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Warfare is inherently geographic in nature. The fundamental military problem is a space-time problem, as Nathan Bedford Forrest succinctly observed "getting there firstest with the mostest." In addition, the geographic factors shaping military operations vary by the scale of the operation. The nature of military geography changes in response to the level of war, strategic, operational, or tactical, under consideration. The result is a nested set of geographic concepts and maps that describe the influence of physical and cultural features on military operations.
The purpose of this course is to give the student an understanding of the impact of various geographic features, both physical and cultural, on the conduct and outcome of military operations. The student will also learn to assess these impacts in terms of the three levels of war. Finally, the student will apply this understanding to an on-the-ground analysis of a selected military operation in a Staff Ride format.
Based upon assigned reading, class discussion, individual research, and field observations, the student will be able to:
Harold A. Winters, et al, Battling the Elements, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
Additional and Recommended Reading:
The following map sheets provide coverage for each of the battlefield staff rides. These are current topographic maps from the 7.5 minute quadrant series in a scale of 1:24,000. The maps are available from the USGS Map Sales office at USGS headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston or the Department of the Interior in downtown Washington. Some local retailers (e.g. REI) also carry these maps.
There will be a midterm exam and a short test during the Staff Ride.
Examinations and Examination Policies:
Each student must participate in a Staff Ride at one of the following battlefields.
For additional information see below.
Research and Analysis:
Each student will demonstrate their understanding of the geographical factors discussed in class by applying them to an analysis of a selected battle. This analysis will be the major research project of the course. The analysis will address the influence of geographical factors for each level of war in terms of the conduct and outcome of a particular military operation. I suggest you begin by selecting a particular tactical operation, conducted by a formation no larger than a division (preferably at brigade or battalion level), and then work backward to consider the larger operational and strategic settings. A list of suggested topics is at appendix 1 to Annex C of the syllabus; you are not limited to this list, it is only a guide. ROTC students are limited to a study of American operations during the 20th century (but that still leaves a lot of ground and a wide variety of operations from which to choose). You will be asked to submit a study proposal early in the course.
Each student will prepare a short case study poster presentation highlighting the lessons related to the geographical factors identified by the battle analysis. This presentation will be in lieu of a Final Exam and will be held on 11 May from 4:30-7:15 pm.
A Staff Ride is an organized and methodical study of a particular historical battle conducted on foot over the battleground. The study begins with detailed preparation in terms of background reading and discussion of the battle. Each participant is responsible for studying and leading discussions, before and during the Staff Ride, concerning the actions of particular battle formations or leaders as a way to understand the flow of the battle. In the field, participants must be prepared to orient the staff during various phases of the battle and present briefings on the actions of the units or leaders for which they are responsible. The Staff Ride amounts to an After Action Review of an historical engagement. This is NOT your Grandfather’s tour of Gettysburg.
Harry W. Pfanz, Gettysburg, The Second Day, University of North Carolina Press,1998. (on reserve)
Stephen W. Sears, Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam, Warner Books, 1983. (on reserve)
"How to Read a Civil War Battlefield" by Prof. Mark Grimsley, Ohio State University
Battle Leader Biographies
Normandy - U.S. Army Campaigns in World War II, Center for Military History
Encyclopedia Britannica entry for Normandy Invasion; see illustrations and Shockwave animated maps.
Cross-Channel Attack by Gordon A. Harrison is the "Green Book" volume of the official history. The text is available online from the Center for Military History (CMH).
Omaha Beach is another CMH publication from the American Forces in Action series published by the Historical Section of the War Department.
Decision in Normandy, Carlo D'Este, NY: Konecky & Konecky, 1983 (Chap 3, 6, 7).
Selection from Combat Actions in Korea, Chap 6 Chosin Reservoir. This excerpt describes the actions of elements of the 31st Infantry RTC and Task Force Faith during the initial Chinese attacks in Nov-Dec 1950.
Selection from the official history of the Korean War Ebb and Flow: November 1950-July 1951, Chapter V Battle of the Changjin Reservoir also describes the defense of the 31st RCT and subsequent breakout from an operational level perspective.
East of Chosin, Roy E. Appleman, Texas A&M University Press, 1987
7th United States Cavalry and LZ X-Ray
After Action Report, HQ 1st Bn, 7th Cavalry, dated 9 December 1965
"1st Cavalry Division and Ia Drang Valley," by Charles Heller, in America's First Battles, 1776-1965, Charles E. Heller and William A. Stofft, ed., University of Kansas Press, 1987. (on Electronic Reserve)
U.S. Army Center for Military History (CMH) located on Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C. This site includes an extensive digital library in the Online Bookshelf of official histories, particularly for World War II and Korea.
U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI) colocated with the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA. This site includes an excellent set of primary source documents and images available online. Scroll down to Historic Documents Online.
Combat Studies Institute (CSI) colocated with the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS.
History Department, United States Military Academy, has a great atlas page providing maps for download.
Imperial War Museum, London includes online exhibits on the Battle of Britain, Korea, and the World Wars.
The Virtual Airborne Museum has interesting personal accounts of airborne operations in all theaters of World War II.
(As of November 16, 2005 )
|1||Course Introduction - The Scope of Military Geography
Three Levels of War - Strategic, Operational, Tactical
|2||Doctrinal considerations and geography - The Principles of War||
|3||Functional Organization of the Battlefield - BOS
Spatial Organization of the Battlefield
|4||The Military Operating Environment||
|5||Special Environments: Fighting Insurgencies and Fighting in Cities||
|6||Geographic Dimensions of the Strategic Level of War
||Paper Proposal due||
|7||Geographic Dimensions of the Operational Level of War
|8||Spring Break - No Class|
|9||Geographic Dimensions of the Tactical Level of War
|10||Case studies - Normandy|
|11||Case studies - Normandy||Paper Part 1 due|
|12||Case studies - 1st Battle of the Ia Drang (LZ X-ray)|
|13||Case studies - Chosin Reservoir||
|14||Staff Ride - Antietam||Antietam Staff Ride Paper due
Antietam Staff Ride
|15||Staff Ride - Gettysburg||Gettysburg Staff Ride Paper due
Gettysburg Staff Ride
Paper Part 2 due
|16||Battle Analysis Poster Session - See Annex D
Mr. Dillon is a former infantry officer whose active service included command and staff assignments with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood and the 3rd and 8th Infantry Divisions in the Federal Republic of Germany. A 1985 graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, he has been an Army service school instructor in military history, combat operations, and Soviet military operations. Currently, Mr. Dillon is adjunct faculty with the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C.
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