Combat Power - The Concept

The concept of combat power may be seen as an equation consisting of two elements; mass and fire. (I am making a different distinction then that of the traditional fire and maneuver.) This conceptual bifurcation is an analytical technique which is much neater in the abstract than in the dynamics of actual combat operations. However, in the interest of gaining understanding, I believe it is a useful tool. When addressing the concept of combat power we must not lose sight of the fact that it is made up of these two elements (mass and fire), and that they are variable relative to each other and relative to a specific opponent. Furthermore, any meaningful model using this concept must be applicable in any medium--land, sea or air (and for that matter, space).

For the purposes of this paper, combat power may be defined as the actualization of force in armed combat. [1] Force, in the broadest of terms may be viewed as the power to effect change. The purpose of combat power is to implement a strategy in support of national policy. Military power is the potential from which combat power is actualized. [2] Combat power is restricted in that it exists in time as actualized force. Furthermore, it exists only at the point of contact. "...military force levels scarcely exist in abstracto and must of necessity be understood in the immediate context of their global, regional, or even local emplacement." [3] Let me emphasize: the point of contact is a spatio-temporal concept. That is, it has a beginning and an end in time and specific geographical boundaries. [4]


Mass consists of personnel, equipment, and material which is the physical, and usually psychological, center of balance. It exists in a medium and takes on one of three configurations or formations: line, square or column, or some derivation of these. [5] Mass survives by avoiding the effects of fire. Physically, it is made up of two variables; size and mobility. It must be emphasized that the relativity of these two variables is always in terms of a specific opponent and only at the point of contact. Thus, in determining the size of one's mass, it will be large or small relative to a specific opponent. Size of mass is relatively easy to quantify. It may include the entire population and the resources of the nation or be limited to the three military services: Army, Navy, and Air Force, which in turn provide a mass for each medium--land, sea, and air. There is, of course, some overlap, but each service is primarily oriented toward a specific medium. (Interservice disputes usually erupt as a result of these overlaps.)

Mass, which exists in each medium, is usually based on some particular element around which all else develops. Current examples of this phenomenon would be the tank (land), the aircraft carrier (sea)--possibly being replaced by the submarine as the 'capital' ship, and the fighter aircraft (air). These 'platforms' emerged out of World War II as dominant in their respective mediums and, according to most, remain dominant today. "While an army is a complete organism, its core is the combined team built around the tank.... In Europe today the tank is supreme. If it can be stopped, the ability to project force and to occupy territory will no longer exist." [6] There are indications that these base elements form not only the physical center of balance but also the psychological center of balance. "The Soviet command places almost unbounded faith in the armored fighting vehicle, the tank." [7] The result of such psychological grounding is illustrated by the physical and psychological unbalancing experienced by the Israelis in the 1973 war. One might draw an analogy between the tank of today and the infantryman of World War I. The American Civil War demonstrated the vulnerability of the advancing infantry to the bullet, and the well-known response of leaders during World War I was "more troops." In terms of C. S. Forester's book The General this may be seen as the "Curzon" mentality. [8] In light of the growing proliferation and increased capabilities of precision guided munitions, there seems to be evidence that the "Curzon" mentality is still with us.

In fiscal year 1975, following an interim assessment of tank combat attrition rates experienced in the 1973 Middle East war, the Army raised its inventory objective from 8,300 to 10,300 tanks (including about 325 tanks for its three new divisions). A year later, after a more formal assessment, the inventory objective was raised to 14,400 tanks--a 75% increase over the 1973 inventory objective. [9]

In Naval operations the supremacy of the aircraft carrier is, at the moment, contentious. However, it continues to be the prime determinant of the size of the fleet. "The most important factor is the number of aircraft carriers. The number of carriers determines the number of carrier escorts; together they have a major impact on the required number of fleet replenishment vessels, which in turn demand escorts of their own." [10] The physical and psychological balance was so firmly grounded in the aircraft carrier during World War II that its fate literally determined the fate of nations. The Battle of Midway:

By destroying four of Japan's finest aircraft carriers together with many of her best pilots it deprived the Japanese Navy of a large and vital portion of her powerful carrier striking force; it must have had a sobering effect on the morale of those members of the Japanese fighting forces who witnessed the destruction of the four carriers; it stopped the Japanese expansion to the east; it put an end to Japanese offensive action which had been all conquering for the first six months of war; it restored the balance of naval power in the Pacific which thereafter steadily shifted to favor the American side; and it removed the threat to Hawaii and to the west coast of the United states. [11]

The dangers inherent in becoming too firmly grounded in a single element are illustrated in the following statement by Bernard Brodie: "The reason Admiral Halsey gave for rejecting the idea of staying off the San Bernardino Strait was a slogan in the fleet: 'The enemy's main forces are where his carriers are.' Now, I submit that that conception was true for the preceding two years of the war, but at the time of Leyte Gulf, it was no longer true." [12]

The Air Force has resisted attempts to specialize aircraft as close air support or air superiority. They have preferred a "Doctrine of Quality" which provided technically superior weapons capable of multiple combat roles--"air superiority, interdiction, and close air support." [13] Within the Air Force and, more specifically, within the Tactical Air Command (TAC), "...the mission of air superiority (and the fighter pilots who were good at it) tended to have more prestige than the close air support mission. Air superiority was closer to the 'essence' of the Air Force." [14] The historical example of the German Stuka in World War II is often used to point out the vulnerability of specialized close air support aircraft. [15] Specialization, however, is occurring with the introduction of the A-10 and F-15. The importance of the air superiority platform was firmly established in World War II and remains the base element of the Air Force today. "A major proportion of NATO aircraft would have to be assigned initially to air-to-air sorties to prevent Pact air superiority over the battlefield and attacks on critical rear-area targets.... " [16] There are those, however, who question the supremacy of the manned aircraft. "These new trends tend to discourage the use of manned attack aircraft in hostile environments. Advances in missile and gun fire from mobile systems on the ground can impose heavy casualties on manned aircraft at altitudes ranging from just above the surface up to 50,000 feet." [17]

These base elements are seen as dominant in the particular medium in which they exist and, therefore, become the bases for determining the relative size of mass. "Note that Soviet tanks exceed ours by more than four to one .... " [18] It is critical, therefore, that the base element selected is actually the dominant element in that medium. Technology or tactics may change the base element, and the change may go unrecognized by one side or the other until hostilities begin. An historical example--and every war seems to provide some--was the French cavalry at Crecy in 1346. [19]

Mass because of its physical size must be treated as having weight, and this weight can be increased relative to an opponent through the action of momentum. Thus mass in motion may overcome another by displacing it from the space it occupied in a given medium. This displacement of an opponent's mass may affect the relative balance, physical as well as psychological, and expose the opponent's mass to fire. Fire is the only thing that can destroy mass. However, since mass exists in a medium and occupies space within that medium, it is subject to being overwhelmed and displaced by another mass. [20] Fire can deny an opponent use of space in a medium, but mass must occupy space in order to use it.

The weight of an opponent mass, developed through the momentum of his motion, can be addressed by your mass in a number of ways: a) offer such resistance that his motion is stopped immediately upon coming into contact with your mass; [21] b) offer permeable resistance which allows the opponent mass to flow around and through your fractured mass--thus your mass continues as smaller units; [22] c) move away from the thrust of the opponent mass so as to diminish the effect of its momentum; [23] or d) move toward his mass at a higher velocity than he is moving, thus increasing your relative weight..." - thus 'multiplying force by velocity.' [24]

The displacement of an opponent's mass by your mass may be accomplished in one of two ways: a) by overwhelming his mass with the superior weight of your larger mass or through the action of your momentum; [25] b) by destroying the cohesion or will and thus resistance of the opponent mass. [26]

The other physical variable of mass is mobility. [27] Once again we must remember that mobility, like size, is relative to a specific opponent at the point of contact. Mobility provides for the concentration or dispersion of mass. [28] In this age of nuclear fire the ability to disperse mass is more critical than ever before. "It is when our capabilities do not permit us to disperse as much as the enemy capabilities require of us that we are in trouble." [29] Furthermore, "There is a limit, determined by mobility, to what one may call the 'economic size' of any particular army. . And the effective strength of an army may cease to increase when its numbers cause a decline in mobility.... " [30] Keeping in mind the relativity of movement, both sides could be in motion relative to a given medium, but in a steady state relative to each other. To have superior mobility one must have the ability to initiate a change from the steady state at will. An illustration may clarify this point. If two opponents are foot-mobile and both can move at the same speed, then one can avoid the other indefinitely by simply moving away from the opponent at the same speed that the other is using to close. If other conditions are equal, this will result in the steady state. If, however, one side becomes horse-mobile, he can maintain the steady state or change it at will by moving toward the opponent faster than the opponent can move away. When comparing the relative mobility of two masses, therefore, the one which can change the steady state at will is considered to have the greater mobility. [31]

This concept is extremely important to an understanding of the relativity of combat power. More than ever, "the time factor is of crucial importance in relation to the ratio of force to space." [32] Speed of movement permits rapid concentration and dispersion of mass. [33] Technology has provided the means to accelerate greatly the "tempo" of operations. "Speeds and volumes of calculations and transmissions are unprecedented. People and things as well as words and pictures can and do go almost anywhere in fractions of the time once required. Explosives can move from storage or factory directly to targets at almost any distance and from almost any launching medium, land, sea, or air in minutes and seconds rather than in the hours, days, weeks or longer as technologies of only two decades ago required." [34] Unless this tempo is understood by those involved in combat they are likely to be psychologically unbalanced and "shocked" by the rapidity of change. Liddell Hart refers to the "tank-time" of World War II. [35] In the future, we must anticipate an "air-time" which will be some order of magnitude greater than our previous experience. Action will be framed more in time than in space, and distances will be measured in time rather than kilometers. "The immense difference between the tactical (battlefield) ratio and the strategical (entire front) ratio shows that the crucial factor in the defense of any wide front is the time factor." [36]

Since mass exists within a medium, it follows that mobility occurs within a given medium. Two of the mediums are three-dimensional--sea and air--while land must be treated as two-dimensional. Specialized platforms have been developed which are designed to give high mobility to mass within a specific medium. [37] The platforms survive the opponent's fire by avoiding it or by being impervious to it. Historically, invulnerability has been a result of at least one of these two variables, although usually it is a combination of the two. More often than not, one has to be sacrificed for the other, with the avoidance of the opponent's fire holding the greater chance for survival.

That part of a mass which is made up of personnel is subject to social-psychological phenomena. This is, in fact, the most crucial aspect of combat power for it is here that control resides, and the sense of balance is ultimately grounded. [38] Since most activity is within an organizational context the means of integrating and controlling the organization are vital. We commonly refer to these means as "command and control and communications (C3)." [39] Furthermore, since perceptions become the basis of our actions we must have timely information with which to modify our perceptions so that they are in accord with objective reality. [4O]


Fire is measured in terms of its effect on an opponent's mass. It is usually the product of a munition, and it has both a manifest and latent function. [41] Anything which will neutralize a mass--that is, render it incapable of effective action--or which can physically destroy a mass, would fall under the rubric of fire. Therefore, when considering the combat power equation one must address conventional, nuclear chemical, bacteriological, or electromagnetic munitions as fire producers. Any other distinction is artificial and must be seen as political in nature. [42] This is not to say such distinctions are not appropriate. The relationships which exist among these different forms of fire are more psychological than actual. [43]

It is important to understand fire as having both a manifest and latent function. Its manifest function occurs when it is actualized. Its latent function occurs only in the perception of the individual. Thus, destruction is a result of the manifest function of fire. Fear of being destroyed is a result of the latent function. [44] One can sometimes control an opponent with just the latent function; however, credibility and thus the effectiveness of the latent function usually requires the actualization of some fire. Fire can also produce an emotional-shock effect, usually transitory, as a result of its manifest function. [45] It is crucial to remember, however, that if we intend to control an opponent, firepower alone is usually not enough. We must have the ability to create a mass, for it is the presence of a mass which is decisive and not mere firepower unless, of course, our objective is the total destruction of the enemy mass. [46]

Most munitions are projected through a medium by a weapon. Weapons, which must be seen as weapon systems--man and equipment--exist as part of mass and can be quantified. [47] Fire, however, is only potential until actualized in time and space against a mass. The effectiveness of fire is dependent on the vulnerability of the mass at which it is directed [48] and the degree of concentration. [49] The mass can render fire totally ineffective by achieving cover or by avoiding it. Fire should not be delivered against an invulnerable mass unless its purpose is something other than destruction--for example, immobilizing a mass. Thus, holding vulnerability constant, the other variable of fire is the degree of concentration. Furthermore, concentration is a factor of time and space. Given a fixed quantity of fire, it can be either dispersed in time and space or concentrated. The ideal actualization of fire is when it is concentrated against a vulnerable mass which is also concentrated. The ideal application of combat power achieves the above while, at the same time, insuring that the opponent is unable to apply effective fire to one's own mass. The best example of this is the ambush.

Some have argued that there has been a "revolution" in warfare with the introduction of large numbers of precision guided munitions (PGM). James p. Digby provides the following definition of a PGM - "A guided munition whose probability of making a direct hit at full range on a tank, ship, radar, bridge or airplane (according to its type) is greater than half." [50] In terms of the combat power equation, the advent of PGMs coupled with the exponential increase in the explosive power of munitions has dramatically altered the relationship between mass and fire. "Until the invention of the improved machine gun late in the nineteenth century, the ratio between destructive capability of weapons and manpower was about one to one: that is one man with a sword was, as a matter of principle, capable of eliminating no more than one enemy at a time." [51] As long as the value of fire was completely linked to the individual man, one could only increase the value of fire by increasing the number of men, thus increasing mass.

The introduction of munitions and the weapons to project them fundamentally changed the linkage between man and the value attached to fire. "In short, the ratio between destructive capability of weapons and manpower continued to widen as the effectiveness of the lethal weapon continually improved...with nuclear weapons, the ratio jumped to almost astronomical figures. One bomb dropped from one airplane with a crew of only 12 men destroyed 4.7 square miles of the city of Hiroshima, and killed or incapacitated over 100,000 people." [52] Now a man or unit of mass can project a munition with a fire value many times greater than his own mass value. Carried to an extreme, a small mass could project fire of such a value that it would totally destroy all mass--the mythical doomsday weapons.

A point made earlier should be re-emphasized and elaborated on at this time. I stated that it was the application of force which provides us with combat power. Combat power, therefore, must be viewed as actualized force rather than as potential force. Any world power may have potential force; but, until it is actualized as combat power, it is pure potential. Furthermore, it does not follow that all potential force will be actualized at any given moment as combat power. In fact, numerous external and internal factors may limit the amount of potential force which becomes actualized. Thus, when armed conflict occurs, one must address combat power, not potential force. It is relative combat power that will affect the balance. It appears that this distinction has not been clearly understood; and, therefore, misunderstanding has resulted when some have attempted to strike a balance based on military power as potential rather than actualized force.

Another area which must be stressed is strategy, which provides the purpose for actualizing force. The question to ask when one country applies combat power against another is whether the intent is balance (survival) or dominance. Survival, or status quo, is usually defined in terms of defense; whereas, dominance requires offensive action. A clear understanding here is essential to any definition of victory or defeat. As stated earlier, strategy must define victory. An imbalance implies dominance by one or the other. Traditionally, this has been viewed as victory or defeat depending on which side of the balance you are on. A balance implies survival of the two, which may also be viewed as defeat for one and victory for the other. Herein lies the critical issue of how one defines victory, and it is inexorably linked with the purpose for which force was actualized.

Through the act of formulating military strategy, the civilian leaders define the proper scope of action for the military by defining the combat power equation relative to a specific opponent. [53] "...because the prime purpose of military force is to be able to oppose other military force, should the need arise, then any measurement of military force must be, of necessity, relative." [54] This is crucial when we consider who and what is defined as the enemy mass. If the enemy mass is defined as military personnel only, then the level of violence is, by definition, limited. If, on the other hand, the opponent's civilian population is included in the definition of mass, that is, as part of the combat power equation, then the level of violence may not be limited. [55] By defining the civilian population as part of mass they become proper targets for fire either directly or indirectly. Though most nations have refrained from explicitly defining the civilian populace as proper objective for fire, actions are usually more powerful than words. The heavy bombing of cities during World War II was essentially a "terror" tactic aimed directly at the civilian population. Another example of defining the enemy mass is provided in the instructions to American submarine commanders after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. "Six hours after the attack, Wither received a message from the Navy Department: EXECUTIVE UNRESTRICTED AIR AND SUBMARINE WARFARE AGAINST JAPAN." [56] The idea that the entire enemy population was in some way part of the enemy mass is captured in the following statement. "Every ship they had, combat or merchant, was engaged in the war effort one way or the other."[57] The order of the day was "shoot on sight." [58]

Traditional American morality prefers "military" targets only; however, the popular understanding of the lex talionis, the Law of the Talon, can be seen operating in the rationalization of strategic bombing. "There is a strong common intuitive inclination favorable to retribution.... Such reactions indicate that a desire for vengeance, or at least for measured retribution, is deeply embedded in our culture." [59]

On August 24, 1940, however, several Luftwaffe planes happened to bomb London. Prime Minister Churchill seized the occasion to send ninety-five RAF Bomber Command aircraft against Berlin the next night--for precision bombing of industrial targets (though darkness made precision dubious), but also candidly as a retaliatory stroke. Hitler replied, 'If they attack our cities, we will rub out their cities from the map'.... [60]

In defining the combat power equation the civilian leaders also specify the type of fire that will be used. Thus, in some situations, the fire available to the military commander at the point of contact is of a lower intensity than what it could be. "The major weapons limitation that has been observed in local wars involves the qualitative distinction between atomic, biological, and chemical weapons on the one hand and conventional high explosives on the other." [61] Many of the current "scenarios" specify exactly what type of fire will be part of the combat power equation. It should be emphasized that defining the combat power equation is a continual process once hostilities begin. Not only can the definition of mass and fire change, but the point of contact can expand or contract, geographically.

Once the combat power equation has been defined and its purpose stated, the application of combat power should rest primarily with the military leaders. The military expertise is most appropriate in the art of tactics, which provides the techniques for applying combat power. [62] "When the application of the military instrument merges into actual fighting, the dispositions for control of such direct action are termed 'tactics.'" [63]

If war is a state of sustained violence then combat power must also be sustained. Thus, logistical support is essential to maintain combat power during time of war. [64] Logistical support is not only important to sustain combat power but also essential to project it to the point of contact. Furthermore, one must be aware of the cost in projecting combat power over large distances. "For each unit of distance, there will be a cost of transporting killing power. Let us assume for the present that there is a ratio of resources used up each mile, or each kilometer, which is a homogeneous variable. That is, to transport a hundred riflemen a mile might cost about the same amount of resources as to equip one rifleman." Thus "...possible killing power has to be diverted from killing to moving killing power." [65] The interrelationship that exists between military potential, combat power and the point of contact should be fully understood by strategists when they consider "the military vulnerability of a point.... " [66] The validity of this concept is apparent when one recalls the plight of the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis or our own dilemma during the October War of 1973. [67] "American nuclear power immobilized Russian nuclear power. And American local superiority in non-nuclear force together with a demonstrated willingness to use it discouraged further destabilizing moves." [68] As Stinchcombe points out "...if large (military) resources exist but cannot be moved to the point because they are too far away or because there are geographical barriers, then the point is relatively invulnerable. If large military resources can be moved cheaply to a point, it is highly vulnerable." [69] The reality of our large naval forces makes immense geographical areas 'highly vulnerable' to our military forces. There may be situations, however, when the need for combat power is of such short duration that logistics is relatively insignificant. [70]

The importance of these concepts and a clearer understanding of the model presented here may be derived from the grounding of it in an empirical example. Our most recent application of force on a large scale was in Vietnam. In light of that fact, using our experience and that of the French, I will briefly attempt to link some of the concepts with empirical reality. After presenting an overview of the Vietnam experience, I will present and analyze in some detail a specific battle, the Battle of Kontum.

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1. The definition of combat power used here and the relationship of the variables which make up the concept is at variance with others which have been offered: "The total means of destruction and/or disruptive force which a military unit/formation can apply against the opponent at a given time." See Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (JCS Pub. 1), (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1974), p. 72. "A combination of the tangible and intangible means available to a commander and the activities involved in the conduct of operations." See Tactical Operations Handbook (ST-153-FY74), Ft. Benning, Georgia, 1974, p. 224. A taxonomic approach has been taken by some: "Combat power consists of many factors including; numbers, morale, esprit, leadership, weapons, discipline, tactical skill, fighting ability and resolution." Clifford F. Quilici, "Do the Principles of War Require Revision?" Unpublished thesis, Naval War College, Newport, R.I., March 1964, p. 48. The approach taken by Murry makes the basic distinction between mass and fire; "Combat power, however, is composed of manpower and firepower. An increase in the potency of the firepower element increases the vulnerability of manpower and decreases the need for manpower in establishing a given level of combat power." See William V. Murry, "Clausewitz and Limited Nuclear War," Military Review, April 1975, p. 21-22. Though this is certainly not a comprehensive presentation of the various definitions used for combat power, it is indicative of the inconsistencies commonly found in the literature. [ Return ]

2. Klaus Knorr, Military Power and Potential, (Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1970), ; p. 22. [ Return ]

3. John Erickson, Soviet-Warsaw Pact Force Levels, (Washington: U.S. Strategic Institute, 1976), p. 13. [ Return ]

4. Thomas Schelling provides an illustration of this phenomenon with regard to the Cuban missile crisis: "... the universal tendency--a psychological phenomenon, a tradition or convention shared by Russians and Americans--to 'define' the conflict in Carribbean terms .... The countermeasures and counterpressures available to the Russians might have looked very different to the 'Russian' side if this had been a game on an abstract board rather than an event in historical time in a particular part of the real world." (Emphasis added.) Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence, p. 87. [ Return ]

5. Palit, The Essentials of Military Knowledge, p. 38. See also Lynn Montross, War Through the Ages, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 3rd Edition, 1960), p.7. [ Return ]

6. Steven L. Canby, The Alliance and Europe: Part IV - Military Doctrine and Technology, (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1975), Adelphi Papers No. 109, p. 15. [ Return ]

7. John Erickson, Soviet-Warsaw Pact Force Levels, G (Washington: U.S. Strategic Institute, 1976), p. 32. [ Return ]

8. C. S. Forester, The General (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1975). While this may be a gross oversimplification, it does highlight what I believe is a serious lack of imagination. If the PGM and mine are doing to tanks what the machine gun and barbed wire did to the infantry, then maybe we ought to shift our emphasis if we are going to retain mobility on the battlefield. [ Return ]

9. U.S. Army Force Design: Alternatives for Fiscal Years 1977-1981 (Staff Working Paper) Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC, March 1976, p. 15. [ Return ]

10. U.S. Naval Force Alternatives (Staff Working Paper) Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC, March 1976, p. 15. [ Return ]

11. Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974, p. 150. [ Return ]

12. Bernard Brodie, The Worth of the Principles of War, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, May 1957, p. 18. [ Return ]

13. Richard G. Head, "Doctrinal Innovation and the A-7 Attack Aircraft Decision," in Richard G. Head and Ervin J. Rokke, eds., American Defense Policy (Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), p. 434. [ Return ]

14. Ibid. [ Return ]

15. Ibid., p. 439. [ Return ]

16. Fischer, Defending the Central Front: The Balance of Forces, p. 34. [ Return ]

17. John H. Morse, "The Application of Advanced Technology in Modern War," Current News, Special Edition, January 1977, p. 6. [ Return ]

18. Donald G. Brennan, "The Soviet Military Bui1d~up and Its Implications for the Negotiations on Strategic Arms Limitations," Orbis, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring 1977, p. 113. [ Return ]

19. Donald Featherstone gives a vivid account of this battle with an emphasis on the calm, cool approach of the English bowmen. One can't help but wonder if we may once again see the emergence of the 'professional' infantryman dominating heavy armor. See Donald Featherstone, The Bowmen of England (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1967). It is interesting to note that the 'missile' fire of the English bowmen at Crecy ended the 1,000 year dominance of the horse cavalry. At the Battle of Adrianople, 378 A.D., the cavalryman became the base element for ground combat. "It introduced a new cycle in the art of war. Hitherto infantry normally had been the decisive arm, and when they relied upon shock weapons, they had little to fear from cavalry as long as they maintained their order." See J.F.C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, Vol. I, (Minerva Press, 1967), p. 274. Recent events have led some to the conclusion that heavy armor no longer dominates the land battle--"On the ground and in the air, therefore, the advent of the missile suggests that the day of the main battle tank and warplane may be ending. The superiority of the offensive may be declining in favour of the defensive." See Elizabeth Monroe and A. H. Farrar-Hockley, The Arab-Israeli War, October 1973: Background and Events (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1975), Adelphi Paper, No. 111, p. 34. "The late Egyptian Field Marshal, Ahmed Ismail, neatly summed it up when he told me that 'the tank and the aircraft have lost their dominance on the battlefield, but not their usefulness." See Charles Wakebridge, "A Tank Myth or a Missile Mirage?" Military Review, Vol. LVI, No. 8, August 1976, p. 11. Some have also concluded that the primary heavy armor tactic of the 'blitzkrieg' has been significantly altered with the advent of the anti-tank missile. "The most conspicuous casualty of the October War was the blitzkrieg. Indeed the single most important instruction of the war was the conclusive restoration of the superiority of tactical defense over tactical offense." See Jeffrey Record, "The October War: Burying the Blitzkrieg," Military Review, April 1976, p. 19. [ Return ]

20. One can't help but wonder if the growing Soviet naval mass may not some day 'bump' us out of the Medditerranean. For an interesting discussion of U.S. Fleet operations in the Mediterranean see Horacio Rivero, "Why a U.S. Fleet in the Mediterranean?" Proceedings, Vol. 103, No. 891, May 1977, p. 66. [ Return ]

21. The effectiveness of mass for denying an opponent the use of space without resorting to fire was clearly pointed out during the Cuban missile crisis. "The U.S. Navy placed itself physically between Cuba and Soviet ships bound for Cuban ports.' See Arnold Horelick, "The Cuban Missile Crisis," World Politics, Vol. 16, 1964, p. 385. This is not to say that the potential of fire was not significant; it was. However, submarines also have the potential of fire and could have easily sunk any ship approaching Cuba. The submarines could not create a credible surface mass and, therefore, were ineffective in communicating intent and thereby influencing perceptions. This approach is most effective on land; marginally effective at sea, as long as one has a credible surface fleet, and not very effective in the air. An example of by-passing a surface mass was the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949. [ Return ]

22. An example of this might be the 'hedgehog defense.' In World War II this technique was an improvisation to meet a need. "From the very first days of the campaign, the vastness of European Russia and the peculiarities of Russian warfare led to the repeated isolation of individual units and combat teams. All around defenses and security measures were the only possible remedy.Far from being stressed, these defense tactics were frequently not even mentioned in the field service regulations. The field forces improvised them and designated them very appropriately as 'hedgehog defenses'.... Their use was not confined to defense. During offensive actions advance detachments had to build hedgehog defenses as protection against enemy surprise attacks by night." See U.S. Department of the Army, Historical Study: Military Improvisation During the Russian Campaign (Pamphlet No. 20-201), August l95l, p. 22. In another medium, the carrier task force might be an example of this phenomenon. During the Vietnam War, ground forces often relied on fire support bases to provide the same allaround security. With the introduction of highly lethal, precision guided munitions and the possibility of a nuclear exchange, some authors suggest an early adoption of this technique. For example, T. Finley Burke, The Implications of the PGM Era, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, March 1977. "It is shown there that a force fewer than one division, dispersed throughout West Germany, with modest terrain visibility, and calling on low kill probability fire, could nevertheless impose quite substantial and continuing attrition." p. 10. Steven Canby, Military Doctrine and Technology, especially "The chequerboard concept: defense by small strongpoints," p. 24. See also Robert Fischer, Defending the Central Front: The Balance of Forces," "...multiple and dispersed defensive positions..." p. 37. For a detailed explanation of PGMs see James Digby, Precision-Guided Weapons (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1975), Adelphi Paper No. 118; also James Digby, New Non-Nuclear Military Technology: Implications and Exploitable Opportunities, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, March 1977. [ Return ]

23. Such evasive techniques were employed during the last stage of World War I. "The forward positions were evacuated shortly before an imminent attack and the defending troops moved far enough to the rear into a new and even stronger line to force the enemy to regroup his forces, always a time-consuming maneuver." Also used by the Germans in world war II, "Like the fencar, the forces holding the threatened sector of the front executed a surprise withdrawal at the last moment." Military Improvisations During the Russian Campaign, p. 29. [ Return ]

24. Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 211. An example of this might be the Arab-Israeli, Six-Day War of 1967. The "extreme mobility" of the Israeli forces was a "decisive factor." For another example, see Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, A Survey of 'Quick Wins', a report prepared for Director, Net Assessment Office of the Secretary of Defense, October 1975. [ Return ]

25. An example of this might be Soviet military doctrine. "The Soviet doctrinal linchpin is the 'blitzkrieg,' the concept of overwhelming an opponent quickly through that attack." Canby, Military Doctrine and Technology, p. 10. [ Return ]

26. See for example these quotes from Liddell Hart, Thoughts on War, "To loosen his resistance and make him bolt there must be something from which to run--some tangible oncoming danger from which escape seems possible." p. 21. "The demoralization which begets a general conviction of inferiority comes from retreat and the break-up of organization." p. 20. "Paralysis, rather than destruction, is the true aim in war, and the far-reaching in its effects," p. 60. [ Return ]

27. As Sun Tzu says, we must be prepared to "come like the wind (and) go like the lightning." See Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translated by Samuel B. Griffith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 97. Relative mobility has been identified as one of the key elements of success in a number of studies. See for example Measurement of Combat Effectiveness in Marine Corps Infantry Battalions: Executive Summary, Cybernetics Technology Office Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Policy Sciences Division, CACI, Inc., "The single most important function for unit success is maneuver during the action." p. 10. [ Return ]

28. A point often forgotten, until faced with the problem, is clearly emphasized in the following statement by Liddell Hart, "Mobility of supply is no less important than mobility of troop movement." Hart, The Revolution in Warfare, p. 89. [ Return ]

29. William G. Stewart, "Interaction of Firepower, Mobility, and Dispersion," Military Review, Vol. XXXIX, March 1960, p. 32. [ Return ]

30. Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 211. Hart's analysis of the data from World War II reveals some interesting insights. "It is evident that attacks were often checked by small detachments or remnants that were heavily out- numbered, whereas attacks succeeded in many cases where the defenders were far more numerous relatively [sic] to the frontage. The contrast suggests that a buildup of the defense to the level suggested by custom and caution often aided the attacker by presenting him with a much increased target and one easier for him to destroy by concentrated fire." B. H. Liddell Hart, "The Ratio of Troops to Space," Military Review, Vol. XL, April 1960, p. 11 [ Return ]

31. One could immobilize an opponent's mass by "fixing" it with fire or by "fixing" it with a portion of your own mass. Therefore, one may have the same means of mobility that an opponent has but because he has retained freedom of movement, he has greater mobility. Sun Tzu addresses this same issue: "The force which confronts the enemy is the normal; that which goes to his flanks the extraordinary." Also see footnote number one: "The normal (cheng) force fixes or distracts the enemy; the extraordinary (ch'i) forces act when and where their blows are not anticipated. Should the enemy perceive and respond to a ch'i manoeuvre in such a manner as to neutralize it, the manoeuvre would automatically become cheng." (Emphasis added.) Sun Tzu, The Art of War, p. 91. An illustration of this from the Vietnam War is provided by Zeb Bradford: "To a large degree, the role of the infantry became primarily to locate and pin down the enemy in order that the 'coup de grace' might be delivered by massive application of firepower from aircraft and artillery.... The role of armor as a mobile striking force was also altered in battles such as this one. Here, the armor was used as a holding force, while the more mobile infantry moved to out-flank the enemy. This is a marked change from traditional employment." (Emphasis added.) Zeb B. Bradford, Jr., "U.S. Tactics in Vietnam," Military Review, Vol. LII, No. 2, Fenruary 1972. p. 72. [ Return ]

32. Hart, "The Ratio of Troops to Space," p. 10. [ Return ]

33. For an interesting approach to the relationship which exists between the mobility of mass and firepower, see Stewart, "Interaction of Firepower, Mobility, and Dispersion," p. 26-33. [ Return ]

34. Morse, "The Application of Advanced Technology in Modern War," p. 3. [ Return ]

35. Hart, Deterrent or Defense, p. 193. [ Return ]

36. Hart, "The Ratio of Troops to Space," p. 13. "Mentally, the British and French generals still moved the way their men did, at a foot-soldier's pace; they never caught up." Blumenson and Stokesbury, Masters of the Art of Command, p. 31. [ Return ]

37. The helicopter is a unique aerial platform in that it is capable of creating a mass anywhere on the surface. In an operational sense, it is terrain-dependent for survival in a high threat combat environment. (See FM 90-1 Employment of Army Aviation Units in a High Threat Environment.) Conceptually, it may be more appropriate to view the helicopter as a surface platform rather than as a suprasurface platform, such as an airplane. [ Return ]

38. "The real target in war is the mind of the enemy command, not the bodies of his troops. If we operate against his troops it is fundamentally for the effect that action will produce on the mind and will of the commander; indeed, the trend of warfare and the development of new weapons-- aircraft and tanks--promise to give us increased and more direct opportunities of striking at his psychological target." Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 48. [ Return ]

39. The importance of communications has been greatly emphasized in recent times. "Communications are the second most important specific function that an infantry battalion must perform well to operate effectively in combat. Units that communicate well also have a good record in use of supporting fires, although specific linkages to external units or commands do not show up as critical in themselves." Measurement of Combat Effectiveness in Marine Corps Infantry Battalions, p. 6-21. With ubiquitous mechanization in all mediums of combat there is an increased dependency on electronic means of communications. The ability to control a mass in combat is almost completely reliant on radio communications. This has created new vulnerabilities which can be exploited by fire. "The commander must view the electromagnetic environment as a battlefield extension where a different type of combat takes place. This invisible but very real struggle is electronic warfare (EW)." FM 100-5 Operations, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, July 1976, p. 9-1. [ Return ]

40. The need for deception has long been recognized by those who have studied war. Likewise, the power of information has been demonstrated throughout history. Sun Tzu provides a concise statement on the need for both: "If I am able to determine the enemy's dispositions while at the same time I conceal my own then I can concentrate and he must divide." Sun Tzu, The Art of War, p. 98. [ Return ]

41. This distinction between manifest and latent function is implicit in the following statement by Schelling: "It is latent violence that can influence someone's choice--violence that can still be withheld or inflicted, or that a victim believes can be withheld or inflicted." (Emphasis added.) See Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence, p. 3. [ Return ]

42. "And why is a kiloton nuclear bomb so different from an equivalent weight of high explosives dropped in a single attack? is by convention--by an understanding, a tradition, a consensus, a shared willingness to see them as different--that they are different." Schelling, Arms and Influence, p. 133-134. [ Return ]

43. One sometimes has to question the 'humanitarian' distinctions we make between the various forms of fire. The use of gas has been outlawed; however, there are those--even the victims of gas--who argue that it is not as inhumane as other forms of fire. "Logically, it is difficult to object to the use of gas while accepting high explosives, especially as the percentage of victims who died or were permanently disabled was much smaller." Hart, The Revolution in Warfare, p. 62. [ Return ]

44. An excellent discussion of the psychological effects of fire is provided by Irving L. Janis, Air War and Emotional Stress (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1951). [ Return ]

45. "Emotional-shock reactions, ranging from a dazed stupor to jumpiness and preoccupation with the horrors of the air raid, occur primarily among the 'near-misses'--people who undergo direct exposure to actual danger. This may involve a narrow escape from death, being wounded, witnessing the destruction of persons close by, or suffering the loss of a loved one.

In contrast to the powerful reinforcement of fear among the near-misses, there is likely to be a reduction of fear among those who do not directly experience the destructive impact of the air attack." The indiscriminate use of fire may be counter productive if it does not create a near-miss situation. See Janis, Air War and Emotional Stress, p. 103-104. [ Return ]

46. "...the ultimate determinant in war is the man on the scene with a gun. This man is the final power in war. He is control. ...if the strategist is forced to strive for final and ultimate control, he must establish, or must present as an inevitable prospect, a man on the scene with a gun. This is the soldier." (Emphasis added.) Wylie, Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control, p. 85. [ Return ]

47. As previously mentioned, we Americans have a penchant for quantifying the instruments of war. We accept the "rational" approach to deterrence in that a relative material equilibrium will assure non-aggression by potential opponents. There are indications however, that a materiel balance is not, in and of itself, sufficient to deter a determined aggressor. For an interesting discussion of this issue and some historical illustrations see Michael E. Brown, Deterrence Failures and Deterrence Strategies. [ Return ]

48. "This factor of 'vulnerability' has yet to be adequately appreciated, although it has grown immensely in importance under modern conditions, especially under pressure of air-power. It affects all calculations of war, from the highest scale, of the comparative defence [sic] situations of countries, down to the effect with which particular weapons can be credited.

The vulnerability of the target counts for at least as much as the power of the weapon--and possibly counts for more." Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 155. The growing vulnerability of mass has been stressed in field manuals and slogans such as "If you can be seen you can be hit. If you can be hit you can be killed." The increased "1etha1ity" Of new weapons has brought about a new awareness of vulnerability. It is interesting to note the paradox of our planning wherein we stress the vulnerability of mass at the tactical level but do practically nothing to protect our mass at the national level. See Janis, Air War and Emotional Stress, especially Part III "Psychological Aspects of Civil Defense," p. 181-257. [ Return ]

49. "It is fire-power, and fire-power that arrives at the right time and place, that counts in modern war--not man-power." Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 67. [ Return ]

50. James F. Digby, Precision-Guided Weapons: New Chances to Deal with Old Dangers, p. 3. [ Return ]

51. United States Continental Army Command Pamphlet No. 145-2, U.S. Defense Establishment, dated 29 September 1967, p. 20. [ Return ]

52. Ibid. [ Return ]

53. When there are multiple opponents and limited resources it becomes necessary to prioritize so that sufficient combat power can be applied to the most dangerous opponent first. A clear example of this situation, and the difficulties involved with multiple opponents, is provided by Forrest C. Pogue in George C. Marshall: Ordeal and Hope 1939-1942 (New York: The Viking Press, 1966). See especially Chapter VI "If War Came," p. 120-138. [ Return ]

54. Erickson, Soviet-Warsaw Pact Forces Levels, p. 7. [ Return ]

55. There have been occasions when the "man with the gun" has applied his own definition of what and who constitutes the enemy mass. A tragic example of this was the actions of Lt. William L. Calley, Jr. in 1968, at My Lai, South Vietnam. There have also been occasions when the deliberate destruction of large numbers of the enemy civilian population has been carried out as a matter of policy. For example, "In the Crimean War of 1854-5, the Royal Navy repeatedly bombarded the Russian coast towns on the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Sea of Azov, in order, as the First Lord of the Admiralty said, to 'teach them that a war with England is not to be engaged in with impunity.'" See Hart, The Revolution in Warfare, p. 59. For some interesting insights of the decision to employ the atomic bomb see Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts, Enola Gay (New York: Stein and Day, Publishers, 1977). "The historic fact remains, and it must be judged in the after time, that the decision whether or not to use the atomic bomb to compel the surrender of Japan was never an issue. There was unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement around the table." p. 192. As Thomas Schelling points out, " the Second World War noncombatants were deliberately chosen as targets by both Axis and Allied forces, not decisively but nevertheless deliberately." Schelling, Arms and Influence, p. 26. [ Return ]

56. Clay Blair, Jr., Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan (New York: Bantam Books, 1976), p. 106. [ Return ]

War Against Japan (New York: Bantam Books, 1976), p. 106. [ Return ]

57. Ibid. [ Return ]

58. Ibid., p. 131. [ Return ]

59. Harold L. DeWolf, Crime and Justice in America: A Paradox of Conscience (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1975), p. 54. [ Return ]

60. Weigley, The American Way of War, p. 354. [ Return ]

61. Morton H. Halperin, Limited War in the Nuclear Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1963), p. 35. [ Return ]

62. The broad guidelines for actually employing combat power may be likened to the general rules that an artist follows. Commonly, with regard to warfare, we refer to these general rules as the 'principles of war.' There are some who question the value of these principles. "In Clausewitz, one finds innumerable wise and valid thoughts, but no single rule, except perhaps the recurrent insistence that the pursuit of war ought to be politically purposeful--that the political objective should guide the military conduct of war." Brodie, The Worth of Principles of War. For an excellent discussion of the origins of the principles of war see John T. Alger, "The Origins and Adaptations of the Principles of War," unpublished thesis, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, 1964; Clifford F. Quilici, "Do the Principles of War Require Revision?" Whether or not tactics is an art or a science has been debated by many. I agree with Major Doughty, "...the successful orchestration of forces on the modern battlefield remains an art, served by many sciences." Seo Robert A. Doughty, "The Art and Science of Tactics," Parameters, Vol. VII, No. 3, 1977, p. 45. [ Return ]

63. Hart, Strategy, p. 335. [ Return ]

64. An excellent discussion of the importance of logistics is provided by Henry Eccles, Military Concepts and Philosophy; see especially Chapters VI an VII. For an analysis of the logistics effort in Vietnam and its impact on combat operations see Harold D. Gallagher, "The Eye of the Needle: Combat Support in Wars of National Liberation," unpublished thesis, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, June 1972. "An analysis of the effects of the overindulgent combat support practiced in Vietnam (1965-1970) upon in-country U.S. Military operations, U.S. strategic flexibility, politics of South Vietnam." p. ii. [ Return ]

65. Arthur L. Stinchcombe, Constructing Social Theories (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), p. 219. [ Return ]

66. Ibid., p. 218. In the case of the Soviet Union; "If power is to be measured in terms of a country's ability to ferry material support great distances to friends fighting in settings like Angola in 1975, the Soviet Union is immeasurably stronger than it was 15 years earlier when Patrice Lumumba needed help." Robert Legvold, "The Nature of Power," Foreign Affairs, October 1977, p. [ Return ]

67. We experienced considerable difficulty in resupplying Israel during the 1973 War. [ Return ]

68. Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter, Controlling the Risks in Cuba (London, England: The Institute for Strategic Studies, April 1965), Adelphi Paper 17, p. 22. [ Return ]

69. Stinchcombe, Constructing Social Theories, p. 217. [ Return ]

70. While developing the concepts discussed here, I created a paradigm of actualized force. The graphic provides a pictorial display of the relationship between the variables that contribute to the combat power equation. I have provided a copy of the graphic here and I hope it provides the interested reader a "picture" of combat power as I have described it. [ Return ]