligence before battles commenced. 

Khe Sanh combat base, the springboard in South Vietnam, had been abandoned and 
largely dismantled since summer 1 968. 

Neither U.S. Armed Forces nor ARVN I Corps completed imperative logistical 
preparations that OPLAN El Paso prescribed. 

The Upshot. The upshot was predictable: Lam Son 719, according to a South Vietnamese 
major general on site, "was a bloody field exercise for ARVN forces under the command of 
I Corps. Nearly 8,000 ARVN soldiers and millions of dollars worth of valuable equipment 
and materiel [including more than 100 U.S. helicopters 10 ] were sacrificed" before the last 
troops withdrew on March 24. Enemy body counts were considerable and ARVN raiders 


destroyed copious supplies but, in the final analysis, Lam Son 779 produced few if any lasting 
effects on North Vietnamese abilities to infiltrate down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 11 


Monsoon winds alternately encourage and discourage most military operations 
wherever they blow. 

Geographical circumstances affect supply, maintenance, transportation, medical, and 
other logistical requirements at least as much as they influence combat operations. 

Logistical problems multiply and intensify in direct proportion to the distance between 
support bases and supported forces. 

Construction requirements soar in underdeveloped areas of responsibility. 

Rudimentary road nets magnify military dependence on airfields and inland waterways. 

jungle-covered mountains reduce the benefits that are obtainable from airmobile forces 
in open terrain. 

Parachute delivery systems and helicopters can sustain small, isolated units in jungles, 
but large formations need main supply routes with much greater capacities. 

Pipelines distribute large quantities of petroleum and water more cost-effectively than 
other forms of transportation. 


1 . Chapter 1 9 relies extensively on evidence the author accumulated in 1 967-68 as Chief, 
Campaign Planning Croup, U.S. Army Vietnam, which prepared Operation Plan El Paso. 
Documentation below cites only sources that are accessible to readers. 

2. Raphael Littauer and Norman Uphoff, eds., Air War in Indochina, Air War Study Croup 
(Boston, MA: Cornell University, Beacon Press, 1972), 76-90,168-169. 

3. Pentagon Papers: As Published by the New York Times (New York: Quadrangle 
Books,1971), 461, 479, 488, 498, 545, 585-588. 

4. Bruce Palmer, Jr., The 25-Year War: American's Military Role in Vietnam (Lexington, KY: 
University of Kentucky Press, 1 984), 1 06. 

5. L. Stevens, The Trail: A History of the Ho Chi Minh Trail . . . (New York: Garland Publishing, 
Inc., 1993), x-xiii, 31-122; Nguyen Duy Hinh, Lam Son 779 (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center 
of Military History, 1979), v, 9-18, 25-31. 

6. Richard M. Nixon, U.S. Foreign Policy for the 7970's: A New Strategy for Peace, February 
1 8, 1 970, 62-72 and Building for Peace, February 25, 1 971 , 58-91 (Washington, DC: Government 
Printing Office); Henry A. Kissinger, The White House Years (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1979), 980- 

7. Palmer, The 25-Year War, 108; Kissinger, The White House Years, 988-989. 

8. Nguyen Duy Hinh, Lam Son 779, 47-48. 

9. Palmer, The 25-Year War, 1 09. 

10. John J. Tolson, Air Mobility, 7967-7977, Vietnam Studies (Washington, DC: Dept. of the 
Army, 1973), 234-252. 

11. For the conduct and outcome of Lam San 71 9, see David Fulgham and Terrance Maitland, 
The Vietnam Experience: South Vietnam on Trial, Mid- J 970 to 1972 (Boston, MA: Boston Publishing, 
1 984), 68-97; Palmer, The 25-Year War, 1 09-1 1 6 



Many of today's problems were yesterday's solutions. 

Norman R. Augustine 
Augustine's Laws 


geography on every aspect of military policies, plans, programs, and operations at particular 
points in time and space. That task is exceedingly difficult, because cogent factors are 
pervasive, as a few Key Points extracted from preceding chapters indicate: 

Land, sea, air, and space forces each must prepare area analyses to fulfill specialized 
needs of combatant and support commands at every echelon. 

Armed forces that are organized, equipped, and trained to function in any given 
environment perform less well elsewhere until they complete essential adjustments. 

Time, distance, and modes of transportation determine how rapidly armed forces can 
respond to distant contingencies. 

Logistical problems multiply and intensify in direct proportion to the distance between 
support bases and deployed forces. 

Surface materials strongly influence the lethality of nuclear as well as conventional 
explosives and the ability of motor vehicles to travel cross-country. 

The characteristics of salt water influence every naval activity from ship design to 
employment practices on or beneath the surface of oceans and contiguous seas. 

Low cloud ceilings, poor visibility, high winds, powerful air currents, and variable 
barometric pressures impose critical constraints upon all land-based and naval air 

Topographic features that narrow the number of suitable drop zones and amphibious 
landing sites generally favor defenders who can concentrate forces at probable points of 

Population patterns, languages, religious preferences, cultures, customs, and social 
structures in areas of responsibility (AORs) directly affect prospects for success or failure 
of many military operations. 

Military commanders engaged in urban combat commonly must divert precious 
resources and manpower to control refugees and sustain the civilian populace. 

Territorial boundaries that statesmen draw with scant regard for geographical realities 
often become political-military trouble spots. 

''' SM^W^.^^, 


Global and regional AORs require periodic reviews to ensure that they still serve stated 
purposes. Savvy analysts accordingly remain acutely aware that it seldom is wise to stamp 
any assessment "APPROVED" and stash it on the shelf, because settings, situations, tactics, 
techniques, and technologies are subject to frequent, often unanticipated, change. 

Operation Neptune and Operation Plan El Paso, which demonstrate analytical techniques 
in chapters 18 and 19, are illuminating in such respects. Geographic circumstances in 
Normandy, for example, are much the same today as in 1944, but the implications are 
dissimilar. Long-range attack aircraft with diversified weapon systems, guided missiles, and 
helicopters able to hurdle beach obstacles might have enabled Anglo-American Armed 
Forces to open a Second Front in Europe south of the Loire, where the German Wehrmacht 
was weak, rather than hit massive Atlantic Wall defenses head-on. Operation Plan El Paso 
developed differently in 1 967-68 than it would have in 1 965, when Highway 23 was the 
only road fit for truck traffic anywhere along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Route 91 4 cutoff had 
not yet been conceived, choke points at Tchepone and Ban Dong were nonexistent, and 
Muong Phine was the only potentially important blocking position south of Mu Gia Pass. 
Similar conclusions accompany almost every other historical cameo used for illustrative 
purposes in this document. 

Perhaps the single most important lesson to be learned from the previous pages is the folly 
of slighting geographic factors during the preparation of any military plan, the conduct of any 
military operation, or the expenditure of scarce resources and funds on any military program. 
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose military career culminated at the five-star level, 
perhaps put it best when he addressed the Corps of Cadets at West Point on April 22, 1 959: 
'The Principles of War a"re not, in the final analysis, limited to any one type of warfare, or 
even limited exclusively to war itself . . . but principles as such can rarely be studied in a 
vacuum; military operations are drastically affected by many considerations, one of the most 
important of which is the geography of the region." 




ACOM U.S. Atlantic Command 

AFCENT Allied Forces Central Europe 

ALOC air line of communication 

AOR area of responsibility 

BAM Baikal-Amur Magistral 

BMEWS ballistic missile early warning system 

BMNT beginning of morning nautical twilight 

CENTCOM U.S. Central Command 

CHOP change operational control 

COCOA critical terrain, obstacles, cover and concealment, 

observation and fields of fire, avenues of approach 

CTZ corps tactical zone 

DEW Line Distant Early Warning Line 

DZ drop zone 

EENT end of evening nautical twilight 

EEZ exclusive economic zone 

EMP electromagnetic pulse 

EUCOM U.S. European Command 

FSCL fire support coordination line 

GLCM ground-launched cruise missile 

GPS global positioning system 

HAZMAT hazardous material 

ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile 

IFR instrument flight rules 

LEO low earth orbit 

LOC line of communication 

LZ landing zone 

MBFR mutual and balanced force reductions 

MIZ marginal ice zone 

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization 

NVA North Vietnamese Army 

OCOKA observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment 

obstacles, key terrain, avenues of approach 
















operation plan 

U.S. Pacific Command 

prisoner of war 

psychological operations 

research and development 

Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force 

Strategic Air Command 

sea, air, land 

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization 

sea line of communication 

U.S. Southern Command 

tactical area of responsibility 

United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea 

visual flight rules 





absolute humidity: The weight of water vapor present in a given volume of air, usually 

expressed as grams per cubic meter or grains per cubic foot. 
abyss: Ocean depths beyond the continental slope. 5ee also abyssal plain. 
abyssal plain: The ocean floor. 5ee also abyss. 
acclimatization: Adaptation to a geographic environment significantly different from that to 

which one is accustomed. 
active layer: Soil near the surface that seasonally freezes and thaws in frigid regions. 5ee also 


aerocentric: A military mindset that emphasizes air power. 
aerodynamic drag: Atmospheric force that stows flight, most notably near Earth's surface 

where air density is greatest. Resistance above about 60 miles (95 kilometers) takes days, 

weeks, or months to produce significant effects. 
aerospace: Earth's atmosphere plus space. 5ee a/so atmosphere; space. 
Agent Orange: A herbicide that U.S. Armed Forces used extensively to defoliate vegetation 

that could conceal Communist troops in Vietnam. 
air line of communication (ALOC): Any aerial route that nations depend on for commercial 

or military purposes. See also line of communication. 
airspace control: Processes designed to prevent fratricide, enhance air defense, and 

otherwise promote safe, efficient, flexible air operations within and above an area of 

responsibility. 5ee also airspace control area; area of responsibility. 
airspace control area: Bounded territory within and above an area of responsibility, 

subdivided as required to ensure safe, efficient, flexible air operations. See also airspace 

control; area of responsibility. 

alluvium: Clay, silt, sand, gravel, and other detritus that rivers deposit downstream. 
altitude: Height above mean sea level, mainly applied to positions in the atmosphere above 

Earth's surface. 5ee a/so elevation. 
amphibious forces: A naval force and a landing force that are organized, equipped, and 

trained to conduct operations from sea to a hostile or potentially hostile shore. 
aquifer: A water-bearing stratum of permeable rock, sand, or gravel. 
archipelago: A string of islands, such as the Aleutians and Indonesia. 
arctic sea smoke: Maritime fog that occurs most often over the Arctic or Antarctic Oceans 

when very cold air passes over much warmer water. Occasionally occurs over inland seas 

when very cold winter air shifts somewhat equatorward. 5ee also fog. 


area analysis: A process that assesses geographic influences on military plans, programs, and 

operations to ascertain probable effects on friendly and enemy courses of action. 
area of influence: Territory within which a regional commander could, using weapon 

systems and mobility means under his or her control, conduct military operations. Such 

territory may be much larger than the commander's area of responsibility. See also area 

of responsibility. 
area of interest: Territory outside of (but not necessarily contiguous to) a regional 

commander's area of responsibility that warrants close attention because activities therein 

could significantly affect military plans, programs, and operations within the 

commander's AOR. See also area of responsibility. 
area of operations: Territory within which military activities of any kind occur. It may include 

all or a small part of a commander's area of responsibility. See also area of responsibility. 
area of responsibility (AOR): Territory within which a regional commander exercises 

responsibility and authority over, and is accountable for, all military activities by armed 

forces under his or her control. See also tactical areas of responsibility; theater areas of 

area orientation: Missions, organizations, equipment, and training that prepare individuals 

and military formations for projected deployment to a specific geographical region. 

Repeated, lengthy tours of duty in relevant countries not only help foreign area officers 

hone their language and cross-cultural skills, but enable them to develop close personal 

relationships . 

aridity: See desert; semi-arid. 
arroyo: Spanish for the bed of a narrow, steep-sided stream that dries up seasonally or during 

droughts (a term most often used in Southwestern United States and Mexico). Heavy rains 

commonly cause flash floods in such watercourses. 5ee also intermittent stream; wadi. 
artesian spring, well: A natural or artificial source of water that hydrostatic pressures force 

from depths to the surface like a fountain. See also spring. 
astrocentric: A military mindset that emphasizes space power. 
atmosphere: the envelope of air that surrounds Earth. Air becomes thinner with ahitude until 

the vacuum of space replaces it completely. 
atmospheric pressure: The weight that a vertical column of air exerts on any given point 

below in response to gravitational attraction. Readings are highest at sea level and 

gradually decrease at greater elevations. 

atoll: a circular reef of coral and other materials that encloses a lagoon. See also lagoon. 
aurora borealis: "Northern lights;" ghostly displays of colored streamers, rays, arcs, bands, 

curtains, draperies, sheets, and/or patches that shimmer and flit across skies at high 

latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Called aurora australis in the Southern 

auroral zones: Arctic and Antarctic regions where charged particles ejected from the sun and 

deflected by Earth's magnetic field disrupt radio frequency propagation. 
axis of advance: A control measure, usually a road, identifiable natural terrain corridor, or 

series of points that commanders order subordinate ground forces to follow from present 

positions to objectives in enemy territory. 


bank: A mass of clouds or fog; a mound or ridge; plains below the ocean surface but above 

the continental shelf; the sloping margin of an inland watercourse or lake. River banks are 

designated left or right from viewpoints that face downstream. 
bar: A submerged or partly submerged accumulation of alluvium along seashores, rivers, and 

smaller streams. Such obstructions inhibit or prevent navigation by ships and craft. 
baseline: A line, usually the low water line, used to measure the breadth of a coastal state's 

territorial sea. See also exclusive economic zone; territorial sea. 
beach: Relatively horizontal terrain that extends from a coastline inland to the first marked 

change in topography or vegetative cover. Cliffs and other vertical terrain that rise 

abruptly from the sea lack beaches. 
beachhead: An area on a hostile or potentially hostile coast that, when seized and held, 

facilitates the continuous landing of troops and materiel. It also affords a base from which 

to expand operations inland. 5ee a/so bridgehead. 
beginning of morning nautical twilight (BMNT): A period of incomplete darkness before 

sunrise when the sun is 1 2 degrees below the celestial horizon. 
blackout: The disruption of radio and radar transmissions for minutes or many hours after a 

nuclear detonation in space ionizes Earth's atmosphere over a wide area. Short-wave, 

high-frequency propagations are most susceptible. 5ee a/so electromagnetic pulse. 
blizzard: An intensely cold wind of 30 knots or greater velocity that blows snow and thereby 

reduces visibility to half a mile or less (about one kilometer) at ground level. 
"blue water": Naval slang for high seas (open oceans) beyond the littoral. 
bog: Spongy, poorly-drained soil variously covered with peat, sedges, heath, mosses, 

lichens, and other stunted plants. 5ee also marsh; swamp. 
boundary: A borderline, sharply- or ill-defined, between countries or military formations. 

5ee a/so frontier. 
breakbulk ship: An oceangoing transport that carries undifferentiated dry cargo of various 

sizes and shapes. 5ee a/so container ship. 
breakwater: A wall or other offshore structure installed to protect a harbor or beach from 

waves that might damage ships or infrastructure. 
bridgehead: An area on the far side of a river in hostile or potentially hostile territory that, 

when seized and held, facilitates the continuous crossing of troops and materiel. It also 

affords a base from which to continue offensive military operations or shield key terrain 

to the rear. 5ee also beachhead. 
"brown water": Naval slang for seas along the littoral; the milieu of riverine and swamp 

buffer zone: a territorial strip designed to separate the possessor from present or potential 

external aggressors and thus provide some degree of protection. 
calving: The breaking away of ice masses from ice walls, ice shelves, and icebergs. 
canal: a manmade channel that connects two or more bodies of water, such as rivers, seas, 

and oceans; some canals connect inland ports with open water. 
canopy: The uppermost layer of foliage within a forest; two or more distinctive tiers typify 

most tropical rain forests. 5ee a/so jungle; rain forest. 
catch basin or catchment: 5ee drainage basin. 
ceiling: See cloud ceiling. 


celestial sphere: An imaginary, nonrotating orb of indefinite radius with its center at Earth's 
core. Its equator is a projection of Earth's equator. Various features afford a frame of 
reference for locating orbital objects in space. 5ee also declination; right ascension. 

change operational control (CHOP): The date, Coordinated Universal Time, and sometimes 
the place that a military force passes from one commander's jurisdiction to another's. 
Commonly employed by naval forces. 

channel: The deepest and usually swiftest part of any stream; the deepest, most navigable part 
of any strait; the deepest, most navigable water in harbors. 

choke point: A constricted spot along any land or sea route. Such spots are especially 
vulnerable to interdiction. 

circadian rhythm: The 24-hour biological cycle that governs most human activities on Earth. 
Disruptions due to "jet lag," which lengthy space flights magnify immensely, to greater 
or lesser degrees cause psychophysical problems such as fatigue, inattentiveness, and 
emotional instability. 

circumterrestrial space: A region that abuts Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of about 60 
miles (95 kilometers) and extends to about 50,000 miles (80,000+ kilometers). Most 
military space missions currently are confined therein. 

cislunar space: Wedge-shaped territory between Earth and its moon. One point touches 
Earth's atmosphere, others touch lunar libration points L-4 and L-5. See also lunar 
libration points. 

clan: A relatively small, tightly knit group of families whose members claim common 
ancestry or identify with a common totem. See also ethnic group; race; tribe. 

climate: Weather patterns discernible from meteorological records that are most reliable 
when compiled hourly at specified locations over a period of years. Resultant statistics, 
which reveal means and extremes, indicate probabilities that particular conditions will 
prevail at particular times on particular days or months at each place. See also 
meteorology; weather. 

cloud: A visible aggregate of minute water or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. Air- 
to-ground visibility by human eyes and most technological sensors is severely limited or 
nonexistent, whereas surface-to-surface visibility is unaffected. See also fog. 

cloud ceiling: The distance between a cloud base and terrain directly below. 

cloud cover: The amount of cloud at any given location, stated in eighths (1/8 to 4/8 is 
scattered; 5/8 to 7/8 is broken; 8/8 is overcast). Several layers of scattered clouds may 
cause broken or overcast conditions. 

COCOA: Acronym for Critical terrain; Obstacles; Cover and concealment; Observation and 
fields of fire; Avenues of approach. See also OCOKA. 

concealment: Protection against nothing more than enemy observation. See also cover. 

container ship: An oceangoing transport that carries cargo in rectangular steel boxes that 
stack vertically in ready-made cells and horizontally on top of strong hatch covers so 
loading and unloading is rapid and wasted space is negligible. See also breakbulk ship. 

continental shelf: A generally undulating submarine plain that declines gently seaward from 
major land masses. Widths vary from nonexistent to 800 miles or more (1,300 
kilometers). Depths usually are less than 100 fathoms (600 feet, 180 meters) See also 
continental slope. 


continental slope: A precipitous incline, generally 10-20 miles wide, that plunges from the 

continental shelf to the bottom of the oceanic abyss, which is several miles deep in some 

places. See also abyss; continental shelf. 
corduroy: Logs laid at right angles across soggy roads, tracks, and trails to improve vehicular 


core area: A nationally important, even vital, center or region. 5ee also key terrain. 
corps tactical zone (CTZ): The area of responsibility for a corps-size military force. 
cover: Protection against the effects of enemy weapons as well as observation. 5ee also 


crest: The top of a mountain, hill, or ridge. 5ee also military crest; topographical crest. 
critical terrain: 5ee key terrain. 
cultural geography: An interdisciplinary field that deals with spatial variations in learned 

human behavior, including the geographic diversity of settlements, languages, religions, 

social structures, the arts, economies, technologies, and other activities. See also 

geography; military geography; physical geography; political-military geography. 
current: The flow of water in any stream, canal, sea, or ocean calculated in terms of direction 

and velocity. 
D-Day: The date that any specified military operation is scheduled to commence or actually 

declination: The celestial equivalent of latitude. Specifically, the angular distance north or 

south of the celestial equator, measured along a great circle that passes through the 

celestial poles. 5ee also celestial sphere; right ascension. 
deep space: Interplanetary space beyond the Earth-Moon System. See also circumterrestrial 

space; outer space. 
defilade: A position protected against enemy flat trajectory weapons; a natural or artificial 

mask, such as a ridge, hummock, building, or forest, between such weapons and their 

defile: A natural or artificial constriction along a surface route, such as a mountain pass, a 

gorge, a strait, or a narrow city street. 
delta: Triangular alluvial deposits at the mouth of a river. Some deltas are small, others such 

as those of the Nile, Mekong, and Mississippi Rivers measure much more than 100 miles 

(1 60 kilometers) on each side. See also alluvium. 
demography: The study of human populations, especially size, density, distribution, and 

other vital statistics. It is an interdisciplinary field that melds geography with mathematics, 

biology, medicine, sociology, economics, history, and anthropology. 
density altitude: Air pressure at mean sea level (29.92 inches of mercury) and 59 F (1 5C) 

corrected to account for greater heights and higher temperatures, which decrease air 

density and increase density altitude. Density altitude calculations are critically 

important, because lighter air reduces aircraft motive power, limits lift capacities, 

demands faster true airspeed and a longer roll for takeoffs, slows rates of climb, requires 

faster true airspeeds to sustain flight, lengthens rolls after landings, and makes stopping 

more difficult. 
deposition region: A dense radioactive layer that accumulates 25-30 miles (40-48 kilometers) 

above Earth when a cascade of gamma rays from a nuclear explosion at greater altitude 


collides with the upper atmosphere. Resultant charge imbalances create electromagnetic 

pulse. 5ee also electromagnetic pulse. 
desert: A region in which average annual precipitation generally measures less than 10 

inches (25 centimeters). Arctic regions that receive a bit less fail to qualify, because 

evaporation is slow. Hot regions that receive a bit more qualify, because evaporation is 

rapid. Deserts may be mountainous or flat, sandy or stony. 5ee a/so semiarid. 
dewpoint: The temperature at which water vapor turns into water droplets through a process 

called condensation. 
Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line: A string of radar stations across the arctic from the 

Aleutian Islands to the Atlantic Ocean, installed during the Cold War to alert U.S. and 

Canadian defenders of a surprise Soviet attack over the North Pole. 
diurnal: A daily occurrence or cycle. 

divide: A watershed between two drainage basins. See also drainage basin. 
doldrums: An atmospheric belt astride the equator, characterized by calms that shifting 

breezes and squalls intermittently interrupt. 
drainage basin: Lands on one side of a topographical divide that accumulate rainfall and 

snow, then distribute runoff to lower elevations via a system of small streams that are 

tributary to rivers. 

drift: Ocean current velocity. 5ee a/so current; set. 
drop zone (DZ): An area into which transport aircraft deliver troops, equipment, and supplies 

by parachute. 
Earth-Moon System: Space and all its contents within an imaginary sphere that extends 

approximately 480,000 miles (772,000 kilometers) in every direction from Earth's core. 

Large, solid matter is confined mainly to Earth, its moon, and asteroids, but invisible 

atmosphere, gravity, and the Van Allen radiation belts are immensely important. 
electromagnetic pulse (EMP): Prodigious current that results from a nuclear explosion in the 

upper atmosphere or space, peaks 1 00 times faster than lightning, then bolts toward Earth. 

Unshielded electronics within several hundred miles of the epicenter may be disabled. 

See a/so deposition region. 
elevation: Height above mean sea level. Applied mainly to positions on Earth's surface. 5ee 

also altitude. 
enclave: Foreign territory within a country or coalition. East Germany, for example, enclosed 

West Berlin throughout the Cold War. 5ee a/so exclave. 
end of evening nautical twilight (EENT): Occurs after sundown when the sun is between the 

horizon and 1 2 F below. 
environment: Geographical circumstances that prevail at any given place; the sum total of 

all biological, chemical, and physical factors to which organisms are exposed. 
estuary: An arm of the sea into which fresh water streams empty and mingle with intruding 

salt water tides. 
ethnic group: Culturally distinctive peoples with common physical characteristics, customs, 

language, religion, and traits. 5ee a/so clan; race; tribe. 
exclave: Part of a country or coalition enclosed within the territory of a foreign power. West 

Berlin, for example, lay entirely inside East Germany throughout the Cold War. 5ee a/so 


exclusive economic zone (EEZ): A maritime area adjacent to territorial seas that is subject to 
legal provisions embedded in the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. Coastal 
states are authorized to exercise sovereignty over natural resources and jurisdiction over 
some scientific research and environmental projects within the EEZ. The outer limit may 
coincide with the outer edge of the continental shelf in some cases. See also continental 
shelf; territorial sea. 

exosphere: Earth's atmosphere from an altitude of about 300 miles (480 kilometers) to 
2,000+ miles (3,200+ kilometers), where it terminates in a hard vacuum. 

exterior lines of communication: Relatively long routes that lead to any given area of 
operation from distant positions. Such routes not only make it difficult for military 
commanders to concentrate armed forces rapidly at decisive points and sustain them after 
arrival but may also be difficult to safeguard if they traverse hostile territory. See also 
interior lines of communication; line of communication. 

fallout: See radioactive fallout. 

fast ice: Sea ice that forms along, and remains attached to, coasts. It extends in some places 
as far out as the 1 0-fathom curve (60 feet, 1 8 meters) in late winter. See also ice shelf. 

fetch: The distance over open seas that winds blow without a significant change in direction. 
Wind speeds and fetch determine wave heights. 

field fortification: See fortification. 

fire support coordination line (FSCL): An imaginary line, preferably drawn along well- 
defined terrain features, used to control fire support of military operations. It is drawn to 
ensure maximum freedom of military action, yet to minimize "fratricide" and aerial 
interference with ground schemes of maneuver. 

fog: A cloud in contact with or just above ground level. Thin fog limits surface-to-surface 
visibility to no more than 1 nautical mile (1.3 kilometers); visibility in dense fog is 50 
yards (45 meters) or less. 5ee also arctic sea smoke; cloud: sea smoke. 

folkways: Customary modes of thinking, feeling, and acting common to a social group. Key 
considerations include traditions, values, motivations, hopes, fears, and taboos; manners 
and mannerisms; religious beliefs; rites, rituals, and holidays; behavior patterns; social 
hierarchies; lines of authority; moral codes; sexual mores; work ethics; dietary regimes. 

footcandle (fc): A unit of illumination equal to one lumen per square foot (929 square 
centimeters). Full sunlight at zenith produces about 1 0,000 fc on a horizontal surface; 
full moonlight provides about 0.02 fc. Illumination for steady reading demands about 1 

fort: Any permanent strongpoint or fortified line occupied exclusively or primarily by a 
military garrison. The most durable are mainly subterranean. Modern construction 
materials favor stone, concrete, and steel. See also fortification; fortress. 

fortification: Any permanent strongpoint or fortified line; temporary field fortifications 
typified by foxholes and weapon pits as well as elaborate trench and bunker systems. See 
also fort; fortress. 

fortress: A permanent strongpoint, such as a castle or walled city, designed primarily to 
protect civilian inhabitants. See also fort; fortification. 

frontier: Territory that parallels and somewhat overlaps the boundary between countries. See 
also boundary. 


geography: An interdisciplinary field that studies the Earth, including land, sea, air, space, 

and all life within those mediums. 5ee a/so cultural geography; military geography; 

physical geography; regional geography. 
geopolitics: Interactions between geography and foreign policies; governmental policies that 

emphasize such relationships. 
geostationary orbit: The only geosynchronous orbit that circles 22,300 miles (35,887 

kilometers) above Earth's equator. Spacecraft on that path appear to stand still when 

viewed from Earth's surface, because they constantly maintain the same relative position. 

5ee a/so geosynchronous orbit; orbital period. 
geosynchronous orbit: Any eliptical flight path that makes figure eights from a center line 

over Earth's equator at an average ground track altitude of 22,300 miles (35,887 

kilometers). Spacecraft on such paths complete precisely one trip per day, because their 

24-hour period is the time it takes Earth to rotate once. See also geostationary orbit; 

orbital period. 
glacier: A mass of compacted snow and ice that continually moves from higher to lower 

ground or, if afloat, spreads continuously. Various types include island ice sheets, ice 

shelves, ice streams, ice caps, ice piedmonts, cirques, and mountain (valley) glaciers. 
Global Positioning System (GPS): A U.S. Department of Defense-operated, spaced-based, 

radio-navigation system that in 1 997 consisted of 24 satellites plus ground support. GPS 

precisely computes latitude, longitude, altitude, and time for fixed and mobile users 

wherever they may be. Such information is invaluable for navigational and weapon 

control purposes. 
grade; gradient: A longitudinal slope, the steepness of which can be calculated by dividing 

the vertical rise or fall by the horizontal distance. A 23-foot rise or fall in 100 feet is a 

plus or minus 23% grade. 
gravity (g): A force of mutual attraction between bodies as a result of their mass. Earth and 

its moon influence all matter within their respective fields. The effects of both fields 

diminish with the square of the distance from each source. One g is equivalent to the 

acceleration of gravity on a body at sea level. 5ee a/so gravity well. 
gravity well: Imaginary, funnel-shaped walls, steep at the bottom but level on top. Greater 

energy is required to climb out (gravity hinders) than to maneuver on top (where gravity 

is slight) or drop down (gravity helps). See also gravity. 
great circle: Any ring formed by the intersection of Earth's surface with a plane that passes 

through Earth's center. A great circle is the shortest distance between any two or more 

points on such an arc. 
"green water": Naval slang for solid waves (not sea spray) that wash over ships during storms 

or heavy weather, where they may damage equipment or wash crew members overboard. 
harbor: A sheltered coastal location, natural or improved, that protects ships and smaller craft 

from winds and waves when they are not at sea. 5ee also seaport. 
hardstand: A stabilized soil or paved parking area at an airfield. 
hazardous material (HAZMAT): Toxic and infectious wastes that require special treatment, 

storage, transportation, and disposal. 
hazardous waste: Toxic, infectious, flammable, corrosive, explosive, and radioactive 

substances that await disposal. 


H-Hour: The specific time on D-Day that any specified military operation is scheduled to 

commence or actually commences. 5ee a/so D-Day. 
high earth orbit: A flight path in circumterrestrial space above geosynchronous altitude, 

between 22,300 and 50,000-60,000 miles from Earth's surface (35,887 to 80,465-96,560 

horse latitudes: Two atmospheric belts centered on 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south 

latitude, characterized by high barometric pressures and calms that shifting breezes 

occasionally interrupt. 

humidity: Water vapor in the air. 5ee a/so absolute humidity; relative humidity. 
hydrology: A science that deals with the physical and chemical properties, transformations, 

combinations, and movements of water on Earth, including precipitation, its discharge 

into seas, evaporation, and return to the atmosphere. 
hypothermia: A consequence of prolonged exposure to cold or wet conditions that cause 

human body temperature to drop below normal with deleterious, even fatal, effects. 
hypoxia: A condition that occurs when body tissues receive insufficient oxygen, especially 

at high elevations and altitudes. 
iceberg: A large chunk of fresh water ice, floating or aground, that a glacier has calved. 5ee 

a/so calving; fast ice; glacier; ice floe. 
ice floe: Floating sea water (salty) ice, more common than icebergs, that originates as slush, 

separates into "pancakes," then forms sheets. Some floes drift out of the Arctic Basin the 

first year, while those that remain become much harder and thicker. Often called pack 

ice. 5ee a/so fast ice; iceberg; ice floe. 
ice shelf: See fast ice. 
illumination: A measure of sunlight, moonlight, starlight, and luminescent atmosphere. 5ee 

also footcandle; light data. 
infrastructure: All bases, facilities, other permanent or semi-permanent installations, and 

fabrications used to equip, train, control, move, and otherwise support armed forces. 
inland waterway: Any river, stream, canal, lake, or interior sea that serves as a transportation 


inner space: 5ee circumterrestrial space. 
instrument flight rules (IFR): Air traffic control regulations that limit flight clearances to 

pilots proficient in the use of navigational gear and to aircraft so equipped when low 

cloud ceilings, poor visibility, or other weather conditions are below specified minimums. 

5ee a/so Visual Flight Rules. 
interior lines of communication: Relatively short, secure routes within any given area of 

operation that provide mobility advantages not available to enemy forces. Such routes 

enable military commanders to concentrate armed forces most rapidly at decisive points 

inside or near that area and sustain them after arrival. 5ee a/so exterior lines of 

communication; line of communication. 
intermittent stream: Any inland watercourse that dries up seasonally or during droughts. 

Common in deserts. 5ee a/so arroyo; wadi. 
ionosphere: A region of electrically charged (ionized) thin air layers that begins about 30 

miles above Earth's atmosphere (48 kilometers) and overlaps the lower exosphere. The 

maximum concentration of electrons occurs at about 375 miles (600 kilometers). Effects 

on high frequency radio propagation are important. 5ee a/so exosphere. 

isothermal area: A region within which temperatures remain constant. 

jetty: A breakwater that connects with the shore. See also breakwater; mole. 

jungle: Tropical or subtropical woodlands with dense primary or secondary undergrowth. 5ee 

also rain forest. 
key terrain: Any geographical point or distinctive area the seizure, retention, destruction, or 

control of which would confer a marked (preferably decisive) advantage on any military 

lagoon: A shallow body of normally placid sea water between a reef or other offshore barrier 

and an island or the mainland. 5ee a/so atoll. 
landing zone (LZ): A prepared or extemporaneous site suitable for operations by helicopters 

or fixed-wing aircraft with very short or vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. 
latitude: The angular distance north and south from Earth's equator measured through 90. 

See also longitude. 
lead: Any long crack or fracture through sea ice that is navigible by ships or smaller craft. 

Icebreakers look for and enlarge such passageways. 
libration points: 5ee lunar libration points. 
light data: Tables that for particular periods and places compute morning and evening 

twilight, sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, and moon phases. 5ee a/so footcandle; 

line of communication (LOG): Any foreign or domestic land, sea, air, or space route that 

nations depend upon for commercial purposes; any such route that military commanders 

use to deploy, employ, sustain, and control armed forces. See also air line of 

communication; exterior line of communication; interior line of communication; sea line 

of communication. 

line-of-sight: An unobstructed view from point A to point B. 
littoral: A coastal region that, for purposes of this document, extends no more than 1 00 miles 

(1 85 kilometers) seaward from the shoreline and an equal distance inland. 
local relief: Differences in elevation between high and low ground within any given territory 

on Earth, its moon, or other planet. 5ee also relief. 
longitude: Meridians through any given place expressed in degrees east and west of the 

Prime Meridian (zero degrees), which passes through the original site of the Royal 

Observatory in Greenwich, England. See also latitude; meridian. 
low earth orbit (LEO): Any flight path in circumterrestrial space between sensible atmosphere 

and the bottom of the Van Allen belts (60-250 miles, 95-400 kilometers), with some 

leeway in both directions. Elliptical orbits may dip in and out of LEO during each trip 

around Earth. 
lunar libration points: Five three-dimensional positions in space, all influenced by the 

gravitational fields that surround Earth and its moon. L1, L2, and L3, on a line with Earth 

and the moon, are considered unstable. Spacecraft probably would have to expend 

energy to remain long at those locations. L4 and L5, 60 ahead of and behind the moon 

in its orbit, are considered stable. Spacecraft probably could remain at those locations 

indefinitely without expending fuel, because gravitational fields are in balance. 
magnetosphere: A vast region dominated by Earth's magnetic field, which traps charged 

particles, including those in the Van Allen belts. The magnetosphere begins in the upper 


atmosphere, where it overlaps the ionosphere, and extends several thousand miles farther 

into space. 5ee also ionosphere. 

marecentric: A military mindset that emphasizes sea power. 
marginal ice zone (MIZ): A region of more or less mushy ice affected somewhat by waves 

and swell between open sea water and solid ice closer to shore. Widths vary from a few 

to about 50 miles (80 kilometers), depending on temperatures, winds, and currents. 
marsh: Spongy, wet, or watery meadows covered with tall grass, reeds, and cattails. 5ee a/so 

bog; swamp. 

megalopolis: An immense urban area populated by at least 10 million people. 
meridian: A great circle on Earth's surface that passes through the North and South Poles. 5ee 

a/so great circle; longitude. 
mesosphere: Atmosphere 30-50 miles (48-80 kilometers) above Earth's surface. Temperature 

inversions that occur in the stratosphere cease. Thermometer readings of -1 00 F (-73 C) 

are normal. 5ee also stratosphere. 
meteorology: A science that concerns atmospheric phenomena, especially weather 

conditions and forecasting. 
military crest: The highest point on any slope, often lower than the peak, from which views 

are unobstructed all the way to the bottom. See also crest; topographical crest. 
military geography: A geographic specialty that concerns all physical, cultural, and other 

environmental influences over military policies, plans, programs, and combat/support 

operations at all levels in global, regional, and local contexts. 5ee also cultural 

geography; geography; geopolitics; physical geography; political-military geography. 
mirage: An optical phenomenon that makes objects seem distorted, displaced (raised or 

lowered), magnified, multiplied, or inverted due to atmospheric refraction that occurs 

when a layer of air near Earth's surface differs greatly from surrounding air. Common in 

desert heat. 

mole: A jetty with a road on top. 5ee also breakwater; jetty. 
neap tides: Tides about 20% lower than average, which occur twice a month when the sun 

offsets the moon's gravitational pull at the time of 1 st and 3d quarters and the sun and 

moon are at right angles. 5ee also spring tides; tides. 
nuclear fallout: 5ee radioactive fallout. 

observation: The ability of military personnel or sensors to see objects within any given area. 
obstacle: Any natural or manmade object that prevents, delays, or diverts the movement of 

military forces. 
oceanography: A science that deals with the seas, especially their boundaries, depths, the 

physics and chemistry of salt water, underwater topography, marine biology, and 

OCOKA: Acronym for Observation and fields of fire; Cover and concealment; Obstacles; Key 

terrain; Avenues of approach. See a/so COCOA. 
open city: Any urban center that enemies on request agree to refrain from or cease attacking, 

but generally may occupy unopposed. 
orbit: The path of any object that flies through space in accord with the physical laws of 

energy and momentum. Spacecraft that circumnavigate Earth must maintain enough 

velocity to counterbalance gravity, but not enough to overcome its pull. 



orbital period: The time it takes a spacecraft or other object to circumnavigate Earth, its 
moon, or another planet. 

outcrop: Any bedrock exposed on the surface. 

outer space: All of the Earth-Moon System except circumterrestrial space. It extends from 
about 50,000 miles (80,465 kilometers) above Earth's surface to about 480,000 miles 
(772,000 kilometers), twice the distance from Earth to its moon. See also circumterrestrial 
space; deep space. 

pack ice: Any sea ice, other than fast ice, no matter what form or how disposed. 5ee also fast 

permafrost: Perennially frozen soil at various depths beneath Earth's surface in frigid regions. 
5ee a/so active layer. 

permeability: The capacity of porous rocks and soils to hold or transmit water. 

physical geography: An interdisciplinary field that deals with all Earth and space sciences. 
Typical topics include astronomy, biology (plant and animal life), climatology, geology, 
geomorphology (land forms), hydrography, meteorology, oceanography, and pedology 
(soil sciences). 5ee also cultural geography; military geography; political-military 

physiography: 5ee physical geography. 

pier: A wharf that projects into harbor waters and thus provides berths on both sides 
(sometimes at the head as well). See also wharf. 

plimsoll lines: Markings drawn on the hull of a cargo ship to indicate whether it is safely 

political-military geography: An interdisciplinary field that concerns relationships between 
foreign policy, military affairs, and geography. Typical topics include areas of 
responsibility, diplomacy, foreign relations, dissimilar military Service perspectives, 
strategy, operational art, and tactics. 5ee also cultural geography, geography; military 
geography; physical geography. 

port: 5ee seaport. 

precipitation: Moisture that falls from clouds. Air and surface temperatures determine 
whether precipitation takes the form of rain, snow, sleet, hail, or icy glaze. 

pressure: See atmospheric pressure. 

quay: A wharf. 5ee also wharf. 

race: Genetically distinctive people derived from Amerind, Austroloid, Caucasoid, 
Mongoloid, or Negroid stock. 5ee a/so clan; ethnic group; tribe. 

radioactive fallout: The precipitation of radioactive particles from clouds of debris produced 
by nuclear detonations, especially surface bursts that suck huge amounts of material into 
mushroom stems, after which winds aloft may waft a deadly mist over immense areas. 

rain forest: Dark, dank, tropical woodlands where annual precipitation exceeds 100 inches 
(250 centimeters) and lofty evergreen trees form a continuous canopy that may contain 
two or more tiers. Little undergrowth exists except along streams and in clearings where 
sunlight reaches the forest floor. 5ee also jungle. 

reef: A chain of rocks, a ridge of sand, or a coral formation slightly submerged or nearly so 
which blocks or impedes passage between open ocean and beaches, even for flat- 
bottomed boats. 


region: A large geographic area that is physically or culturally homogeneous. See also 

regional geography. 
regional geography: A multidisciplinary field that subdivides Earth and space into such 

distinctive areas as Europe, Asia, and Africa south of the Sahara, then describes the 

attributes of each, with particular attention to political, military, economic, social, and 

other implications. Regional geography in a different vein addresses such homogeneous 

areas as mountains, deserts, and jungles. See also geography. 
relative humidity: The actual amount of water vapor in the air compared with the greatest 

amount possible at the same temperature. Usually expressed as a percentage. 5ee also 

absolute humidity; humidity. 
relief: The irregularities of land surfaces and submarine topography; differences in elevation 

between adjacent terrain features. 5ee also local relief. 
right ascension: The celestial equivalent of longitude. The constellation Aires, against which 

spectators on Earth see the sun when it crosses Earth's equator (the vernal equinox), 

defines the prime meridian. Astronomers measure angular positions in space east from 

that celestial counterpart of Greenwich Observatory. See also declination. 
riverine operations: Military activities along rivers and in wetlands. 5ee also "brown water;" 

Rome Plow: An armored bulldozer fitted with a blade designed to clear small trees and dense 

vegetation. Used extensively by U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam. 
runoff: Precipitation that does not sink into the ground, but flows over the surface into rivers 

and other streams. 

savanna: Tropical or subtropical grasslands with scattered trees and drought-resistant plants. 
sea line of communication (SLOC): Any maritime route that nations depend on for 

commercial or military purposes. See also line of communication. 
seaport: A harbor that includes berthing, cargo-handling, storage, maintenance, and 

clearance facilities. See also harbor. 
sea smoke: A phenomenon that occurs when very cold air over relatively warm open water 

produces steamy condensation that sometimes rises several hundred feet (100+ meters). 

5ee also arctic sea smoke. 
semiarid: A region in which average annual precipitation measures between 10 and 20 

inches (25-50 centimeters). 5ee also desert; steppe. 
set: The direction that ocean currents move. 5ee also current; drift. 
sight defilade: A position screened against or shielded from enemy observation. See also 

concealment; defilade. 
slope: 5ee grade; gradient. 
soil trafficability: The capacity of surface materials to support cross-country movement by 

motor vehicles. 
solar flares: Spectacular, pervasive outbursts of energy that emanate periodically from the 

sun, accompanied by high-speed protons that comprise a potentially lethal radiation 

hazard to any unshielded form of life in space. Intense and sudden ionospheric 

disturbances inflict fadeouts and other debilitating effects on long-range 

telecommunications. Major flares last from a few minutes to several hours. 
space: The universe and all of its contents, except Earth and its atmosphere. See also 

circumterrestrial space; cislunar space; deep space; outer space. 


spacecraft: Any manned or unmanned vehicle intended primarily for operations beyond 

Earth and its atmosphere. 

space weather: Phenomena that occur 30 miles (50 kilometers) or more above Earth. 
spring: A natural flow where the water table intersects Earth's surface. See also artesian 

spring, well. 
spring tides: Tides about 20 percent greater than average arise twice a month when the sun 

reinforces lunar pull at the time of new and full moons and the Earth, sun, and moon are 

directly in line. See also neap tides; tide. 
steppes: Vast, semiarid, treeless, grassy plains in European Russia and Central Asia. See also 

stratosphere: Atmosphere 10 to 20 miles (16 to 48 kilometers) above Earth's surface. Life 

support systems are essential. Temperatures decrease with altitude in lower layers, but 

inversions occur at the top, where maximum readings reach about 45 F (7.2 C). 
swamp: A generic term for wetlands. See also bog; marsh. 
swell: Long, low, parallel, crestless waves that continue almost indefinitely after motivating 

winds abate. 5ee also wave. 
tactical area of responsibility (TAOR): Any AOR below theater level. See also area of 

responsibility; theater. 
taiga: Moist, subarctic, coniferous forests, mostly spruce and fir, the northern frontier of 

which touches tundra. 

terracentric: A military mindset that emphasizes land power. 
terrain: All physical and cultural geographical features within any given area. 
territorial sea: A maritime area that includes air space and the seabed over which coastal 

countries exercise sovereignty. Such countries may claim rights up to 12 nautical miles 

from the baseline, according to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. See 

also baseline. 
theater: A regional area of responsibility, such as Western Europe, North Africa, and 

Southeast Asia. See also area of responsibility; region. 
thermocline: A layer of increasingly colder, saltier ocean water that separates relatively light, 

seasonally-variable mixtures near the surface from a dense isothermal layer several 

thousand feet below. See also isothermal area. 
thermosphere: Thin atmosphere 30-50 miles (48-80 kilometers) above Earth's surface, where 

tremendous inversions cause temperatures to increase dramatically. Peak readings near 

the top may reach 2,250 F (1 ,250 C). Diurnal variations probably are several hundred 

tidal current: The alternating horizontal movement of water that rises and falls with tides. The 

direction in relatively open locations rotates continuously through 360 degrees diurnally 

or semi-diurnally. Local topography strongly influences tidal current characteristics in 

coastal waters. See also tide; tidewater. 
tide: The rising and falling of oceans, seas, and large lakes twice daily in response to unequal 

gravitational attractions of the sun and moon. 5ee also neap tide; spring tide; tidal current; 


tidewater: That portion of any river affected by the ebb and flow of tides. See also tide. 
tombolo: A sand or gravel bar that connects an island to the mainland or another island. 
topographical crest: The highest point on any slope. See also crest; military crest. 


topography: The configuration of land or underwater surfaces, especially relief and other 

natural features. 5ee a/so relief; terrain. 
town plan: The current configuration of any city, town, village, or hamlet, which may or may 

not reflect a preconceived design. 
trafficability: 5ee soil trafficability. 
tribe: A group of culturally and linguistically homogeneous people who occupy certain 

territory. 5ee a/so clan. 
troposphere: Atmosphere from Earth's surface to about 10 miles (16 kilometers) above the 

equator and half of that altitude near the North and South Poles. Most clouds, winds, 

precipitation, and other weather phenomena occur in this region. 
tundra: An arctic or subarctic plain, level to undulating, treeless, with permanently frozen 

subsoil and a mucky surface that supports stunted plants such as mosses and lichens. 
twilight: Periods of incomplete darkness before sunrise and after sunset. Durations vary from 

a few minutes to many hours, depending on latitude and season. 5ee also Beginning of 

Morning Nautical Twilight; End of Evening Nautical Twilight. 

urban area: Any city or built-up portion thereof. 5ee a/so urbanization; urban sprawl. 
ubanization: Any plot of land where population densities equal or exceed 1 ,000 persons per 

square mile (about 3 square kilometers). See also urban area; urban sprawl. 
urban sprawl: The coalescence of several cities to form a contiguous metropolitan area many 

miles long and wide. 
Van Allen belts: Two intense radiation layers trapped in Earth's magnetosphere from 45 

degrees north to 45 degrees south latitude. The lower layer begins between 250 and 750 

miles (400-1,200 kilometers) above Earth's surface and tops at 6,200 miles (9,655 

kilometers). A low particle slot separates it from the upper layer, which terminates at 

37,000-52,000 miles (59,550-83,685 kilometers), depending on solar activity. Protons 

are most prominent at 2,200 miles (3,550 kilometers). Electron flux peaks at 

approximately 9,900 miles (1 5,930 kilometers). Spacecraft need shielding to transit either 

Van Allen belt safely. 5ee a/so magnetosphere. 
visibility: The greatest distance at which observers with 20/20 eyesight can see and identify 

prominent objects unaided by binoculars or night vision devices. 
visual flight rules (VFR): Air traffic control regulations that pertain when cloud ceilings, 

visibility, and other weather conditions are more favorable than specified minimums.. See 

also Instrument Flight Rules. 
wadi: The bed of a stream that dries up seasonally or during droughts (a term most commonly 

used in North Africa and the Middle East). Heavy rains commonly cause flash floods in 

such water courses. 5ee a/so arroyo; intermittent stream. 
watershed: 5ee drainage basin. 
water table: The upper limit of saturated soil, which may be on the surface or many feet 

(meters) below. 
wave: Solid water that forms peaks and troughs above and below the normal surface of 

oceans, seas, and large lakes. Waves on open seas are generated in four ways: by winds 

that act on the surface; by changes in atmospheric pressure; by seismic disturbances such 

as earthquakes; and by tidal attractions of the sun and moon. See also wave period. 
wave period: The time it takes one wave crest to succeed another. 


weather: The condition of Earth's atmosphere at present and for the predictable future. See 

also climate; meterology; weather forecast. 
weather forecast: Predicted atmospheric conditions at a point, along a route, or within a 

given area for a specified period of time. Reliability decreases as forecast periods increase. 

Predictions from 48 to 96 hours in the future are called "outlooks." 
wetlands: Any swamp, bog, or marsh. 
wharf: A structure built alongside, or at an angle to, the shore of a seaport or navigable 

inland waterway where ships and smaller craft receive and discharge cargo and 

whiteout: A weather phenomenon that occurs when snow obliterates surface features, 

overcast eliminates shadows, and the horizon is invisible. Earth and sky seem inseparable. 
wind chill: The effect of moving air on exposed flesh at any given temperature. High 

velocities produce low sensible temperatures. 
wind shear: See-saw effects along boundaries between strong air currents that race in 

opposite directions above and below one another. 




The basic geographical library below consists entirely of books and military manuals. For 
relevant magazine and newspaper articles that address specific topics from various 
perspectives and in greater detail see: 

Notes in this document as well as endnotes, footnotes, and bibliographies in books 
cited below 

Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, Air 
University Library, 1963- , distributed on CD ROM by EBSCO Publishing, Peabody, MA, 

Bibliography of Military Geography, vols.1-4, West Point, NY, Dept. of Geography 
and Computer Science, U.S. Military Academy (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1 968) 

Bibliography of Military Geography, compiled by Louis C. Peltier, Military Geography 
Committee, Association of American Geographers, April 1962 



Gabler, Robert E. 1 996. Essentials of Physical Geography. 5 th ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 

and Jovanovich. 
Strahler, Arthur N., and Alan H. Strahler. 1 978. Modern Physical Geography. New York: John 

Wiley. Deffontaines, Pierre, ed. 1965. Larousse Encyclopedia of World Geography. 

1 965. New York: Odyssey Press. 


Field Manual 30-10: Terrain Analysis. March 27, 1 972. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army 

(superseded by FM 5-33, same title, but contains more detailed information). 
Technical Manual 5-545: Geology. July 1 971 . Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army. 


Field Manual 90-6: Mountain Operations. June 30, 1980. Washington, DC: Dept. of the 


Milne, Loris J., and Margery Milne. 1962. The Mountains. Life Nature Library. New York: 
Time-Life Books. 


Field Manual 90-3/Fleet Marine Force Manual 7-27: Desert Operations. August 19, 1977. 

Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army. 

George, Uwe. 1976. In the Deserts of the Earth. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. 
Leopold, A. Starker. 1961 . The Desert. Life Nature Library. New York: Time-Life Books. 


Bergerud, Eric. 1 996. Touched by Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific. New York: Viking 

Field Manual 90-5: Jungle Operations. August 1 6, 1 982. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army, 

Commandant of the Marine Corps. 


Farb, Peter. 1961. The Forest. Life Nature Library. New York: Time-Life Books. 
Miller, Edward G. 1 995. A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hurtgen Forest and the Roer River 
Dams, 1944-1945. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. 

Rivers and Swamps 

DA Pamphlet 20-231 : Combat in Russian Forests and Swamps. July 1 951 . Washington, DC: 

Dept. of the Army. 
Field Manual 90-13/Fleet Marine Force Manual 7-26: River Crossing Operations. September 

30, 1992. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army and Commandant of the Marine Corps. 
Fulton, William B. 1985. Riverine Operations, 7966-7969. Washington, DC: Dept. of the 

Army. >: 

Frigid Terrain 

Field Manual 30-70: Basic Cold Weather Manual. April 1 968. Washington, DC: Dept. of the 

Field Manual 31 -71 : Northern Operations. 1 971 . Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army. 


Davis, Richard A., Jr. 1972. Principles of Oceanography. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley 

Publishing Co. 
Dutton, Benjamin, and Elbert S. Maloney. 1 942. Dutton's Navigation and Piloting. 1 4 th ed. 

Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press. 

Engel, Leonard. 1 969. The Sea. Life Nature Series. New York: Time-Life Books. 
Maury, Matthew F. 1855. The Physical Geography of the Sea. New York: Harper and 



Thurman, Harold V. 1978. Introductory Oceanography, 2 d ed. Columbus, OH: Charles E. 
Merrill Publishing Co. 

Geographic Factors in Shipbuilding 

Gates, P. J., and N. M. Lynn. 1 990. Ships, Submarines, and the Sea. London: Brassey's (UK). 
U.S. Navy Cold Weather Handbook for Surface Ships. May 1 988. Washington, DC: Chief of 
Naval Operations, Surface Ship Survivability Office (OP 03C2). 

The Littoral 

Alexander, Joseph H., and Merrill L. Bartlett. 1995. Sea Soldiers in the Cold War: Amphibious 
Warfare 1945-1991. Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press. 

Koburger, Charles W., Jr. 1990. Narrow Seas, Small Navies, and Fat Merchantmen. New 

York: Praeger. 
Vagts, Alfred. 1946. Landing Operations from Antiquity to 1945. Harrisburg, PA: Military 

Service Publishing. 


DA Pamphlet 20-291: Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia. February 1952. 

Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army. 
Kendrew, W. B. 1953. The Climates of the Continents. 4 th ed. New York: Oxford University 


Weather Overviews 

Burrows, William James. 1991. Watching the World's Weather. New York: Cambridge 

University Press. 

Donn, William L. 1946. Meteorology with Marine Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill. 
Heavy Weather Guide. 1965. Part I: Edwin T. Harding, Hurricanes; Part II: William J. Kotsch, 

Typhoons. Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press. 
Muchie, Guy. 1954. The Song of the Sky. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. 

Military Weather 

Air Force Doctrine Document 45: Aerospace Weather Operations. August 31, 1994. 

Washington, DC: Dept. of the Air Force. 
Field Manual 34-81 : Weather Support for Army Tactical Operations. 1 989. Washington, DC: 

Dept. of the Army and Dept. of the Air Force. 
Fuller, John F. 1990. Thor's Legions: Weather Support to the U.S. Air Force and Army, 1937- 

1987. Boston, MA: American Meteorological Society. 
Joint Pub 3-59: Joint Doctrine for Meteorological and Oceanographic Support. December 22, 

1 993. Washington: Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. 


Light Data 

The Air Almanac. Issued annually. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. 


Cochran, Curtis D., Dennis M. Gorman, and Joseph D. Dumoulin, eds. January 1 985. 5pace 

Handbook. Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press. 
Collins, John M. 1989. Military Space Forces: The Next Fifty Years. Washington, DC: 


Stein, G. Harry. 1981. Confrontation in Space. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 
Zombeck, Martin V. 1982. Handbook of Space Astronomy and Astrophysics. New York: 

Cambridge University Press. 

Demographics and Linguistics 

Allen, John, and Doreen Massey, eds. Geographical Worlds. 1995. New York: Oxford 

University Press. 
Cavalli-Sforza, L. Luca, et al., eds. 1994. The History and Geography of Human Genes. 

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Jones, H. R. 1981 . Population Geography. New York: Harper and Row. 
Jordan, Terry G., Mona Domosh, and Lester Rowntree. 1 997. The Human Mosaic: A 

Thematic Introduction to Cultural Geography. 7 th ed. New York: Longman. 

Religious Preferences 

Haught, James A. 1995. Holy Hatred: Religious Conflicts of the 1990s. Amherst, New York: 

Prometheus Books. 

Nielsen, Niels Christian. 1983. Religions of the World. New York: St. Martin's Press. 
Parrinder, Edward Geoffrey. 1984. World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. 

New York: Facts on File. 

Sopher, David E. 1967. Geography of Religions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 
Thompson, Henry 0. 1 988. World Religions in Peace and War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and 


Endemic Diseases 

Bennett, Peter B., and David H. Elliott, eds. 1992. The Physiology and Medicine of Diving, 

4 th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders. 
Disease and Environmental Alert Reports. 1992. Washington, DC: Armed Forces Medical 

Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Agency. 
Kiple, Kenneth F., ed. 1 993. The Cambridge World History of Human Disease. New York: 

Cambridge University Press. 

McNeil I, William H. 1 976. Plagues and Peoples. New York: Anchor Books. 
Stamp, L. Dudley. 1965. The Geography of Life and Death. Ithaca, New York: Cornell 

University Press. 


Street Fighting 

Bell, J. Bowyer. 1966. Besieged: Seven Cities Under Siege. New York: Chilton Books. 
Field Manual 90-10: Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. August 15, 1979. 
Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army. 

Urban Bombardment and Defense 

Goure, Leon. 1976. War Survival in Soviet Strategy. Miami, FL: Center for Advanced 

International Studies, University of Miami. 

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, 1976, 10 vols. New York: Garland Publishers. 
Yegurov, P. T., et al. Undated. Civil Defense: A Soviet View, and N. M. Titov, et al. July 1 975. 

Civil Defense. Both books ed. and trans. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN. 


Route Construction and Destruction 

Anders, Leslie. 1965. The Ledo Road: General Joseph W. Stilwell's Highway to China. 

Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 
Field Manual 5-25: Explos