Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War / Edition 1

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Throughout history, from Kublai Khan's attempted invasions of Japan to Rommel's desert warfare, military operations have succeeded or failed on the ability of commanders to incorporate environmental conditions into their tactics. In Battling the Elements, geographer Harold A. Winters and former U.S. Army officers Gerald E. Galloway Jr., William J. Reynolds, and David W. Rhyne, examine the connections between major battles in world history and their geographic components, revealing what role factors such as weather, climate, terrain, soil, and vegetation have played in combat. Each chapter offers a detailed and engaging explanation of a specific environmental factor and then looks at several battles that highlight its effects on military operations. As this cogent analysis of geography and war makes clear, those who know more about the shape, nature, and variability of battleground conditions will always have a better understanding of the nature of combat and at least one significant advantage over a less knowledgeable enemy.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs

A remarkable guide to nature's effects on the conduct of military operations... Accessible to the layman but still of considerable utility for the expert, this book belongs on the shelf of any serious student of military affairs.


This work... underscores the importance of weather, terrain, and soil type on military operations... An intriguing perspective that goes beyond instructing plebes to engaging recreational readers of military affairs.


An excellent book and an important addition to the library of serious students of the military art... Well written, educational, multidisciplinary, and interesting.

Foreign Affairs
A remarkable guide to nature's effects on the conduct of military operations ... Accessible to the layman but still of considerable utility for the expert, this book belongs on the shelf of any serious student of military affairs.
An excellent book and an important addition to the library of serious students of the military art ... Well written, educational, multidisciplinary, and interesting.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Military geographer Winters and his contributors geographers and retired military officers use specific case studies to illustrate the importance in military operations of five elements of physical geography: weather, climate, terrain, soil and vegetation. The range is impressive and the examples are well chosen: "weather" includes the "divine winds" that frustrated the 13th-century Mongol invasion of Japan and the anomalous conditions in the English Channel that shaped the evacuation from Dunkirk and the invasion of Normandy; "climate" encompasses Hitler and Napoleon in Russia and the Wilderness battles of the American Civil War; "terrain" refers to peninsulas and islands such as Inchon and Iwo Jima; "soil," to Flanders in 1917-18 and the "endless beaches" of the Western Desert and Sinai; and "vegetation" to New Guinea during WWII and Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The chapters exhibit few signs of the discrepancies in style and argument that often plague a multi-author work. Geography and history are juxtaposed rather than integrated, however, and there's little effort to explain how commanders used geography in operational planning. Nor does the book address the current shibboleth that technological advances are diminishing the relevance of terrain in warfare. Also, the scientific material included can be heavy going for a nonspecialist. Nevertheless, these case studies will usefully expand the limited sense of military geography possessed by most readers of military history. Nov.
Just as climatic conditions can affect such prosaic activities as commuting to work, weather and terrain can have an enormous effect upon the success or failure of battles and wars. Winters (emeritus, geography, Michigan State U.), with the help of three other authors having extensive military experience, assesses specific campaigns in light of geographic factors, offering detailed analyses of such battles as Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, the Battle at Verdun, and nine other encounters. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801866487
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 979,929
  • Product dimensions: 6.76 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold A. Winters is a professor emeritus of geography at Michigan State University. Gerald E. Galloway Jr., who retired as a brigadier general after serving thirty-nine years in the U.S. army, is secretary for the U.S. Section of the International Joint Committee. William J. Reynolds, a retired colonel and Vietnam veteran, is northwest regional manager for Science Applications International Corporation. David W. Rhyne, a retired lieutenant colonel, teaches at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Hanover County, Virginia.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents


1 Storms, Fair Weather, and Chance

Kamikazes, Dunkirk, and Normandy

2 Too Much and Too Wet

The Civil War Mud March and Flander's Fields

3 Clouds and Fog

The Bulge and Khe Sanh

4 Invading Another Climate as Seasons Change

Napoleon and Hitler Russia

5 Forests and Jungles

The Wilderness and the Ia Drang Valley

6 Terrains and Corridors

The American Civil War's Eastern Theater and World War I Verdun

7 Troubled Waters

River Crossings at Arnhem and Remagen

8 Glaciers Shape the Land

Alpine Fighting and the Road to Moscow

9 Peninsulas and Sea Coasts

Anzio and Inchon

10 Island Battles

Tarawa and Iwo Jima

11 Hot, Wet, and Sick

New Guinea and Dien Bien Phu

12 Heat, Rock, and Sand

The Western Desert and the Sinai

Johns Hopkins University Press

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