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Venturing into No-Man's-Land: V Corps' Success with Adaptation in the Meuse-Argonne

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Much of the historiography of WWI examines the technological aspects of change as singular actions that brought about success in the Meuse-Argonne. That is only part of the story as the situation in the Meuse-Argonne. The actions of V Corps demonstrate that the situation was much more complex due to doctrinal, technological, training and cultural challenges. Given the problems of doctrinal limitations, unsynchronized use of new technology, poorly trained divisions, and newly created corps headquarters, how did V Corps and its divisions adapt in-stride during large-scale combat operations in the Meuse-Argonne campaign After a difficult start to the campaign, V Corps recognized that in-stride adaptation required an internal cultural shift that enabled leaders to balance integration of new technologies with deviations in doctrinal employment. Through the lens of complexity leadership theory, this work charts the obstacles to adaption as well as the social and cultural impacts that affected V Corps actions and decisions. A key area of focus is on the early struggles of V Corps to link the corps level with divisional innovation. Over time, commander and staff interactions across echelons improved, leading to dynamic change during combat operations. Through their efforts, they shifted V Corps culture to one that embraced the change necessary for success in the Meuse-Argonne. Despite the passing of 100 years, corps and division missions remain focused on shifting paradigms at the tactical and operational level of war to enable continuous positions of strategic advantage. As with the corps and divisions of 1918, todays organizations either succeed or fail to adapt based on their cultural responses to internal and external challenges. If systemic, the failure to adapt tactically and operationally can inhibit any strategic success. However, through successful adaptation, units can adjust in ways that continually support strategic objectives.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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