Joel I. Holwitt
War by Land, Sea, and Air: Dwight Eisenhower and the Concept of Unified Command (Yale Library of Military History Series)by David Jablonsky
In this book a retired U.S. Army colonel and military historian takes a fresh look at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s lasting military legacy, in light of his evolving approach to the concept of unified command. Examining Eisenhower’s career from his West Point years to the passage of the 1958 Defense Reorganization Act, David Jablonsky explores Eisenhower&
In this book a retired U.S. Army colonel and military historian takes a fresh look at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s lasting military legacy, in light of his evolving approach to the concept of unified command. Examining Eisenhower’s career from his West Point years to the passage of the 1958 Defense Reorganization Act, David Jablonsky explores Eisenhower’s efforts to implement a unified command in the U.S. military—a concept that eventually led to the current organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and that, almost three decades after Eisenhower’s presidency, played a major role in defense reorganization under the Goldwater-Nichols Act. In the new century, Eisenhower’s approach continues to animate reform discussion at the highest level of government in terms of the interagency process.
"David Jablonsky has written a book that should be considered the primary source for any student of joint and combined military organization at the national and international levels. The professional development of General Eisenhower is a study in itself and will enrich any professional soldier."—Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry, US Army (ret.)
"A powerful and necessary addition to the Eisenhower literature, demonstrating his strategic leadership as well as his crucial role as president in leading the services into the postwar world."—Major General William F. Burns, US Army (ret.), Distinguished Fellow, US Army War College
"David Jablonsky is one of the nation's most prolific writers on military strategy. Each of his books gets more interesting and insightful. His latest, War by Land, Sea, and Air, is without question his best. Jablonsky manages to meld a synthesis of Eisenhower's growth from a staff officer to the father of the American system of joint and coalition command. His depiction of Eisenhower's personal travails and his eventual triumphs is without question the finest treatment of high-level command in American literature."—Major General Robert H. Scales, US Army (ret.), Former Commandant of the Army War College
“Well-written and well-researched. . . . A relatively short history that not only serves as an effective military biography but also as a primer on efforts at military unification in the aftermath of the war. . . . Rewarding.”—Lieutenant Joel I. Holwitt, U.S. Navy, Proceedings
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War by Land, Sea, and Air
Dwight Eisenhower and the Concept of Unified Command
By DAVID JABLONSKY
Yale UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2010 David Jablonsky
All rights reserved.
Reform and Education, 1903–1928
You could not possibly ... explain the place satisfactorily to an outsider, any more than you could explain what went on inside yourself. John P. Marquand, Melville Goodwin, USA
West Point and all it means is so deep inside you that you are not articulate about it. West Point did more for me than any other institution. Dwight D. Eisenhower
In the fall of 1896, I entered the Lincoln School, little aware that I was starting on a road in formal education which would not terminate until 1929 when I finished courses at the Army's War College. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower arrived at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in June 1911 after a three-day journey across half a continent from his hometown of Abilene, Kansas. The US Army at the time consisted of 4,388 officers and 70,250 enlisted men. Approximately a quarter of this force was stationed abroad on "foreign service" in American possessions ranging from the Philippines and Hawaii to the Panama Canal Zone and Puerto Rico. The remainder was scattered throughout the United States. The Military Academy appeared then much as it does today: a combination of monuments and gray, gothic buildings isolated on a sixteen thousand–acre reservation in the scenic highlands above the Hudson River. Eisenhower was one of 285 new cadets entering West Point in the class of 1915, and he was not alone in his trepidation as he moved up the hill from the railway station to his new home. "If any time had been provided to sit down and think for a moment," he recalled late in life, "most of ... us would have taken the next train out."
West Point in 1911 had stagnated since the Civil War—a small, largely forgotten college with an overwhelmingly narrow professional focus hidden in the wilderness of the Hudson River Valley. The basic problem was that the majority of Academy officials was convinced that the pedagogic principles most effective in producing good military leaders had not changed in the century since Sylvanus Thayer, West Point's founder, had established his "system." The spirit of the institution at the start of the second decade of the twentieth century remained one of self-satisfied continuity, summed up by one superintendent, who, looking back on his tenure during that period, noted that he had "brought to West Point no arrogant project of drastic reform.... It goes forward on its majestic course from year to year ... moving serenely under its traditions." And General Henry (Hap) Arnold, who graduated four years before Eisenhower entered West Point, recalled more than forty years later that the corps had lived "in conformance with a code, and with daily routines which had not changed strikingly ... since Grant was a cadet."
There was very little impetus from outside the Academy to remedy this situation. A month before Eisenhower entered West Point, President William Howard Taft appointed Henry Stimson as secretary of war. Stimson was a skilled New York City trial lawyer who had run unsuccessfully for governor of the state the previous year. In future years he would continue his public service as secretary of state in the Hoover administration and in 1940 under Franklin Roosevelt once again in the important position of secretary of war. But in 1911 that office governed, in Stimson's judgment, "a profoundly peaceful army, in a nation which saw no reason to suppose that there was any probability of war for decades." As a consequence, he noted that year that the secretary of war was "by a good deal the least important officer in the Cabinet." And yet the Army of 1911 was undergoing a long-delayed modernization; and in almost every issue brought before Stimson, the divide was between the officers who preferred the old system and those who were focused on the ideal of a modernized flexible force.
The initial catalyst for the change was the 1898 Spanish-American War, which had been a disaster for the War Department. More than two hundred thousand volunteers swarmed to the colors at the outbreak of that "splendid little war," straining the minuscule staffs and the lethargic routine of the twenty-five thousand–man Regular Army. The expanded ranks began training at hastily established camps in the South and were soon subject to a variety of debilitating medical epidemics. Adding to the picture of the Army's incompetence was the age and condition of the weaponry and equipment. And the problems of supply were particularly noticeable at Tampa, the Cuban Expedition's port of embarkation, where freight cars transporting food, ammunition, and equipment were backed up for weeks on railroad sidings. To make matters worse, the soldiers of that expeditionary force boarded obsolete vessels that were further delayed in the tropical heat for six days while the commanding general awaited orders from the War Department. "The soldiers are jammed together like animals on those fetid ships," Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt complained. "We are in a sewer ... stinking of rot and putrefaction."
The result of what Henry Stimson termed the "absurd confusion" of the Spanish-American War was a pervasive sense of the War Department's incompetence and corruption. The job of addressing these problems fell to Elihu Root, a New York City lawyer, a partner and mentor of Stimson, and as a result of an 1899 appointment by President William McKinley, the secretary of war in the immediate aftermath of the conflict with Spain. The department that Root inherited in 1899 was a mess. The war with Spain had demonstrated in dramatic fashion that the system was unable to mobilize, train, and deploy forces effectively into a combat theater, much less provide the troops with adequate supplies once deployed. The new secretary of war soon found himself confronted by what Stimson described as the "vast inertia of somnolent inbreeding"—an organization marked by dispersal of responsibility and accountability as well as by disintegration of authority. At the top of the organizational hierarchy was the commanding general of the Army, a position created and continued more for administrative duties than for those of command. Since the Civil War, there had been a tendency on the part of officers occupying this ranking position in the Army to believe that they were independent of what they perceived as the "ignorant whims" of presidents and secretaries of war. That state of mind had led General Sherman, as commanding general in 1874, to move his headquarters from Washington's "wickedness" to St. Louis.
In his reforms, as they emerged in the 1903 legislation, Root replaced the office of the commanding general of the Army with that of chief of staff to the president, charged with supervising all the troops of the line and the special staff and supply departments. To assist the chief of staff, the act created a general staff corps, a body of officers "entirely separate from and independent of the administrative staff." The new title of the Army's ranking officer was important. For by creating the position of chief of staff, Root was able in the regulations implementing the new law to make clear that command of the Army rested ultimately with the president in his constitutional capacity as commander in chief—a relationship he believed had never been clearly established with the position of commanding general. "When an officer is appointed to the position of 'Commanding General of the Army,'" Root concluded, "he naturally expects to command, himself, with a high degree of independence.... The title of Chief of Staff, on the other hand, denotes a duty to advise, inform, and assist a superior officer who has command, and to represent him, acting in his name and by his authority in carrying out his policies and securing the execution of his commands."
The other major reform effort in 1903 concerned relations between the services. Historically, when US Army and Navy units had operated together, the arrangements for unity of effort were ad hoc in nature. The joint overseas operations required by the war with Spain, however, demonstrated that such arrangements were not enough. During that conflict, there were massive interservice problems. At one juncture during joint operations against Santiago in the Cuban campaign, relations between the two services became so rancorous that the Army commander would not allow the Navy representative to sign the official document of Spanish surrender. These problems were duly reported back home, further encouraging the demands for reform of the military.
At the same time, the American victory against Spain significantly extended the dimensions of US national defense with the acquisition of overseas possessions ranging from Puerto Rico and Guam to the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines. The increase in American security concerns fed the already considerable reform focus on joint Army-Navy operations in both peace and war. As a consequence, the service secretaries issued a joint order on 17 July 1903 creating a Joint Board of the Army and the Navy with the mission "to hold stated sessions and such extraordinary sessions as shall appear advisable for the purpose of conferring upon, discussing and reaching common conclusions regarding all matters calling for the cooperation of the two services." But it was Elihu Root who publicly addressed the underlying rationale for the new organization in his annual report at the end of the year. "If the two forces are ever to be called upon to cooperate," he wrote, "the time to determine what each shall do, and the time for each to learn what the other can do, is before the exigency arises."
This rationale caused the two service staffs, supported by planners from their war colleges, to cooperate in producing a set of "Rules for Naval Convoy of Military Expeditions" for the Joint Board in November 1905. The Board's revisions were approved the next year by both service secretaries and the president and issued as Army and Navy General Orders—the first set of published regulations concerning the conduct of joint operations. The 1906 "Rules," however, did not settle the question of who was to command joint forces ashore. The Marine position by 1909 was that the senior line officer would command regardless of service. War Department regulations, on the other hand, specifically prohibited the command of Army troops by Marines except on direct presidential order. The Joint Board agreed with the War Department and in October 1910 ruled that when the services engaged on land "in a common enterprise," the senior Army officer of the line "should command the whole and have authority to issue such orders to the officers in command of the naval and marine detachments while on shore as may be necessary for the success of the enterprise engaged upon." Interservice cooperation would not be enough, the board concluded; divided responsibility was simply an invitation to fail.
The Joint Board finding was approved by both service secretaries and the president but failed to pass legislative scrutiny in a Congress sympathetic to the Marine Corps. By 1913 the Navy had reversed its position. Both British and American history, the Navy's General Board pointed out, demonstrated that it was not "either necessary or advisable to make any change in the cooperation principle which now obtains in joint operations on shore.... The present procedure, cooperation between the land and sea forces, with its limits as to authority and command not too well-defined, may not be ideal; but it ... worked well in the past and promises to work well in the future."
The issue returned in more substantial form in spring 1915, a few months before Eisenhower's graduation from West Point. In March, Major-General William H. Carter, previously a key military adviser to Secretary Root and now the commanding general of the Hawaiian Department, proposed the establishment of a unified command in Hawaii. If an emergency should occur that isolated the islands, General Carter argued, there was a need for a single authority to control all military and naval forces ashore and that part of the fleet, both surface ships and submarines, necessary to stop enemy landings. Martial law would also have to be established in these circumstances, an impossibility under the principle of cooperation. For General Carter, the logical choice to head the unified command in an emergency should come from the Army, and he recommended that the appropriate regulations be published by both services, providing for unity of command in Hawaii. The defense of the island, he concluded, should not be a function of "the state of mind or courtesy which may prevail between the superior officers."
The Joint Board met in October 1915 to decide on the Carter proposal and on the larger issue of whether to vest command on shore to an Army officer over Navy and Marine officers of higher rank. Marine Colonel John A. Lejeune argued that general officers from the Army were not necessarily better qualified to command large bodies of mixed forces than those of the Navy and Marines. Nor, he pointed out, should Army officers senior to those in other services command in every case. "It is, I believe an incontestable fact that troops of the Marine Corps, grade for grade, are as a rule as well-qualified for command on shore as are officers of the Army." The Navy agreed, arguing that it was impossible to establish rules that would allow one service to command the other in its own element. Generally, then, cooperation should be the governing basis for joint unity of effort.
These issues had little impact on the United States Military Academy. West Point remained committed during Eisenhower's student years to a prescribed engineering curriculum that not even the advent of World War I could alter. During the first year of that conflict, which was Eisenhower's last at the Academy, there was no attempt to apply the lessons of the war to the curriculum. Even as the implications of trench warfare began to emerge, the Department of Military Art continued to emphasize cavalry tactics and student visits to Civil War battlefields. It was true, of course, that Eisenhower and his classmates were thoroughly conversant with the concept of unity of command on which Root and his reformers were basing their calls for change in Army structure and joint procedures. But in the West Point program that concept was couched only in terms of Army forces, far removed from a larger focus that could engender joint unity of effort.
Nevertheless, West Point had a broader influence that would affect how Eisenhower during his long public career would deal with many of the issues underlying the Root reforms. The Military Academy preached a corporate ideal to Eisenhower and his classmates far removed from the popular American vision of rugged individualism that had been the influential hallmark of their formative years. The officers who emerged in the class of 1915 for the most part scorned individual genius as superfluous, if not dangerous. Teamwork as part of a smoothly functioning machine was the ideal for modern war, which, as the German General Staff was even then demonstrating, had become rationalized and routinized—a structure in which any officer could replace any other in the performance of duties.
Nowhere was the efficacy of this approach more in evidence for the young Eisenhower than on the football field, whether in his capacity as a gifted player until a career-ending injury or thereafter as a coach. In coaching at the Academy and in the early part of his active service he would hone all the traits that would serve him so well: organizational ability, competitiveness and energy, powers of concentration, and skill in obtaining the best out of available talent with enthusiasm and optimism. These characteristics would later influence his outlook on unity in joint and combined operations. When he was supreme commander during World War II, his private conversations with key subordinates from all services and Allied nations, as well as his orders of the day, were studded with football slang ranging from "pull an end run" and "hit the line" to "get that ball across the goal line." "I believe that football," he wrote much later in life, "perhaps more than any other sport, tends to instill in men the feeling that victory comes through hard—almost slavish—work, team play, self-confidence, and an enthusiasm that amounts to dedication."
Excerpted from War by Land, Sea, and Air by DAVID JABLONSKY. Copyright © 2010 by David Jablonsky. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Meet the Author
David Jablonsky is a retired U.S. Army infantry colonel and is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. His awards and decorations include the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle, PA, where as professor of national security affairs he held the Elihu Root Chair of Strategy; the George C. Marshall Chair of Military Studies; and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security Studies. He lives in Carlisle, PA.
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