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14 March 2010


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Mad Dogs

I'm no jarhead, but as a former member of the Senior Service (Navy for the ignoranti), I feel a small need (a very small need as long as it doesn't require us to doff our sunglasses and put down rum and cokes on the fantail) to come to the defense of our distantly related crazy cousins.

If the Army had been assigned to take Fallujah, they'd still be "making progress" there today while awaiting more reinforcements.

Shorter Dogfaces: "Yeah, but in taking Fallujah, the Marines destroyed Fallujah!"

Shorter Jarheads: "So, what's your point?"

All of the above written with no other intent than humor for the Junior Services. *g*

Patrick Lang


Your grasp of military history is appalling. Question for you - How many US Army troops were in the Fallujah battle?

BTW, the US Army is the senior service by date of establishment. It is the Royal Navy that is the senior service over there. pl

Neil Richardson

Mad Dogs:

"If the Army had been assigned to take Fallujah, they'd still be "making progress" there today while awaiting more reinforcements.

Shorter Dogfaces: "Yeah, but in taking Fallujah, the Marines destroyed Fallujah!"

Shorter Jarheads: "So, what's your point?"

All of the above written with no other intent than humor for the Junior Services. *g*"

Actually the Marine Corps asked for the Army's help. In fact during the Second Battle of Fallujah, the RCT-1 and RCT-7 had to rely on armored support from First Cav (esp. 2-7CAV). I know for a fact that the Corps units lagged behind in small unit tank infantry coordination which seemed like almost a joke to seasoned combat journalists.

Of course back in my day, there was a rhyme that went something like:

Hey diddle diddle. Here come the ____ Marines straight up the middle.

Patrick Lang


2/2 Inf, my old regiment were first into Fallujah. pl

Patrick Lang


Go read some serious military history and then come back and talk about something other than USMC propaganda. pl


Colonel Lang:

As I recall it was McArthur who wanted Pelelieu taken so that the Japanese could not use it as a staging airfield for attacks on his forces in the PI. Bull Halsey was against it as he felt that he could keep Japanese air off of McArthur's back without taking Pelelieu. So the foolishness was not on the part of the Marines.

As far your claim that the PI landings being a much bigger operation, that is true. And yes there were no Marines involved in the PI landings. But were they needed? it seems to me and it seemed to Admiral Nimitz at the time that the Phillipine landings were not needed at all. The Japanese troops on those islands were starving due to US Navy submarine operations against Japanese shipping. Nimitz wanted to bypass it altogether like he did with Truk and other points. The only reason Roosevelt gave in to McArthur's paln was politics.

You have posted on Pelelieu previously. Is your opining on that battle taught as gospel in Army command and staff schools and other circles? Or is that your father who served with McArthur talking through you? You should pay more attention to your uncle the Navy man.

Kim Viner

The thing I did not understand in the article was this,

"After concern about the arrangement reached the White House, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who heads the Central Command, issued an order in early March giving McChrystal operational control of Marine forces in Afghanistan, according to senior defense officials. But the new authority vested in McChrystal — the product of extensive negotiations among military lawyers — still requires Marine approval for any plan to disaggregate infantry units from air and logistics support, which will limit his ability to move them, the defense officials said."

Are they kidding? Has it gotten to the point that military lawyers negotiate chains of command? I certainly don't recall that during my joint staff tours. But, maybe I am wrong.

Patrick Lang


I suspect that at some point the marine legislative liaison effort succeeded in having their friends in Congress write into law something that ties marine aviation to their ground force. pl


Hey watch it navy, when the marine is done building their new 5 aircraft carriers, next they will ask for full size nuclear aircraft carrier and submarines too. Then you'll be out of your job. heh heh...

incidentally, someone explain to me, how the marine LHD carrier suppose to work? It has no landing craft capability. no well deck. transporting marine would be strictly by V-22/helis. Isn't that why we have regular aircraft carrier? Yes I know, living space for 1500 marine as well, but I thought the marine classic problem is not being able to bring along big fire power during landing. So now they have a ship that can only carry V-22 during landing and no vehicles? Shouldn't they ask for a system that can send along heavy tank with the landing instead?

What is the chance an LHD will be able to do low profile insertion without getting involved in naval shoot out with such huge ship and air presence. So now they need to protect that LHD with several ships. Pretty soon they gonna need a carrier battle group.

If the marine is prepared to spend and maintain such elaborate battle group, then why not spend the money developing a submersible small aircraft carrier? At the very least this type of craft will have far less chance getting detected and fighting open naval battle. It can go in alone quitely (eg. go right to do what marine suppose to do, landing on the beach, instead of doing work what navy suppose to do) Submersible amphibious aircracft carrier is exotic, yes. But was already explored during WWII.

I really don't understand how the marine decide to invest on their big gears. Why be "little navy" when they suppose to have gear for landing.

Patrick Lang


Macarthur wanted that early on to protect the flank of the Leyte invasion before the 2nd Battle of the Philippine Sea which effectively eliminated Japanese naval aviation. After that happened Nimitz and senior marine officers decided to continue with the Palau group operation. As for the Peleliu operation itself, surely uou know what a poor job Rupertus did there.

I have said before that I do not admire Macarthur. I am not my father. My US Navy uncles had no particular use for marines. On Makin my uncle John very nearly had a fist fight with Holland Smith who had come over from Tarawa to harass Ralph Smith the Army commander there. My uncle John was with the naval beach group and since he knew the marine Smith from China was walking over to talk to him when Holland Smith hit Ralph Smith. My uncle stepped between them. Holland Smith should have been tried for assault.

The PI was American soil. We had a responsibility for the Filipino people. Strategically, we could have bypassed and gone to Taiwan. We could have bypassed a lot of those little islands in the central Pacific as well. "Politics?" An interesting concept. The Japanese Army killed a hundred thousand Filipinos in Manila. We should have left them to that? How about American PWs in the islands? Leave them also?

Is that what marines teach in their schools" How superior they are to the Army? You confirm my suspicions. pl


I have a better joke for you MD:

Q: How do you kill a platoon of Marines?

A: Throw a handful of sand against the wall and tell them to hit the beach.

You also forget to mention that the reason the Marines had to retake Fallujah (with significan ARMY aid) was because they lost it in the first place, with GEN Matthis thinking he was some sort of warrior poet.

Not to mention the clusterfuck that was Ramadi over there...

Mark Logan


Landing craft for the Marines went the
way of the parachute for the Army PIRs. The helicopter regulated them largely to tradition. Cornering yourself on a beach? Only if you have to.

If I were Gates, I would start floating notions of
creating "MIR's" along the lines of the Army PIR's to
scare some people into better coordination and less bureaucratic competition. Lawyers..how silly is that?

I was a Jarhead, but I felt those that felt the need to repeat the propaganda were
not true believers, and suspected their faith just a bit. (humor)

Always resented the way the Navy tends to reserve higher brain functions to those who can steer ships.
Army leadership? How much worse could it be? (humor alert 2)

Patrick Lang


We are just kidding. i have the greatest of respect for US Marines. I think of them as having much the same mentality as La Legion Etrangere.

But- a couple of punch lines from army jokes about marines:

"Green side up!"


"Aren't we getting to be a long way from the road?"


William R. Cumming

Okay was is the best analysis of first and second Fallujah battles in print? Would like to read!


Colonel Lang,
I am surprised that you seem to accept the assertions in the Chandrasekaran article at face value. Unfortunately, in its shallow and headline-seeking treatment of an important issue, it illustrates the worst type of reporting on national security issues. Maybe the author was unable to look much deeper because he had to leave Afghanistan in a hurry to make it back to the US for the premiere of Matt Damon’s “Green Zone.” Regardless, to draw major conclusions from such an incomplete and narrow analysis as that contained in the article does little to support a professional discussion on an important topic. The idea that General McChrystal lacked “operational control” over Marine forces in his area of operations and that such control rested with a three-star Marine general at CentCom is simply ludicrous. And the “new authority” which was the “product of extensive negotiations among military lawyers” is likely neither new nor lawyer-driven.

But let me first point out that your comments about the historical contribution of the Marine Corps are incomplete at best, and disingenuous at worst. You note, for example, that there were no Marines in Europe at all during WWII. Besides being inaccurate (a small number of Marines did serve in the OSS in Europe and on various ships and staffs in the theater), Marines helped train Army infantry divisions prior to the North Africa landings and later also helped train the assault divisions for the Normandy landings. As for being a force “too small to be much of a factor in the world,” I would suggest that a more useful question would be how such a small force could see the future need for an amphibious assault capability or, later, see the potential for helicopters.

But on to the article -- As you know, the Unified Command Plan, which is really an order approved by the president, defines a strategic commander’s area of responsibility (AOR). In turn, a combatant commander assigns an area of operations (AO) to a subordinate commander to define tactical responsibilities. As the theater commander, General Patraeus could certainly delegate authority to members of his CentCom staff in Florida any way he thought best, but the idea that he would retain operational control over major elements of combat forces which were evidently the main effort in recent operations in General McChrystal’s AO flies in the face of the operational DNA of the military’s leadership. Simply put, it makes no sense to do so and, on its face, would even seem counter-productive. Moreover, aside from the Washington Post article, there is little evidence of such a non-traditional command relationship. To embrace the author’s assertion as accurate, without more, is surprising, to say the least.

As for General McChrystal’s “new authority” that was evidently only obtained after “extensive negotiations among military lawyers,” I suspect the author was trying to address the tension that exists whenever higher headquarters seeks to employ for other uses some integral part of a subordinate tactical force. Often, this tension focuses on the aviation assets of Marine air-ground task forces (MAGTF). And here the author’s shallow analysis is most evident. Current US Army doctrine considers Army aviation assets to be maneuver units. USMC doctrine treats organic aviation units as an essential part of the MAGTF. Army aviation units train closely with their ground brethren but can also doctrinally be employed independently. Marine aviation assets are critical “joined-at-the-hip” components of the MAGTF. Without its organic aviation element, the effectiveness of a MAGTF is significantly degraded, if not crippled. Why? Because the tightly integrated nature of a MAGTF, as well as its inherent capability to operate with a relatively small logistical tail, produces operational speed and exponentially enhances the combat power of the separate elements of the MAGTF. The parallel relationship is like that between a weapons platoon of a rifle company and the rifle platoons of that company. Only in the most dire of circumstances would a smart commander strip this operationally integrated combat team of its weapons platoon. For the same reason, Marines hold the MAGTF near sacred. The author’s portrayal of the issue as little more than a fight between lawyers is grossly poor reporting.

In the end, the question of whether Marines can be team players is not to be answered by the likes of the Chandrasekaran article.



The Washington Post article is a strange hodgepodge; Marines verses the Army, COIN, and Kandahar overrun by bad guys.

Your picture of John Wayne brings back memories of John Ford and all those great old movies he directed; “They were Expendable”, “Fort Apache” and “My Darling Clementine”.

The USA doesn’t teach history anymore, just passing tests. The Texas Board of Education has written out Thomas Jefferson and presumably the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark since they had nothing to do with the Lone Star state.

Watch those old movies to see real history. The retreat from Bataan with not enough troops. Fighting insurgents with a screwed up commanding officer. The Wild West won by the coming of women, schools and civilization.

The Marines will pacify all they want but sooner or later they will pull out to go to another hot spot. The Taliban will come back. I saw history. The Bong Song valley where Americans died in Vietnam from 1965 on, where I spent a year, was retaken by the Communist in 1972 after the last American troops left. Afghanistan is the same. History is history. Women, schools and Western Civilization are not coming to Delaram or Kandahar. An unwinnable war is unwinnable.

Brian Hart

Col. The article also mentioned the lack of strategic significance to the area they occupied and the fact that only 1% of the Afghan population lived there. In other words we have some of our best fighting forces, part of this so called surge, in an area of little strategic significance and few people. Gen. Nicholson is great for a headline or letting Taliban know what we are about to do next in marineistan, but what about Kandahar? Perhaps its time for a leadership change in the marine corp.

Mark Logan

I know. My favorite was:

"Damn, this one doesn't have any shoes either!"

Fred Strack

“…fewer than 1 percent of the country's population lives in the Marine area of operations.” Sounds like the Marine Corps is doing what it does best, defend its reputation. Two quotes that negate one another:
“Despite the need to travel with an entourage, the Marines are willing to move fast. The commandant of the Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, offered to provide one-third of the forces Obama authorized in December, and to get them there quickly. Some arrived within weeks.”
Followed by: “Because the Marines cannot easily be moved to Kandahar,…”

Yes indeed, the Marines can move half-way around planet Earth in weeks, but can’t get to Kandahar without ‘negotiations’. How many Americans soldiers will die because of this?
Oh, and let us not forget that the Marines have female troops to interact with Afghan women, or a Muslim chaplain to lead prayers…. As if after almost a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan NO ONE else in the entire armed forces had thought of that!

“Nicholson contends that if his forces were kept only in key population centers in Helmand, insurgents would come right up to the gates of towns.” And the Afghan people can rise right up and defeat them; for if the Afghan people won’t fight for their own country why the hell should any American die for it?

How nice of the post to label this Obama’s war, especially since the reporting fails to note the complete and utter failure of the Bush Administration to succeed in Afghanistan 6 years. Now we have the Marine Corps engaging in its own strategy in its own way. And you thought Aipac gave the administration trouble.

Fred Strack


I believe your response to KV is correct, marine aviation was written into law in the late 50's, back when the army was still fighting the Air Force for tactical air support and transport; at least that was my father's description to me when he was a senior NCO at the JCS. He had an interesting anecdote about the Marines requesting Iwo Jima to be an all Marine Corps operation. I've never researched the historical section at JCS to see if that is true, but so he claimed.



Isn't there a monument somewhere dedicated to the "continued friendship" between the USMC and the Foreign Legion in the SW desert somewhere?

Patrick Lang


If you want to dispute Chandrasekaran's facts, go argue with the Post!

How do you know that he is wrong? you merely assert that he is.

The number of marines you mention in Europe is a handful and no combat units. You know that. Shipboard detachments on capital ships? Do you really want to count them? How about the legation guard in London?

Your remarks about the sanctity of marine aviation merely mean that you like things the way they are.

You sound pretty defensive, marine. pl


"I continue to be in favor of eventually merging the two forces..."

Why not go all the way and have a unified command structure? American interservice rivalries seem to cause all kinds of problems. To give another example, the apparent unwillingness of the air force to prioritize close air support.

Canada went to a unified command structure back in 1968, merging the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force to form the Canadian Forces. This seems to be working out tolerably well.


Hot topic, statutory law mandates the number of USMC MEF's. Whether they be active or reserve is anonther issue.



Sorry if I sounded defensive. I prefer to focus on accuracy and effectiveness. Your comments were inaccurate so I called you on them. And besides, you essentially presented the Post's article as factual, so be prepared to defend thyself!

More importantly, I learned a long time ago that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. The real issue is how such a small force has had such an outsized impact. And that includes the ETO in WWII. The landing craft, fire support, embarkation and debarkation procedures, to say nothing of the control measures for the actual landing in Normandy and elsewhere, were not developed in London or Ft Polk. So, yes, the numbers of Marines in Europe were small. The impact of the USMC on the efforts to reenter the continent were anything but.

As an aside, your point about the Army’s extensive COIN experience in the Philippines is well founded. But your assessment of the Marines’ view of that experience is way off base. There is little question but that the USMC learned far more from the Army experience in the Philippines than the Army did. The lessons the Army internalized during that era were those of the Indian fighters who had risen to leadership positions. Marines did not have that Western frontier experience so they studied how the Army conducted operations that were similar to USMC missions.

As for the sanctity of Marine aviation, the point was really about the MAGTF, an operationally tailored organization that has been mimicked by the Air Force (Expeditionary Air Wings) and the Army. It has been copied because it is effective. So if arguing in support of a widely copied and highly effective approach sounds defensive, so be it. If someone wants to propose an effective change, convince me that it is an improvement and I will be first in line to advocate for it. The blood of our warriors and the treasure of this nation are too precious to risk over dogmatic adherence to ineffective approaches.

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