The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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Tactics is the science and art of organizing and employing military forces. It includes the proper direction of combat troops and the most effective use oftheir weapons to achieve the assigned military objective. It is distinct from strategy, which is the science and art of selecting military objectives that are within the capability of one's military forces and which will most effectively accomplish the purposes of a campaign or a war.
The tactics employed by a particular military force will usually reflect the doctrine under which the military force has been trained.
United States. The United States Army tried to develop a simple tactical doctrine built around a single maneuver, the hook, that could be quickly taught to inexperienced officers and applied at any echelon of the Army. These tactics took advantage of the triangular structure of American formations, in which each combat unit was composed of three smaller units plus supporting elements. Thus, a division had three infantry regiments, an infantry regiment had three infantry battalions, and so on down to squad level. To carry out a hook, two of the three subunits making up an attacking unit would pin down the enemy while the third subunit attempted to maneuver around his flank. Mobility and use of firepower were heavily emphasized.
The U.S. Marine Corps disagreed with the Army over tactics. The Army advocated a deliberate approach to attack, which was time-consuming but was thought to minimize casualties and better protect lines of communications. The Marines preferred shock tactics, with
a strong emphasis on maintaining the momentum of the attack, leaving
enemy strongpoints to be bypassed and reduced later. It was
acknowledged that the Marine approach meant a higher casualty rate, but
it was thought it would hasten victory and thus reduce the total
casualty count. The Marine approach seemed to make sense for the kinds
of short, sharp island campaigns envisioned by Marine planners, but it failed at Peleliu. Rupertus'
prediction of a tough but quick battle proved completely wrong, and his
insistence that his Marines keep pressing forward to maintain momentum
wrecked the better part of his division. Rupertus' chief of staff, Oliver Smith, and the commander of 5 Marine Regiment,
Bucky Harris, seemed to understand this, and Harris adopted a more
methodical approach to reducing the Umerbrogal Ridge. He brought in
tankdozers, flamethrower LVTs, and tanks and artillery
to fire directly into cave mouths to pave the way for the infantry,
and, in three days' fighting, his regiment took strategic high ground
that the other regiments had failed to take in three weeks. Even with
these successes, Harris had to resist continued pressure from Rupertus
to hurry up his advance.
Japan. The Japanese Army's 1929 field manual emphasized spiritual power and the use
of the bayonet. Artillery was to
be kept light and mobile to keep pace with fast-moving infantry. Encirclement and night
attacks were favored and retreat was unthinkable. A reluctance to surrender probably accounted for Japan's failure to ratify the 1929 Geneva
Convention on prisoners
of war. Commanders were to indoctrinate their troops with a "belief
in certain victory," a phrase first appearing in the 1929 manual that
was echoed repeatedly during the war, even when victory was clearly
unattainable. By the late 1930s, fighting to the death (which had not
particularly been a feature of earlier Japanese conflicts) had become
part of the Army's ethos, and was formally institutionalized in 1941.
Allied intelligence had concluded by 1944 that the Japanese emphasis on
attack was so great that the Japanese tended to be negligent securing
their flanks and rear. Ironically, this was the criticism leveled
by the U.S. Army against the U.S. Marine Corps.
Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (accessed 2011-6-15)
Dupuy et al. (1986)
"Handbook on Japanese Military Forces" (1944-9-15)
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia © 2011, 2014 by Kent G. Budge. Index
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