Restoring Order: The US Army Experience in Occupation Operations, 1865 – 1952

Abstract of my dissertation on US Army occupation operations:

This dissertation examines the influence of the US Army experience in military government and occupation missions on occupations conducted during and immediately after World War II. The study concludes that army occupation experiences between the end of the Civil War and World War II positively influenced the occupations that occurred during and after World War II. The study specifically examines occupation and government operations in the post-Civil War American South, Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico, post-World War I Germany, and the major occupations associated with World War II in Italy, Germany, and Japan. Though historians have examined individual occupations, none has studied the entirety of the American army‘s experience with these operations. This dissertation finds that significant elements of continuity exist between the occupations, so much so that by the World War II period it discerns a unique American way of conducting occupation operations. Army doctrine was one of the major facilitators of continuity. An additional and perhaps more important factor affecting the continuity between occupations was the army‘s institutional culture, which accepted occupation missions as both important and necessary. An institutional understanding of occupation operations developed over time as the army repeatedly performed the mission or similar nontraditional military tasks. Institutional culture ensured an understanding of the occupation mission passed informally from generation to generation of army officers through a complex network of formal and informal, professional and personal relationships. That network of relationships was so complete that the World War II generation of leaders including Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Clay and MacArthur, and Secretary of War Stimson, all had direct personal ties to individuals who served in key positions in previous occupations in the Philippines, Cuba, Mexico, or the Rhineland. Doctrine and the cultural understanding of the occupation mission influenced the army to devote major resources and command attention to occupation operations during and after World War II. Robust resourcing and the focus of leaders were key to overcoming the inevitable shortfalls in policy and planning that occurred during the war. These efforts contributed significantly to the success of the military occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II.

For more information on this subject and access to the complete dissertation contact me at

Comanche, Old Baldy and their Buddies

There is a little known group of distinguished horses that to my knowledge has never been documented or recognized in any formal way as a group.  That group is the war horses whose remains have been preserved and are on display.  To my knowledge, there are only four American military horses that belong to this group:  Commanche, Winchester, Old Baldy, and Little Sorrel.

Old Baldy, General George Meade’s Civil War mount at the battle of Gettysburg and throughout most of the war was recently recovered and in the news.  He will soon be on display again.  Only Old Baldy’s head was preserved after his death.   See the story here.  Baldy’s display seems to be somewhat half-hearted and makes me a bit uncomfortable. 

Actually, I’m uncomfortable with the whole idea of perserving the remains of these fine horses.  But at least, if its going to be done it should be done completely as an honor, not partially, like a trophy.  The other three horses that I know of in this group are displayed with significantly greater care and honor.

Commanche was the mount of Captain Miles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry.  The horse was the only known survivor of Custer’s command at the Little Big Horn.  Commanche is displayed at the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History.  The museum has recently invested significant effort to ensure the integrity of the display and its preservation. 

Little Sorrel was the mount of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson.  Jackson was killed by friendly sentry fire in 1863 and was riding Little Sorrel at the time.  Little Sorrel lived a long life, dying in 1886 at the age of 36.  His hid was mounted and is on display at the Viriginia Military Institute.  His bones were cremated and buried on the grounds at VMI.

The final of the four horse warriors is Winchester, the mount of Union Civil War General Phil Sheridan.  Winchester is the mount that Sheridan rode in the counterattack against Confederate forces at the Battle of Cedar Creek in 1864.  Union forces were surprised and in retreat.  Sheridan galloped twenty miles on Rienzi, the horse’s original name, and arrived just in time to rally the troops and lead the successful counterattack.  Winchester was a black Morgan and stood 16 hands.  Sheridan said of him: ““an animal of great intelligence and immense strength and endurance. He always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements gave many persons the idea that he was exceedingly impetuous. This was not so, for I could at any time control him by a firm hand and a few words, and he was as cool and quiet under fire as one of my soldiers. I doubt if his superior as a horse for field service was ever ridden by any one.”  Winchester died after the war at the age of nineteen.  He was immortalized in a poem entitled “Sheridan’s Ride.”

Excerpt from “Sheridan’s Ride.”

And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed.
Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

If you know of any other American or international warhorses that are on display let me know.

What Counts in Foreign and National Security Policy

As I recently have been watching the release of CIA memos and who said what when briefed by the CIA, I’d just like the make the point that the quality of  the analysis and recommendations of regional and global foreign policy experts; the professionalism of  generals; and the bravery of  soldiers matter little  in comparison to the ebb and flow of domestic politics.  I illustrate this in my paper on the American experience occupying the former Confederate states after the American Civil War.  The momentum of domestic politics, dominated by domestic economic and social issues, really are the main influence on the general thrust  of American foreign policy.  Domestic policy trumps national security most of the time –especially after the emotion of combat has past and the country is faced with the tough and thankless business of post-conflict operations.  Soooo… that begs the question: what is the current direction of  American domestic policy and how does that effect American foreign policy? Specifically, how does the current economic fiasco and other issues effect our military operations in Iraq and Afghansitan?

Cavalry Raids –A Uniquely American Tactic

Okay… the main reason for this post is that I was looking for an opportunity to post the intro to John Ford and John Wayne‘s Horse Soldiers –which I like as much as the movie.  That said….
The cavalry raid, as a tactic, in its modern form (since the early modern period –16th Century) seems to be almost exclusively an operational tool of the American cavalry of the American Civil War.  European armies, despite huge cavalry components and many very capable cavalry leaders, do not seem to have been inclined to take advantage of the mobility and physiological effects of bold independent mounted operations.
There are precedents for cavalry raids in European military history.  The Europeans had the experience, the decidedly negative experience, with the cavalry raids of the Mongols in the 13th Century.  Mongol armies, especially the offensive strike forces, were fast moving mounted organizations that could hit hard and then seemingly disappear in the oceans of the steppe.  In the winter of 1240-41, two Mongol tumen numbering 10,000 warriors each, roamed through what is modern day Poland for several months, avoiding decisive battle and destroying villages, towns, and even defended cities. 
The European’s own experience in the medieval period included the extensive use of the chavauchee –or raid.  Virtually all medieval European armies conducted chavauchee and they were a feature of warfare in all regions throughout the period.  The English were perhaps the most notorious and successful practitioners of the tactic.  The chavauchee had numerous purposes.  One of the most common uses of the tactic was to subjugate an area to extract tribute and taxes to support local military forces.  Chavauchee terrorized and pillaged a region belonging to an adversary in order to deny those resources and the support of the people to the adversary.  A chavauchee could also serve as a means of forcing the enemy army into an open battle.  Finally, it was a means of obtaining loot and booty for the coffers of the raiding force.  More than one of these justifications and sometimes all of them could be present in a single mission.  This type of operation, the mounted raid, disappears from European warfare after the medieval period and never returns. 

Stuarts Cavalry Raid, from Harpers Weekly

Stuart's Cavalry Raid, from Harper's Weekly

Some might argue that the American cavalry achieved only mixed results with their raids.  Famously, General Robert E. Lee desperately missed General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry who were on an inconclusive raid, during his 1863 offensive into Pennsylvania.  Many blame the mishandling of Stuart’s cavalry for the decisive defeat of the Confederate forces at Gettysburg.  Still, Stuart’s earlier raids, and Union Generals Phil Sheridan and James H. Wilson successful operations in the last year of the war, point to the potential for decisive operational effects from cavalry raids.

Where did the concept of raiding come from?  American generals were students of the Napoleonic wars but there was no precedent in the Napoleonic period for large cavalry raids.  The idea that purely romantic notions of chivalry inspired by Southern antebellum culture may have inspired the idea begs the question of why decidedly unromantic Union commanders like Phil Sheridan copied the idea.  Other historians believe that their association with plains Indians in the years before the Civil War inspired American cavalry commanders  Regardless of the origin of the idea, there was enough success associated with it that it should have become a lesson for European cavalry.European cavalry also modeled themselves on the Napoleonic period.  This, combined with their strict conservativism, made them reluctant to try anything new.  European cavalry spent the period from the end of the Napoleonic period until World War I perfecting their ability to execute the massed mounted charge in the tradition of cavalry employment at Waterloo.  They especially were reluctant to learn anything from the American Civil War.  Therefore, they not only unwilling to consider cavalry raiding but also such other uniquely American mounted innovations as the pistol charge and dismounted combat with breech-loading carbines.  Because of the unwillingness to learn, European cavalry never attempted to emulate the independant mounted operations of the Stuart, Sheridan and Wilson, and the modern mounted cavalry raid remained a uniquely American tactic.



Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 8:34 am  Comments (9)  
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