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Trial by Combat: Interwar Evolutions of Operational Art from World War I to Desert Storm

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Technical Report,25 Jun 2018,23 May 2019

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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The US Army is currently emerging from near two-decades of continuous asymmetric combat with a renewed focus on large-scale combat operations LSCO. The preponderance of the officer corps are educational products of the counterinsurgency officer education model. The Army is now restructuring from an organizational standpoint, while simultaneously producing new operational doctrine to best deter or defeat potential near-peer adversaries. A revision of officer education and training has historically followed broad military reform, connecting new theory and doctrine to operational implementation. The period between World War I and World War II saw critical updates to doctrine and officer education, eventually leading to Allied success over the Axis powers. Following a much different combat experience, American military reforms after Vietnam were also met with a successful combat trial, climaxing in Desert Storm. As a catalyst that framed each of these institutional reform periods, this monograph discusses the Meuse-Argonne Campaign and the Yom Kippur War. Both campaigns created a new understanding of the future threats the US Army would face in a potential large-scale conflict. Using both as case-studies, the Army redesigned its doctrine and aggressively pursued an educational program for its officer corps. By focusing on creating a professional officer corps at the operational level the Army found success in the following large-scale wars. This monograph investigates the notion that the common thread permeating the focus of both interwar periods is the attention given to understanding the operational level of war, operational art, and designing a professional military education PME system to promulgate it. By investigating these ideas, the Army can extract and adapt historically successful concepts to prepare the Army of today.


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