The closing days of the First World War gave birth to modern combat. Previous to these developments, advances in firepower made titans of the trenchworks. For four years the trenches were assaulted: for four years storms of steel mowed all offensives down. But as the war reached its end tactics were developed to storm through the gauntlet. Stephen Biddle has called these tactics, and what evolved out of them, “the modern system of battle.” The closing developments of the 1918 made offensives possible again—but the playing field remained tilted towards the defender.
Daniel Gullotta’s Age of Jackson podcast is one of the few I listen to regularly. In 2021 I don’t have a lot of spare bandwidth to keep track of developments in my favorite field of American history, but I do listen to his interviews with new authors in the field to stay somewhat up to date. Listening to a book talk is not the same thing as reading a book, of course, but it is better than slowly having years of labor slip away from memory with disuse.
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In today’s episode I discuss Captain Wayne Hughes (USN) book Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations with Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Lauterbach. We explore why Marine Corps officers need to think more like sailors. We discuss why many so called “principles of war” and tactical maxims invented by its soldiers do not make sense in the world of the sailor, why naval warfare is inherently a process of attrition, why the offense has the stronger hand in naval conflict, and how these tactical dynamics might lead to strategic instability in a competition with China.