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Fighting the Big War with the Small Hammer: Operational Planning for the Medium Force

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2014,23 May 2015

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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The asymmetry of medium versus heavy operations creates a problem for the medium force. This problem is relevant because the strategic direction of the United States encourages the growth of medium forces. This means the study of medium versus heavy operations becomes a concern should a existential war occur. This monograph addresses the elements of operational art that are most critical during medium versus heavy operations. Section one uses an aggregate caliber calculation to compare US and German divisional combat power. Sections two and three use the contemporary US Army definition and description of operational art to analyze the American defense at Mortain and the Allied defeat of two German armies at Falaise-Argentan. The American success defending at Mortain and encircling the Germans at Falaise-Argentan illustrates the importance of tempo, transitions, and phasing. The Allied tempo all along the Normandy Front prevented the Germans from massing the required combat power to make an effective attack against the Americans at Mortain. Furthermore, the Allied tempo caused a deep salient to form around two German Armies extending from Mortain to Falaise and Argentan. However, the Americans reduced their tempo at Argentan and transitioned poorly to close the encirclement. This allowed the Germans to hold open the gap for an additional five days and gave the Germans the space required to conduct a breakout. Given these historical examples, the most critical elements of operational art are tempo, transitions, and phasing during medium versus heavy operations. Operational planners should use phasing to focus assets in a way that enables tempo.

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