“The Army University Press is pleased to publish “Learning From Our Military History: The United States Army, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Potential for Operational Art and Thinking”, another book in The Art of War Series.
LTC Aaron Kaufman examines how the US Army was successful in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He notes that some tactical organizations, companies included, learned and adapted, whereas others accomplished little and made the environment worse.
The interviews conducted and personal reflections
confirmed that a deeper and more historical understanding is required. He concludes that OIF demonstrated the need for operational art and thinking, particularly in commanders of relatively junior rank. This work offers an explanation on how we learned and adapted in OIF, not for the purposes of a definitive military history, but only as an intellectual way point that may lead us to useful military history for the future of the Army.”
“As British historian Paul Johnson wrote, ‘The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which have been to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.’
Via The Cove
“This video titled ‘How do we learn from the past?’ via YouTube is from the ‘What is War Today?’ series of panel discussions presented by the University of Cambridge. The panel discussion is chaired by Professor Sir Hew Strachan who is featured across a number of our #BreakIn subjects. The opening suggestion is that we do in fact learn from the past, and that studying past wars can generate both positive and negative outcomes. There is an upfront acknowledgement that no two conflicts are exactly the same so history alone will never provide an exact answer to current and future problems. At the same time, the lessons and principles from studying the past will give people the tools they need to analyse problems as they move forward.
The 4 panelists are:
- Gill Bennett, OBE: Former Chief Historian of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Senior Editor of the FCO’s official history of postwar foreign policy, Documents on British Policy Overseas, 1995-2005. She was a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 2002-03 and formerly Assistant Editor of Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939.
- Professor Andrew Preston: A Canadian historian, who focuses on American history and won the 2013 Charles Taylor Prize for his book Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. He is also a fellow at Clare College, Cambridge where he acts as a director of studies in history.
- General Sir Roger Wheeler, GCB, CBE: A retired British Army officer who served as Chief of the General Staff from 1997 to 2000. During his career he was involved in the Cyprus Emergency, directed military operations in Northern Ireland and led the UK’s forces deployed on NATO operations in Bosnia.
- Rear Admiral Christopher Parry, CBE: A former Royal Navy officer who was an observer in the Fleet Air Arm, and involved in the Falklands War. He held a number of command appointments including HMS Gloucester, the Maritime Warfare Centre and HMS Fearless in January 2000. As a commodore, he was Director Operational Capability in the Ministry of Defence and then Commander, Amphibious Task Group.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis once wrote, “Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.” He wrote this to impart how important it is for military professionals to study history. In this episode, Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson, a historian at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, VA, talks about why the study of history is important and how an earlier reform effort has shaped current military reform in the United States.
The British 3rd Commando Brigade “yomped” across East Falkland Island and successfully assaulted and occupied the five hill masses that surrounded Port Stanley to the west. The 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (3 Para) seized Mt Langdon with some difficulty, but was fixed by accurate Argentine artillery fire and could not continue on to seize its eastern most spur, Wireless Ridge, whose occupation would render Argentine defenses on Mt Tumbledown untenable, and isolate Port Stanley from the north. The task to seize Wireless Ridge was given to 2 Para, who was fifteen kilometers away on the slopes of Mt Kent as the brigade reserve.
On the evening of 13 June 1982, 2 Para yomped the 15 km to its assault positions north of Wireless Ridge. 2 Para’s new commander, Lt-Col David Chaudler who was recently flown in from Britain (!) and replaced the former commander killed at Goose Green, vowed that the battalion would not attack without adequate fire support again. So in support, 2 Para was allocated a generous allotment: two batteries of 105mm tube artillery, 3 Para’s mortars, two Scimitar tanks (skinny), two Scorpion light tanks (stubby… you know what I am talking about… The cards, man, the cards) from the Blues and Royals, and the 4.5 in deck gun of HMS Ambuscade (One of my favorite words. We need to get the term “ambuscade” into doctrine).
Just after midnight, 2 Para assaulted on line after a diversionary attack on Mt Tumbledown by the Scots Guards, and a short but vicious preparatory bombardment on the dug in Argentine positions. D Co would actually assault Wireless Ridge, while other companies seized the small hillocks to the north. The assault on Wireless Ridge was tactically polar opposite from Goose Green. Argentine resistance was systematically rooted out by superior firepower, by the light tanks, artillery, mortars and machine guns, upon contact. The Argentinian soldiers of the 7th Infantry Regiment usually broke before they were engaged in close combat with 2 Para infantry. There were four notable exceptions.
The first was not by 7th Inf Regt soldiers, but by a platoons worth of troopers from the Argentinian 2nd Airborne Regiment on their way to Mt Longdon, who counterattacked west directly into D Co as it assaulted east. D Co fought them off over the next several hours. The second exception was a dismounted counterattack by the crews of an armored car squadron (read “troop” or “company”), which was annihilated by heavy machine guns and the Scorpions and Scimitars. The third attack by the Argentinians was by a bypassed 7th Infantry Regiment platoon who struck the flank platoon of D Co. The Argentinian platoon leader was furious after hearing his friend was killed, and rallied his men to counterattack. The surprised defenders were led by a brand new lieutenant fresh from school. The Argentinians nearly overran their adversaries, but were brought under intense and accurate fire support by the British platoon commander, who had to drop down to the fire support net in the confusion and coordinate his own support. D Co (the main effort) didn’t have a forward observation officer (?), and the other FOO’s were prioritizing their missions. The young platoon commander just asserted himself into the net, and probably saved D Co a very bad morning.
The fourth and final Argentine counterattack came as the sun came up. 200 Wireless Ridge survivors and staff officers were rallied by the 10th Brigade operations officer and formed a hasty defense on the west side of Port Stanley. Since about 4 am, the remaining Argentine artillery fired on Wireless Ridge. As dawn broke about six, 50 members of the ad hoc defense, led by the 7th Inf Regt executive officer and regimental chaplain, assaulted the ridge with fixed bayonets under cover of the bombardment. The Paras were initially flabbergasted at the lines of Argentinian infantry singing as they advanced, but they were eventually beaten back with great losses.
The failure of the impromptu Argentinian dawn assault broke the Argentine defenses and the Argentinian infantry to the south and west on Mt Tumbledown routed and fled back to Port Stanley. That evening the Argentinian commander in the Falkland Islands, with no further help from the mainland, recognized the futility of the situation and surrendered. The British reoccupied the South Sandwich Islands, the last Argentinian conquest in the South Atlantic on 20 June, and both sides declared an end to the hostilities.
A History of Warfare. Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. London: Book Club Associates, 1982.Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein led the British Eighth Army across North Africa in pursuit of Rommel. In 1944 he commanded the Allied land armies in the invasion of Normandy, eventually leading the 21st Army Group. Despite this experience, few give him…