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Operational Art Within a Large-Scale Combat Operation: Operation Cobra

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,01 May 2019

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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In July 1944, after the murderous beach landings at Normandy, General Omar Bradley and First Army received the daunting task of opening up a gap in the German Army defense near St. Lo, France. The plan to penetrate the Seventh German Army forward line of troops would come to be known as Operation Cobra. History would later characterize Cobra as a high tempo and phased operation that brought air power, armor, infantry, and land-based fires to bear upon Hitlers initial European defense. Operation Cobra holistically was a complete success and lends todays US military practitioner valuable lessons in operational art during large scale combat operations. This monograph focuses on specific elements of operational art that were most critical to First Armys success at the operational and tactical levels. This study analyzes specific elements of operational art most advantageous to Cobras success in 1944. The monograph focuses on the elements of phasing and transitions, lines of effort and lines of operations, and tempo. The overall success of General Bradley and First Army were not without failure and the structured analysis of the chosen elements will highlight both the positives and negatives of decisions made and actions taken at echelon. At the time of Operation Cobra, the US Army had not institutionalized the operational level of war. This fact gives relevance to this work and the effort it makes to find the inherent operational art in Allied commanders decisions. Ultimately, this monograph draws conclusions and identifies lessons learned that can aid todays military leaders in future large-scale combat operations.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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