85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
One study will consider how the United States Marine Corps adapted its counterinsurgency tactics and philosophy in South Vietnam during the advisory years of American involvement. Replacing French forces in the country, U.S. Marines quickly evolved their training methods, doctrine, and organization to suit the unique conditions of combat in South Vietnam. Another paper will focus on the development of supporting firepower during the amphibious campaigns of the Pacific War, uncovering how Marine units learned to orchestrate supporting fires with devastating effect. A final project will consider the evolution of American antiaircraft artillery in World War II. In this instance, the American Army learned to stop shooting at its own airplanes and start killing Japanese and German pilots with impressive aptitude. Together, these studies will investigate the catalysts of military transformation and converse on how armed forces evolve their conventional methods and outlooks under the daunting conditions of combat.
This paper will explore the evolution of supporting arms coordination in the Pacific War and the manifestation of that evolution, the Joint Assault Signal Company. Non-existent at the outbreak of the Pacific War, the JASCOs that directed such overwhelming firepower at Iwo Jima were the result of nearly two years of wartime adaptation. Based on lessons learned in the war's early campaigns, the Marines acknowledged?among other concerns?a need for improved coordination of supporting fires. Created in direct response to these early combat lessons, Joint Assault Signal Companies were an example of war-induced military adaptation in doctrine, training, organization, and operational tactics. By studying this process of innovation and adaptation during war, the project reveals how a small, specialized service applied lessons learned in combat to produce a hybrid solution that spanned the wartime realms of organization, training, and tactics. So often in war, victory belongs to the unit that can successfully adjust to its environment and enemy before the opponent. In their crucial role coordinating American amphibious combat power during the Second World War, the Joint Assault Signal Companies did just that.
This paper highlights how the American Army of WWII learned to stop shooting at its own airplanes and start killing Axis pilots by the thousands. It traces the emerging Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA) force from the failure of its first battles at Pearl Harbor, Clark Field, and Kasserine Pass through the process of wartime learning and adaptation to its ultimate success in air and ground battles across the Pacific and Northwest Europe. Much like the larger Army it supported, the AAA force made several mistakes in the rapid transition from peace to war. Frequently untrained and ill-equipped, antiaircraft units initially lost out to German and Japanese pilots who flew higher and faster than expected. As antiaircraft units transitioned from defending static assets to protecting mobile forces, learning and positive change occurred at all levels. Stateside training became more realistic. In-theater coordination between air and antiaircraft units reflected a growing appreciation for the importance of a synchronized air defense scheme. Finally, work with combined arms forces in training paid off in combat as antiaircraft units not only enforced local air superiority over their divisions and corps, but also provided them with deadly accurate direct and indirect ground fire, in many cases saving ground units from complete destruction. In the end, the history of American AAA in WWII suggests that no single theory?top down, bottom up, middle out, single or double loop learning, inter or intra-service rivalry?is sufficient to understand how innovation and adaptation occurs in combat. In this case, change, like combat, often occurs on multiple fronts.