Strategy – deciding how to accomplish a goal—is important in all endeavors, from making financial investments to winning sports games. Yet it is absolutely vital in warfare, as several articles in this issue demonstrate.
Despite the fact that General Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower led history’s most successful allied coalition to victory during World War II in Europe, his war-winning strategy and even his military competence have been savagely attacked. Ike’s fiercest critics were his British allies, led by Field Marshals Alan Brooke and Bernard Montgomery, who argued instead for Monty’s alternative warfighting strategy. Battlefield Leader, however, highlights Ike’s superb military qualifications as coalition commander, reveals the strengths and effectiveness of his strategy, and exposes the fatal flaws that would have doomed Monty’s plan.
Battle Studies examines Britain’s War of 1812 amphibious warfare strategy. Capitalizing on the powerful Royal Navy’s control of the sea, British ships could land troops at will along America’s extended Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico coasts. In 1813- 14, the vast Chesapeake Bay was essentially a “British lake” – in August 1814 the British even burned Washington, D.C. However, Britain’s amphibious strategy was less successful at targeting the Gulf Coast in 1814- 15, leading to British defeat at the January 8, 1815, Battle of New Orleans.
Special Feature reveals that the leaders of Texas’ 1836 war for independence from Mexico had few viable strategic options available to them. Texas army commander Sam Houston, facing a Mexican army greatly outnumbering his own meager force, decided to retreat ahead of the enemy’s advance and wait for his Mexican counterpart to make a mistake. When that misstep occurred, Houston struck. Shouting, “Remember the Alamo!” his Texan soldiers won the Battle of San Jacinto – and Texas’ independence – in just 18 minutes on April 21, 1836.
Hard Choices analyzes America’s strategy in the Vietnam War, arguing that by “refighting the last war” – Korea, 1950-53 – our country’s leaders ensured a U.S. defeat. Chiefly to prevent giving China an excuse to intervene in the conflict (as it had in the Korean War, with disastrous results for U.S. battlefield fortunes), America chose the strategic defensive by confining the war to the territory of South Vietnam. This fatally surrendered the strategic initiative, and thus eventual victory, to communist North Vietnam.
Our interactive articles, meanwhile, challenge readers to test their own abilities as strategists: as a Soviet army patrol leader facing mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan in 1985; as a French Foreign Legion captain whose heavily outnumbered company must repel an attack in Mexico in 1863; and as American Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam defending Charlestown peninsula during the 1775 Siege of Boston.
We present all of this and much more in the pages of this “strategic” issue of ACG!
Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, “Armchair General” Editor in Chief
Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Armchair General.