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Camp Colt to Desert Storm

Camp Colt to Desert Storm: The History of U.S. Armored Forces

George F. Hofmann
Donn A. Starry
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 656
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  • Book Info
    Camp Colt to Desert Storm
    Book Description:

    The tank revolutionized the battlefield in World War II. In the years since, additional technological developments--including nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, computer assisted firing, and satellite navigation--have continued to transform the face of combat. The only complete history of U.S. armed forces from the advent of the tank in battle during World War I to the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991, Camp Colt to Desert Storm traces the development of doctrine for operations at the tactical and operational levels of war and translates this fighting doctrine into the development of equipment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4657-7
    Subjects: History, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
    George F. Hofmann and Donn A. Starry

    Several years ago the distinguished Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe explained human societyʹs need for what he called drummers, warriors, and storytellers. Drummers to stir up the will of the people and line them up behind causes, warriors to fight for the causes, and storytellers to ʺmake us what we are … create history.ʺ He then explained that of the three, storytellers are the most important, for they are tellers of important events.

    This book is an anthology that seeks to identify milestones in the history of the mechanization of the U.S. Army and, at least in part, of the U.S....

  5. 1 World War I The Birth of American Armor
    (pp. 1-36)
    Dale E. Wilson

    One of historyʹs great ironies is that the nation that spawned the technology from which the tank was created did not play a role in that vehicleʹs conception. It is equally ironic that the United States, which later became known as the ʺarsenal of democracy,ʺ was unable to produce a single armored vehicle that saw combat with its Tank Corps. Although the Army trained more than twenty thousand tank officers and crewmen in less than a year, and shipped more than half of them to France, it was able to send only three battalions into combat—in vehicles borrowed from...

  6. 2 Organizational Milestones in the Development of American Armor, 1920-40
    (pp. 37-66)
    Timothy K. Nenninger

    After 11 November 1918 the Tank Corps, like the rest of the U.S. Army, rapidly demobilized. The future of the tank, to say nothing of the continued existence of the Tank Corps, was in question. Despite stalwart service and heroic deeds during World War I (two Medals of Honor and 39 Distinguished Service Crosses), the Tank Corps decreased from more than twenty thousand men in the United States and France at the time of the Armistice to less than 10 percent of that one year later.

    Beginning early in 1919—as demobilization accelerated—the War Department closed stateside tank training...

  7. 3 The Marine Corps’s First Experience with an Amphibious Tank
    (pp. 67-91)
    George F. Hofmann

    Naval strategist RAdm. Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote in 1889 that changes in tactics historically have not kept pace with advances in weapons technology. He attributed this to the inertia of a conservative military class, thus causing an unduly long developmental period. The advantage, he wrote, lies with those who recognize each change and study the qualities each new weapon presents. He maintained that this understanding would lead to a change in tactics, thus giving an advantage to those going to battle. Nevertheless, Mahan was not too optimistic, claiming ʺhistory shows that it is vain to hope that military men generally...

  8. 4 Army Doctrine and the Christie Tank Failing to Exploit the Operational Level of War
    (pp. 92-143)
    George F. Hofmann

    During the interwar period the U.S. Army engaged in a heated doctrinal dispute that prevented the tank, especially the Christie tank, from becoming the foundation for the serviceʹs approach to the operational level of war—the theory of larger-unit operations in which combined arms elements fight a series of battles known as campaigns. With the emergence of the tank as the main maneuver element for a mechanized force, the potential existed for the Army to embrace a level of war between strategy and tactics rather than emphasizing specific techniques of firepower and attrition warfare. However, this issue was obscured by...

  9. 5 World War II Armor Operations in Europe
    (pp. 144-184)
    Christopher R. Gabel

    At the time of Americaʹs entry into World War II the U.S. Armyʹs Armored Force consisted of one corps headquarters, five divisions in various states of organization, and a handful of nondivisional General Headquarters (GHQ) Reserve tank battalions. The I Armored Corps and the 1st and 2d Armored Divisions had just completed large-scale training maneuvers, and were counted among the Armyʹs most combat-ready forces. The recently activated 3d, 4th, and 5th Armored Divisions had not yet begun large-unit training. Armored Force headquarters at Fort Knox controlled its own schools and replacement system, and even had organizational authority over many of...

  10. 6 Marine Corps Armor Operations in World War II
    (pp. 185-216)
    Joseph H. Alexander

    The Pacific War had several crucial turning points: Midway the high tide of Japanese expansion; Guadalcanal, the first Allied offensive; and Saipan, which for the first time brought Tokyo within striking range of American B-29 bombers. Yet it was the bloody battle for Tarawa in November 1943 that proved to be the crossroads of the Pacific War in terms of armor tactics and technology. ʺIssue in doubt,ʺ reported the commanding general of Tarawaʹs landing force on the afternoon of D day, and indeed the battle hung in the balance for the first thirty hours. Tarawa was the one major battle...

  11. 7 Post–World War II and Korea: Paying for Unpreparedness
    (pp. 217-262)
    Philip L. Bolté

    When World War II ended with Japanʹs surrender on 2 September 1945 there were only two superpowers in the world, the United States and the Soviet Union. Americaʹs leaders soon concluded they must contain what they perceived as a remorseless expansionist tendency in the policies of the Soviet Union.¹

    Meanwhile, in keeping with the traditional American view that armed forces are used to destroy occasional and intermittent threats, the American public clamored for demobilization.² Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal summed up what was happening when he observed that the country ʺwas going back to bed at a frightening rate,...

  12. 8 The Marine Corps’s Struggle with Armor Doctrine during the Cold War (1945-70)
    (pp. 263-297)
    Kenneth W. Estes

    The Japanese surrender announcement found most of the Marine Corps, then some 458,000 strong, deployed in the western Pacific with the I, III and V Amphibious Corps, their six divisions and four aircraft wings in the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (FMFPAC). Apart from demobilization concerns, their duties consisted of disarming Japanese forces and occupying parts of Japan and China. Postwar planning centered on a ready force of two divisions and two aircraft wings, plus corps troops, balanced between the Marine Corpsʹs East and West Coast bases, for duty primarily with the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. Marines quickly terminated their occupation...

  13. 9 The Patton Tanks The Cold War Learning Series
    (pp. 298-323)
    Oscar C. Decker

    This chapter considers the various stages of tank development and acquisition during the Cold War era. It is a history of the never-ending struggle to balance firepower, protection (survivability), mobility, and, in later years, fightability, in the best way to support armor soldiers by providing them the materiel means to decisively defeat the enemy. It is noteworthy that, although numerous programs were initiated in an effort to develop and produce the ʺultimateʺ tank, Cold War emergencies and funding constraints repeatedly overtook those programs, leading to the production of interim tank models. The reader should also note that while some of...

  14. 10 Adaptation and Impact Mounted Combat in Vietnam
    (pp. 324-359)
    Lewis Sorley

    The definition of what constitutes armor has from at least the close of World War II been complicated by the fact that there is a branch called ʺArmorʺ composed of some, but only some, of those elements that in the recent war had made up the armored force. Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee Jr. described that force as ʺa balanced team of combat arms and services of equal importance and equal prestige.ʺ Tanks, armored infantry mounted in half-tracks, armored field artillery, tank destroyer elements, and the whole range of what are now known as combat support and combat service support...

  15. 11 AirLand Battle
    (pp. 360-402)
    Richard M. Swain

    The long ninth decade of the twentieth century proved to be the heyday of the tank in American notions of land warfare. Driven largely by the presence of the Soviet armored threat to NATO, the years from the end of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam to the Gulf War were marked by the creation of the most powerful armored force in U.S. history. It was better equipped, better trained, and generally more soundly schooled than any armored force that preceded it. Ironically, by the time this army was tested in battle, it was already undergoing its dismantling. The battle that...

  16. 12 “Lethal beyond all expectations”: The Bradley Fighting Vehicle
    (pp. 403-431)
    Diane L. Urbina

    This chapter describes the doctrinal and developmental history of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV). The Bradley was one of the ʺBig Fiveʺ post-Vietnam systems developed in the 1970s, fielded in the 1980s, and deemed ʺlethal beyond all expectationsʺ during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.¹ Akin to Watty Piperʹs bookThe Little Engine That Could, the Bradley program has remained intact through perseverance and temerity on the part of program participants. The Bradley overcame strong congressional prejudice, three general officer reviews, a major redesign effort, program cancellation, and bashing in the mainstream media in the early 1980s. It was...

  17. 13 The Abrams Tank System
    (pp. 432-473)
    Robert J. Sunell

    At the conclusion of the ground war in the Persian Gulf on 26 February 1991, the 3,113 Abrams tanks in the region maintained a readiness rate of 90 percent or higher. Through the course of the hundred-hour ground war, it was quite evident that the Abrams was exhibiting outstanding reliability, lethality, mobility, and survivability. Several Abrams M1A1s reported minimal frontal damage despite hits by 125mm smoothbore rounds fired from Iraqi T-72s. Not a single Abrams was destroyed or penetrated by the enemy during the war. Army observers and tank crews alike were impressed with the power and accuracy of the...

  18. 14 The Approach of Mounted Warfare in the Marine Corps (1970-95)
    (pp. 474-496)
    Kenneth W. Estes

    The fluid and often confused nature of Vietnam War engagements left little legacy for the Corps. Interservice rivalries, especially over the control of airpower and lesser-scale spats over the command of large ground formations, left many senior Marine Commanders wary of the future American way of war. Marines felt reassured that their emphasis on small-unit tactics and leadership had been rewarded. However, there was less certainty over the impact of heavy weapons systems in the long and agonizing campaign that resulted in such a seemingly indifferent outcome.

    On the other hand, the traditional Cold War enemy remained in place and...

  19. 15 The Hundred-Hour Thunderbolt: Armor in the Gulf War
    (pp. 497-530)
    Stephen A. Bourque

    The 1991 Persian Gulf War represents the zenith of American armored warfare. Never in history had Americaʹs mounted forces arrived on the battlefield better prepared than they were in 1990. Seventeen years of intensive analysis and debate had revolutionized Army doctrine and given armor a focus that had never existed. Its equipment, doctrine, and training were now among the best in the world. Mechanized infantry, self-propelled field artillery, armored combat engineers, and attack helicopters complemented the protection and firepower of the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. Multiple rotations at the National Training Center (NTC) and the Battle Command Training Program...

  20. 16 Reflections
    (pp. 531-562)
    Donn A. Starry

    Annually, April marks the anniversary of the 1917 arrival in France of the first elements of the AEF, the United Statesʹs contribution to the Allied defeat of Imperial Germany in the 1914-18 world war.

    Subsequent deployments to the AEF included a fledgling group known as the Tank Corps. Tanks came to battle in that war as a means to counter the devastating effects of massed artillery and machine-gun fire on infantry. Some visionary tank persons of the day even foresaw a larger role for tanks—independent of mud, trenches, and massed infantry in collision along the static western front. At...

  21. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 563-582)
  22. About the Editors and Contributors
    (pp. 583-588)
  23. Index
    (pp. 589-634)