GENERAL ARTICLES

BEWARE THE 35-MINUTE WAR

MAJ.-GEN. J. F. C. FULLER June 15 1946
GENERAL ARTICLES

BEWARE THE 35-MINUTE WAR

MAJ.-GEN. J. F. C. FULLER June 15 1946

BEWARE THE 35-MINUTE WAR

Says this authority: Evan with The Bomb we'll need career fighting men, "... like fire brigades, standing to arms day and night"

MAJ.-GEN. J. F. C. FULLER

Editor's note: In our last issue we presented Lewis Mum ford'8 contention that in the atomic age all preparation for unir is madness. Here, from another eminent commentator, is the military view—a blueprint for what the author bluntly calls “on age of approaching atomic warfare."

THERE IS no denying it that this is a warlike age. To realize this, all we need do is to look at what is happening, and then glance back on what happened a few years before the outbreak of the recent war.

Six years before the Germans invaded Poland,

Hitler said to his friend Forster: “People have killed only when they could not achieve their aim in other ways. Merchants, robbers, warriors— at one time, all these were one. There is a war with intellectual weapons. What is the object of war? To make the enemy capitulate . . . Why should I demoralize him by military means if I can do so better and more cheaply in other ways?” Will anyone deny that “other ways” are not active today?

Any dimwit can see that they are. Therefore, unless there is a radical change in the hearts of men

for as old Marshal Saxe said, “The human heart is the starting point in all matters pertaining to war”—there is going to be another world conflict. Not because war is inevitable—-it never has been—

but because nations are incorrigible. If precautions are observed, it is not inevitable that a powder factory must blow up, but should the workers insist upon throwing cigarette stubs on its floors, it is a mathematical certainty that, sooner or later, it will blow up.

This brings me to my subject, the future of navies, armies and air forces; the instruments of the physical struggle which emerges out of political and other strugglings. First, let us get the background of this question clear, because it is nearly always the background, which is blurred. This explains why, because of their ignorance of history, soldiers so consistently repeat the same old blunders.

To show that this is so, I will take a long step back, to that erratic soldier, General Henry Lloyd, of whom I doubt whether one out of every thousand of my readers has ever heard. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century he wrote:

“The first problem in tactics should be this: how a given number of men ought to be ranged so that they may move and act with the greatest velocity; for in this chiefly depends the success of all military operations. An army superior in activity can always anticipate the motions of a less rapid enemy and bring more men into action than they can at any given point, though inferior in number. This must generally prove decisive and ensure success.”

What does this mean? Not only that movement is “the soul of war” but also the soul of military organization, and when I use the term “military” I include all fighting forces. Movement is to organization what range is to weapon power—it is the governing factor. And when the would-be military organizer gets this fact wedged firmly in his head, all the rest follows.

First, it is around moving power that fighting forces should be built, and only secondly around offensive (destructive) and defensive (protective) power. Therefore, do not let us be swept off our mental balance by the atomic bomb. It is not, at present, a new moving power. It is no more than a 22,000-pound bomb, the destructive force of which has been multiplied 2,000 times, and even should it be multiplied 20,000 or 200,000 times, it will remain only a bomb.

True, should a day come when atomic energy is really harnessed, then the would-be military organizer will have to prick his ears; for it will mean that a new moving power has been discovered, and that, in consequence, all military organizations will have to be refashioned. Though it is wise to be mentally prepared for this probability, it is not yet a possibility.

We Still Have to Count on Oil

THEREFORE, for the time being we are left with oil as our prime moving power; consequently we have to continue to organize on oil— let us hope we organize in such a way that in another war we impose our will on our enemy without reducing entire countries to rubble. When all is said and done, the true object of war (except to maniacs) is to win a more profitable peace than the one broken.

From this it will be seen that the future of navies, armies and air forces is more a problem for the statesman than for the fighting man.

Whereas the fighting man is a destroyer—a smasher down—the statesman should be a creator —a builder up. The object of the latter is to use war as a surgical instrument, and not as the fighting man uses it—as an instrument of demolition. It was because this difference was so little heeded during the recent war that peace today is a veritable wardom. Though the surgical operation has cut out the tumor, the instruments were so “dirty” that in the process blood poisoning has set in, and the patient is now in high fever.

Though it was Germany who detonated the war, it was not Hitler who smashed up Europe. Instead it was the Allied Powers with their most unstatesmanlike slogan of “Unconditional Surrender.” No proud and mighty nation could accept such footpad terms. As Hitler said: “We

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Beware the 35-minute War

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shall not capitulate—no never! We may be destroyed, but if we are, we shall drag a world with us—a world in flames.” And “Unconditional Surrender” gave this fanatical man the supreme opportunity to do so.

Should the statesman leave the problem of the future of fighting forces to the fighting man to solve (since the fighting man is historically blind and by profession a destroyer), two things will inevitably happen: the dead wood will not be cut out of the fighting forces; worse—increased destructive power will be grafted on to them.

If the fighting man can win the next war by completely blotting out his enemy, he will clap his hands and —in England—be made a viscount. But will the surviving statesmen clap theirs? Their nations will be bankrupt. To obliterate an enemy as the Massachusetts redskins were obliterated by the Puritans may have been profitable in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—though I doubt it. But as the world is today— namely, an integrating scientific whole—it is sheer madness.

Occupation, not obliteration of the enemy’s country, is the strategic aim in war. Obliteration is only one of several means toward that end, and the less it is brought into use the more profitable will occupation become to the statesman.

Unlike the Massachusetts Puritans, nations today do not have to fight for the retention of their scalps. Almost without exception they fight for the enlargement of their purses—for economic gains and the liberties and licenses snatch and grab renders possible.

What profit accrues from annihilating one another, when obliteration is

mutual? None! Therefore, bearing occupation in mind, and not forgetting that mobility is the soul ol military organization, let us step into the problematical future.

The future’s first birthday was Aug. 5, 1945, when, with a lack of wisdom unequalled in history—which itself shows the danger of entrusting decisions to fighting men—the first atomic bomb blew out the last flickering light in expiring Japan. So staggering was its destructive power that at once the question was asked: Can navies, armies and air forces continue to exist?

With certain modifications the answer is “yes,” because though this destructive weapon, whether airborne or rocket propelled, can obliterate, it cannot occupy. Therefore, human forces will still be required, and they must be highly organized fighting forces, for police forces will not foot the bill. Why? Because when attacked by atomic bombs all a powerful military nation need do is to capitulate forthwith, and then, when the enemy’s police force enters its territories, change its mind, impound . its officers and men and distribute them as hostages in its unbombed cities, etc. Consequently the forces which are earmarked for occupation must be powerful enough to overcome the ene my ’s armed forces. Further, once these forces are at clinch with the enemy, the very power of the atomic bomb, as it now is, will largely prohibit its use, for it will destroy friend and foe alike.

Destruction Can Be Senseless

The truth is—and much could be written on this question—there is a tactical limit to destructive power, a point after which an increase in it becomes unprofitable. There is also a strategical limit, for should the future see bombs which can devastate 100, 200, etc., square miles in seconds, the would-be occupier will have little left to occupy other than a radioactive

desert. Politically, also, there is a limit; for it is madness to destroy the end in view—a profitable peace— while trying to attain it. This is what happened in the recent war, even without the atomic bomb.

Therefore, so far as the atomic bomb is concerned, it appears clear that the problem which faces the nations today is rather one of how to decrease than to increase its destructive power. That is to grade its power according to the degrees and type of destruction required, as artillery projectiles are graded. For example, a siege gun fires a large explosive shell and a field gun a smaller one. The first problem is, therefore, to rationalize the atomic bomb’s power, for merely to think in terms of bigger and bigger obliterations is insane, though unfortunately very soldierlike.

The second problem, which is coincidental with the first, is to discover an antidote to the new weapon - particularly one in rocket form. Possibly it will be discovered in the field of electronics, and, if so, it is beyond my technical knowledge to discuss.

And that brings us to the forces we will need to wield the weapon and the defense.

Granted a rational conception of war and a rational use of military means, and as we belong to an oceanic commonwealth, I will begin my speculations with the navy.

During the recent war two great changes became noticeable: the linking together of sea and air power by aircraft carriers, and the linking of sea and land power by the introduction of landing craft. With these changes sea power lost part of its individuality, and should these linkings with the other services grow stronger, then sea power will become more and more compounded with air and land power.

In future, because the sea is not a living space, we may see the bigger calibre atomic bombs more frequently used in naval operations than in land operations. Defense against them will follow two main lines: reduction in size of ships and increased speed.

Ship size today is largely governed by gun power or space to carry and launch aircraft. But in the future it is probable that the atomic rocket will eventually supersede the gun and sea-borne airplane, in which case the battleship as now known and the aircraft carrier will disappear.

Both are too big and too slow. Besides they are not designed to stand the stresses and strains of seas churned up by atomic bombs. Further, with the ever-increasing range and endurance of land-based aircraft, the carrier has already entered its obsolescent stage. Yet so long as occupying forces are not completely air-borne, fleets will be required to convoy them, or parts of them, and naval battles to hold or gain command of the sea routes will continue.

The Army Takes Wing

When we turn to land power we see a similar compounding. While landing ship« and landing craft linked the army to the navy, the bomber,

fighter and air transporter linked the army to the air force.

And again, defense against atomic projectiles is the same as at sea: reduction in size of formations and increased speed of movement. Reduction of size demands enhanced striking power, for as quantity of manpower goes down, quality of weapon power must go up, and intra-atomic energy used as an explosive enables this to be done. Increased speed points to a steady increase in air-borne troops, and— even more important—in air-borne supplies, until the bulk, if not the whole, of an army’s impedimenta is transferred to the air.

Lastly we come to the air force. Should the above speculations be in any way correct, it follows that the air force, as we know it, will gradually be transformed. It will become the primary if not sole naval arm, based on the land instead of on carriers. Equipped with atomic weapons, it will steadily diminish the value of surface and submersible craft.

Conversely, it will be absorbed by land power; for whereas a navy is only a means toward occupation, without an army there can be no occupation whatsoever. Therefore the purpose of an army will remain constant: whet her it marches, whether it rides, whether it is carried in mechanical transport or whether it is air-borne is immaterial, for means of locomotion do not change its purpose.

Further, with improvement in rocket propulsion, the usefulness of the bomber will steadily decline, and with the introduction of the atomic rocket the fighter will change its tactics. Outfighting will replace infighting and air “depth charges” will replace bullets and shells. The aim will be to destroy enemy craft by blast — concussion — instead of by direct hits, and this, I think, will apply to all forms of anti-aircraft fire.

But the greatest change of all will be in transportation—the lifting of armies into the air.

Everything will be faster, smaller and, within the limits of usefulness, more powerful. Quality, and not

quantity, will be the governing idea, and the governing principle will be a gradual fusing of the three fighting services into two and lastly into one —first, as now, navy, army and air force; second, air force plus navy and army plus air force; and lastly, airarmy. The aim will be reduced friction, maximum speed and the most rapid occupation of the enemy country effected.

If, without a declaration of war, atomic bombs can be rained at any moment on an unsuspecting nation, so also can an airarmy be launched and landed in a would-be aggressor’s country before its general staff can pull the atomic trigger.

Career Army Needed

How should the fighting forces of the future be recruited? Clearly in an age of approaching atomic warfare, which carries with it the power to strike at will, there can be no mobilization. Like fire brigades, striking forces, whether offensive or defensive, must, in a mad world, be standing at arms day and night, and their personnel must consist of “special” and not “average” men.

Therefore to base recruitment on conscription is out of the question. By this I do not mean that conscription will cease altogether. It may, and probably will, continue for the workers who sustain and maintain these streamlined forces, and also for the police army which will occupy the enemy’s country once his army has been disarmed.

But service in the quality forces must be a profession and a career, for their officers and men must be artists of war and not merely, as today, artisans knowing something about the handicraft of killing. To persuade such men to enlist, the pay offered must be as high as that earned by the highest grades of civil technicians, if not higher.

In the recent war we saw the beginnings of this division between quality and quantity troops, and clearly so in the earlier campaigns.

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Between 1939 and 1941 the Germans conquered Poland in 21 days; Norway, to all intents and purposes, in 2; Holland in 5; Belgium in 15; France in 35; Yugoslavia in 12 and Greece in 18.

Such consistent rapidity of conquest was utterly novel—what was behind it? The answer is quality of striking power. Though in each campaign, except the Norwegian, the Germans deployed a large number of infantry divisions, the decisive fighting fell almost entirely upon the shoulders of the closely integrated armored and air forces.

It is improbable that the German tank and aircraft personnel employed to conquer France exceeded 200,000 men. Never had modern campaigns been so bloodless, so rapid and tactically so decisive.

When these campaigns are compared to those fought 25 to 27 years earlier, with ever-advancing science, what is likely to happen 25 to 27 years hence becomes clear. Yet the 2,000-year-old saying of Lucretius still rings true: “For whatever

animals now feed on the breath of life, either craft or courage or speed

has preserved their kind from the beginning of their being”—and today speed is the senior partner.

In order to speed action the command of all three forces must be unified, and there must be but one commander-in-chief. A combined staff, as seen in the recent war, is not good enough; for what is needed is not an amalgam of sailors, soldiers and airmen, but a compound of them—a truly integrated staff. Such a staff will lead to a thinning of the present partitions between sea power, land power and air power, until the three fuse together into war power; a single instead of a triple fighting force.

Thus we come to our immediate and most vital need. Whether I be right or whether I be wrong, extraordinary changes in fighting power face us. What they will actually beis as yet largely unknown. Therefore, unless we create a body of war scientists whose sole task is to penetrate the future and discover what these changes are likely to demand, and then plan, dare and do, in the next war we may collapse into ruin, not in 35 days, like France, but in 35 minutes.