Department of National Security and Strategy


The Department of National Security and Strategy develops and conducts instruction focused on national security and national military strategy. It draws on the academic disciplines of international relations, politics, economics, regional studies, history, and national and international security studies to prepare students for senior positions in the national security establishment.

  Theory of War and Strategy:

Theory of War and Strategy prepares students for service at the strategic level through the study of war and strategy. The course emphasizes the theoretical approach to war and strategy and thus sets the intellectual framework for all subsequent courses. Theory of War and Strategy has three blocks of instruction:

(1) The first block, "Strategy, War and the International System," gives the students some key concepts for analyzing conflict and cooperation among nations. It introduces the concept of strategy, which will be the major focus for the remainder of the War College year. Next, it considers the international environment, beginning with the actors. We look at the concepts of nations, states, and sovereignty. We also briefly examine the major non-state actors that increasingly impinge on the heretofore almost exclusive right of states to employ force in the international arena. The next topic is power, which is the coin of the realm in international relations, especially for the national security professional. We look at ways to think about international relations-concepts the strategic leader can use to make sense of the environment in which he or she operates. These concepts include contending schools of thought about international relations as well as recent thinking regarding the international system and strategic environment. The block concludes with an examination of military power and its use in the international system and its relationship to strategy. At the end of the block, the student will have a basic familiarity with strategic theory and understand major concepts derived from international relations theory.

(2) The second block, "The Strategist's Toolkit," builds on the concepts introduced in the first block to initiate our in-depth study of strategy and its relationship to war. We continue the examination of strategy by moving from its context and underlying theoretical concepts to the strategic considerations that strategic leaders and strategists must weigh in formulating and executing grand strategy and military strategy. This course contends that one distinguishing aspect of both strategy and war is that external considerations always influence their conduct in some fashion-either as a constraint or as a facilitator. Perhaps the most obvious and prevalent of such considerations are the rules of war found in Just War theory and international law. Equally significant, the very nature of war affects it conduct. According to Carl von Clausewitz, because war is a political act, there will always be domestic political considerations as to what is possible, desirable and justifiable. Likewise, because war has traditionally been an international act, the international community judges the legitimacy of each occurrence-imposing as it does special considerations on combatants and strategists, including the belief that multilateralism is the preferred strategy of democracies. The final lesson of the block examines the theoretical issues of war termination. At the conclusion of the block, the student will better understand some of the factors that policymakers and strategists must consider in harmonizing national interests, political and military objectives, and conflict termination.

(3) The third block, "Theories of War and Strategy," moves from the general examination of strategy and war to address the more specific question of how to conduct war. As we study specific strategists and theorists, the student will be asked to analyze how that strategist/theorist thinks about war (What is war?), why he thinks wars should be fought (What is the object of war?), how he believes a state should fight a war, and how he thinks wars are won. We begin by considering what two major theorists, Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military officer, and Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher of war, have to say about the nature and characteristics of war. We will look successively at their theories of war, their understanding of ends, ways and means, and the relationship between war and policy. In both cases, we will examine how these theorists apply to modern warfare. From this beginning, we proceed to consideration of specific types of warfare. First of these are what might be called domain theories of warfare. J.C. Wylie, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Julian Corbett and others provide thoughts on land power, sea power and airpower, their employment, utility, and decisiveness. We also have a lesson on the general subject of theories of nuclear warfare as well as theories of limited war, insurgency, counterinsurgency, terrorism and counterterrorism. Warfare in space and cyberspace wrap up the theoretical portion of the block. We complete the block with an assessment of future warfare and its implications for the formulation and execution of strategy. As we examine theories and theorists, we will continue to use our model of the strategic thought process-the relating of ends, ways, and means-as a framework to guide strategic thinking. We will use historical examples to study various aspects of war and strategy. The ability to "think in time" and to analyze and assess the strategy of past conflicts is essential to progress as a strategic thinker. We are studying strategy at the national and theater levels and should strive to think expansively, creatively, and critically in dealing with the broad strategic problems. In the words of British Field Marshall William Slim - as a strategist, you must know how to THINK BIG!

  National Security Policy Program:


The National Security Policy Program (NSPP) is a USAWC Special Program designed to provide 15 competitively selected resident students with a detailed understanding of the contemporary United States Government national security policymaking environment. Students will conduct a deep dive into national security policy formulation to enhance their understanding of the actual crafting of national security policy and its implementation. At the conclusion, program graduates will be prepared for success in critical policy planner positions in the Washington-based interagency, at any of the combatant command staffs, and in American billets in international organizations such as NATO and the United Nations.

What is NSPP?

The NSPP is designed to provide selected U.S. military officers and civilian students with an opportunity to immerse themselves in those studies necessary to prepare them for the conduct of policymaking, planning, and implementation at the national and theater levels.

Curriculum Details and Experiential Learning Opportunities

NSPP will be taught during the electives period and will be centered on week-long visits to the Washington DC-based interagency, seminar sessions with visiting subject matter experts, a week-long fellowship with a department or agency in Washington, DC focused on implementation of national security policy, and a table top exercise demonstrating policymaking at the National Security Council.

National Security Policy Program Student Selection Opportunities

The class will consist of no more than 15 students from both the U.S. military (joint, active, guard, reserve) and U.S. civilian student population. All students will be required to possess, at a minimum, a TS-SCI security clearance. NSPP student selection will be made based upon a review of the student's application, personal interview, and faculty recommendations.

Washington DC: Interagency:

Five-day interagency wide trips spending whole or half days with designated departments and agencies (e.g. NSC Staff, DOS, DHS, OSD Policy, Joint Staff J5, National Counterterrorism Center, (NCTC), DIA, CIA) and visits with professional staff on the HASC.

Upon Graduation

All those completing NSPP will be eligible for policymaking/planning positions with the Joint Staff, OSD, DOS, the NSC staff and any of the service and combatant command staffs and enjoy the professional networking opportunities associated with NSPP. In exchange for selection and participation in the program, NSPP participants agree to serve in a national security policymaking/implementation assignment within 3 years of completing the program.

  National Security Policy and Strategy:

National Security Policy and Strategy (NSPS) is a U.S. Army War College core course focused on national security policy and national security and national military strategies. The course also examines all the elements that underpin policy and strategy. These include: strategic culture and national values, the domestic and international security environments; the United States national security decision-making system; the elements of national power; national strategy documents and contemporary non-conventional and conventional national security threats.

NSPS has two major blocks of instruction:

Block I: The Domestic and International Security Environments and the National Security System.

This Block examines the domestic and international security environments within which policy and strategy decisions are made and the U.S. system for making these decisions. It discusses the concept of grand strategy and examines its relationship to national policy and introduces the USAWC Strategy Formulation Model, which is designed to enhance student understanding of the policy and strategy formulation process. Further, we will examine how and why strategic culture and national values - both ours and that of other international actors - affects policy and strategy formulation. We will also examine the domestic environment and discuss national purpose, interests and power and the interaction of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of government in the American political system that strongly influences the character of national security decision-making. We will also discuss the role of the broader national security community - the media, interest groups and public opinion - in shaping national security policy and strategy. We will conclude our examination of the domestic environment with a discussion of the challenges of Homeland Security in a post -September 11th world. Next, we will examine the international environment and systems that present both challenges and opportunities affecting U.S. national interests. Under this heading, we will examine the international economic system and globalization and also evaluate the roles and impact of international organizations, non-state actors and non-governmental organizations in U.S. national security policy and decision-making. We will then progress through three lessons on the U.S. National Security System. These lessons will include an examination of the strategy formulation process where we will build on the theory of strategy introduced in Theory of War and Strategy as well as the concepts of strategic culture and national values and national purpose, interests and power discussed in earlier lessons. We will also discuss the intensity of U.S. interests (vital, important or peripheral) and identify threats and opportunities affecting the pursuit of national interests, as critical steps in the process of policy and strategy development. We will also examine the interagency process by which various national security actors interact to assess security issues, evaluate alternative courses of action and formulate national security policies and strategies as well as the proper role of the uniformed military in that process. Finally, we will examine the elements of national power (using the DIME construct) as we strive to understand how these elements may be employed to secure national objectives, as well as the many factors that should be considered when deciding how and when to employ them. To facilitate synthesis and validate comprehension of Block I concepts, we conclude with the NSC-68 Case Study which examines Cold War strategy formulation.

Block II, Contemporary Security Issues and National Security Policies and Strategies.

This Block focuses on current and future non-conventional and conventional security issues and corresponding U.S. national security policies and strategies. The block begins with an examination of the current National Security Strategy and the major defense-related national strategy documents: the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy. The remainder of the block addresses significant threats to U.S. and international peace and security: (1) religious violence, terrorism, and counter-terrorism and; (2) internal violence, civil war, state failure and genocide; (3) transnational threats; (4) state challenges and (5) proliferation and counter proliferation of nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological weapons and conventional weapons. In examining each of these issues we will critically evaluate current U.S. policies/strategies for addressing these threats. During Block II, we will take a four-day Strategic Leader's Field Trip to New York City. The purpose of this trip is to expose Army War College students to large and complex public and private enterprises with the objective of examining local, national, regional and international issues within the dynamic urban environment of America's premier city - and arguably - the world's financial and information capital. It is designed to provide students the unique opportunity to explore and analyze the nexus between public policy, private enterprise, local, regional and state government and national security. Finally, the trip includes one day of small group visits to a diverse group of corporate and government offices and public and private agencies, presentations by UN Officials, and visits to the UN Missions of our International Fellows as well as presentations and question and answer periods with city leaders in an Urban Affairs Forum. Block II will conclude with a one and a half day Strategy Formulation Exercise in which students will collectively analyze a national security issue and provide a policy recommendation. The background and scenario for this exercise will be distributed separately. (6 credit hours)

  Military History Program:

The study of history in general, and military history in particular, is intended to provide depth, breadth of understanding, and inculcate a sense of historical mindedness.

The underlying intellectual premise for the curriculum is that there are four integral, important, but individually cast independent courses of study. These are derived from Elihu Root's vision of the three great problems confronting military leaders, command, strategy and operations. They are represented by the academic departments, Command and Leadership and Management; National Security and Strategy; and Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations. History is the fourth discipline.

The underlying assumption is that it matters that leaders who wrestle with Root's three great problems do so in the broadest possible context. We believe that the study of history is a discipline important to the profession of arms. It is the capstone piece. Officers now expect to get the historical dimension in their studies, feel a need to have it, and would be disappointed if they did not get it.

History is so pervasive that we find it used throughout the curriculum. Fundamentally, history is embedded in, rather than added on, to the curriculum. Ideally, every member of the faculty should be able to provide the historical perspective, but from a practical standpoint not all are sufficiently grounded in history or feel competent to ensure that history receives the visibility and attention it deserves in the curriculum. Consequently, the historian has been added to the faculty team.

Some possess advanced degrees in history, others have taught history at the undergraduate or graduate level, and still others have military backgrounds that have afforded them the opportunities to pursue their interest in history. Historians teach some lessons within the core curriculum and some lead the Gettysburg staff ride. Many offer history related advanced courses. All are available to sponsor strategic research writing topics.


  Why Read Military History?:

Military History, accompanied by sound criticism, is indeed the true school of war." Jomini

Most soldiers who have read much history probably would agree with General Douglas MacArthur when he asserted, over fifty years ago:

"More than most professions, the military is forced to depend upon intelligent interpretation of the past for signposts charting the future.... The facts derived from historical analysis he [the soldier] applies to conditions of the present and the proximate future, thus developing a synthesis of appropriate method, organization, and doctrine.... These principles know no limitation of time. Consequently the Army extends its analytical interest to the dust-buried accounts of wars long past as well as to those still reeking with the scent of battle. It is the object of the search that dictates the field for its pursuit."

General John R. Galvin while Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, contributed the following essay on why officers should want to read history.

Good military leaders understand history. Leadership without a sense of history can only be instinctive, and thereby limited in its scope. The study of history contributes to our knowledge of the human experience so that in the end we are better able to render judgment, and what is leadership but the ability to judge what must be done and how to accomplish it?

The late World War II historian and combat journalist Cornelius Ryan told of watching a group of green American lieutenant replacements in Italy moving up to take over platoons that were already in heavy action. A fellow war correspondent at his side commented simply, "I hope they are well read." Ryan found much wisdom in that observation. How else could men so young and new to war hope to lead others? They had little chance to train; they had no experience of war; they were too young to know much of life firsthand. Those with an early acquired sense of history, with a knowledge of human endeavor, would be relatively well off indeed at that moment.

As military leaders we are charged to prepare our soldiers and ourselves for war. We go about this in a variety of ways, not least of which is to bring about some understanding of the nature of war. With this in mind we can look back over the Army's recent training programs and activities with some satisfaction that we have been able to emphasize history as a part of them. Our military schools are encouraging more and more historical readings and analyses. Units are visiting battlefields, making terrain walks, taking staff rides, and investigating the decisions and circumstances of the men who fought there. We are requiring our junior officers, and encouraging our more senior ones, to select from recommended lists, to read, and to reflect. More and more of our people are writing, and more and more of their works are being published.

Hopefully, we are seeing the development of a trend here. Perhaps we can take some pride in the indicators that history is a more vital part of training than it has been in the recent past. But there are still those who would question whether we really need all this effort. After all, the military is a busy place, the days are long, the work demanding, and the pace exhausting. Can we really devote much time and effort to reading history?

Clausewitz answered that question some time ago. In his effort to understand the nature of war, he praised the use of historical example. He approached the use of history from four perspectives: as an explanation, as a demonstration of the application of an idea, as a support for a statement, and as a detailed presentation from which one might deduce doctrine. Each use requires greater degrees of rigor. The first and simplest demand is for accuracy. If we read widely enough, we can develop an ability to discern and a base for comparison that will develop a feel for accuracy. The second and far greater demand is to project ourselves into the moment in time under study, not to force fit it into our own world. Only by understanding the conditions of the era and the perspectives of the people under study can we understand the rationale of their decisions-and make judgments for our own time. The third and fourth are matters of logic and discipline.

In sum, the reading of history is a way to gain experience. The reader swelters with Lawrence in the burning Arabian sands and learns the brutality and fluidity of guerrilla warfare. He gasps at Chandler's description of the genius Napoleon arising at midnight to dictate his orders through the night to set the stage for the battle. He hammers at Lee's Army of Northern Virginia with Grant's memoirs; overcomes the terror of the Burmese jungle and turns defeat into victory with Slim; unravels the conceptual threads of battle and maneuver with Delbruck; relates war to nuclear weapons to politics with Brodie; freezes in Korea with Marshall at the river and the gauntlet; and cries out with MacDonald at the inanities of the Kall trail before Schmidt.

In the end he emerges as a veteran-more inured to the shock of the unexpected, better prepared to weigh the consequences of critical decisions, and imbued with the human drama breaking upon leaders and led in their march to destiny. He knows the fine line between foolhardiness and courage, between abstinence and conviction, between disgrace and glory. He has had a conversation with the soldiers of all time and has shared their lives and thoughts. His judgment is sharpened, and he is better prepared to lead.

As we read history we enter into a conversation together, where a reference to Douhet, an analogy that cites Verdun, or an illustration that notes Trafalgar evokes a much greater understanding of what is meant. Professional exchanges are richer, transmission of ideas more efficient, and misunderstandings fewer. A common historical understanding carries a wealth of meaning for us as leaders.

We have done much in our Army recently to heighten our professionalism and our readiness to defend our nation. Not least among our accomplishments has been a restatement of the importance of history in general and military history in particular. No one should become so busy with the course of events that he does not pause and consider how others have dealt with similar circumstances in their own time and place. To immerse oneself in history is to spend time well. *

* Originally printed in Center for Military History Journal, September 1989.


  Military History in the Core Curriculum:

"Knowledge of the great principles of warfare can be acquired only through the study of military history... the battles of the Great Captains and through experience. There are no precise determinate rules. Everything depends on ... a thousand circumstances which are never twice the same."

The core curriculum consists of six courses (Strategic Thinking, Theory of War and Strategy, Strategic Leadership, National Security Policy and Strategy, Theater Strategy and Campaigning, and Joint Processes and Landpower Development) and the Strategic Decision Making Exercise.  Classroom instruction centers on U.S. experience with excursions into broader fields.  Major topics include the human dimension of combat, the history of strategic thought, problems of coalition warfare, and case studies in operations and campaign planning.

Factual materials support the lessons. Students read from old and new classics, to include Clausewitz' On War, and Russell Weigley's American Way of War among others. Special texts tailored for War College use in case studies complement these insightful works. Moreover, several formal lectures focus on historical studies. The heart of the core program, though, is the faculty-led seminar discussion.

Each of the 20 seminars has its own experienced history instructor to lead discussions. Instructors lead the discussions, structure student readings, and offer advice to those with special interests in historical topics. Although not an all-inclusive showing of the utilization of military history, the following core courses draw appreciably from it and are indicative of its broad application: "Military History [is] the most effective means of teaching war during peace."
von Moltke



Electives are offered during the second half of the academic year. Students select courses that best fit their personal interests and career needs. In addition to a Regional Study (Europe, Americas, Africa, Middle East, Asia-Pacific or Russia and Eurasia) students enroll in four elective courses. A detailed Advanced Course Directive, distributed in September, helps students and their faculty advisors develop individual programs. The Directive includes a complete listing of the courses to be offered in AY09, among which are several that draw appreciably upon Military History. Such courses develop enduring lessons from events far and near in time. Many develop a historical dimension as well. The following list of courses taught in recent years illustrates the variety of history related courses offered during the elective period.

  • Leadership and the Indian Wars
  • War in the Ancient World
  • The Nature of Grand Strategy
  • Classical Military Strategy: Thuycydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
  • The European Campaign: From Breakout Through the Ardennes
  • Ethics and Warfare
  • Readings on Strategic Leadership
  • Military Strategy in Theory and Practice: From Napoleon to the Present
  • A Ride with Some Great Captains: Command Styles in History
  • Case Studies in Center of Gravity Determination
  • Command and Strategy in the U.S. Civil War
  • Campaign Analysis Course
  • Sea Power: Naval Strategy and Operations
  • The U.S. Army Comes of Age: The U.S. Army from 1870 to 1917
  • Military Strategists: Past and Present
  • Just War Analysis of U.S. Military Intervention
  • War in the Ancient World
  • Air Power and Modern Warfare
  • American National Security Policy, From the Spanish American War to the Vietnam War


  The Military History Institute:

The U.S. Army Military History Institute, located in the new Army Heritage Complex, located on Army Heritage Drive, is a national asset and a treasure of America's military heritage. The mission of the Institute is to acquire, preserve and make available material on the history of the Army. The holdings include 285,000 books, 1,000,000 photographs, and archival material exceeding 6.5 million items. In addition, the Institute has a superb collection of military publications, ranging from General Orders to Technical Manuals.

A. Research Help

The Staff of MHI is another asset. Their knowledge of the holdings, familiarity with research questions, and a solid grounding in their subject areas provide researchers assistance of the highest order. The historians, archivists, curators and librarians deal with nearly 30,000 research inquiries each year and have achieved a national reputation for service. Army War College students pursuing historical topics should begin at the Research and Reference Desk. Research assistance, reference bibliographies on hundreds of topics and other finding aids are available there.

B. SRP's and Advanced Courses

Every subject has an historical dimension. Students can find a great deal of background, obtain insights into a given issue, or unfold explanations by delving into the history of that subject. The Strategic Research Program topic can be purely historical, or a contemporary topic can be developed through its historical background. In either case the holdings of MHI and the assistance of its professional staff can help to shape the project. Advanced courses in military history can come alive through the vast holdings of MHI. Whether it is the letter of a combat soldier to his family or the operations orders prepared for a great battle, material in the MHI collection provide the personality, the context, and the extra dimension to historical research. Students may delve into the papers of hundreds of America's most renowned soldiers, to include Bradley, Ridgway, Westmoreland, Abrams, DePuy, Starry, Wickham, Thurman, and Vuono.

C. Oral History

The Army War College and the U.S. Military History Institute sponsor an Oral History option in the Communicative Arts Program, which gives participants a chance to enrich their professional development by interviewing a senior Army leader to create transcripts of permanent historical value for the Archives of the Military History Institute. Oral history projects are either biographical or focused on special topics. More information about this year's oral history program is available by contacting Professor T.L. Hendrix at MHI.

Oral History Program.

D. MHI On Line

The Military History Institute is located in the Army Heritage and Education Center on Army Heritage Drive. The staff is available without appointments for walk-in patrons from 0800 to 1600, Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays.

All email can be addressed to USAHEC
Visit the Military History Institute web site for more information.
"Through a careful and objective study of the significant campaigns of the world, a professional officer acquires a knowledge of military experience which he himself could not otherwise accumulate. The facts of a given battle may no longer serve any practical purpose except as a framework on which to base an analysis; but when the serious student of the military art delves into the reasons for the failure of a specific attack -- or soberly analyzes the professional qualities of one of the responsible commanders of the past - he is, by this very activity, preparing for the day in which he, under different circumstances, may be facing decisions of vital consequence."

General Dwight D. Eisenhower


  The Strategic Research Program:

"Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to learn by other people's experience."

This lofty assertion came from Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian Prime Minister whose imaginative foreign and domestic policies paved the way for the military victories that led directly to the formation of a united Germany well over a century ago. By "other people's experience" Bismarck of course meant history, and his sentiments have found more graceful expression in statements by recent army leaders. "History sharpens the vision of the skilled commander," General Carl E. Vuono declared several years ago. By placing today's decisions in perspective against those of past commanders, history "infuses with living immediacy the matrix of tactics, logistics, command, terrain, and technology." And according to General Gordon R. Sullivan, former Army Chief of Staff, "History helps me to discriminate the unique from the commonplace, and know that methods of the past, suitably altered, can work in many situations today. My way is lighted for me by the efforts and accomplishments of those who have gone before."

In past years a number of students pursued some topic that was historical in nature for their Military Studies Program writing project. A large number of others also used history, for there is hardly an issue facing the army today where history cannot provide imaginative insights to the student wrestling with his problem. With the inauguration of the SRP writing program there will be students with an interest in historical topics or who will want to use history in support of their projects. The following list Research Papers submitted in past academic years may help you define your interests, broaden your approach, and in the words of General Galvin, "contribute to our knowledge of the human experience."

Reform in the Face of Catastrophic Defeat: Red Army War Experience 1941-1945.

An Historical Study: Gypsies of the Battlefield, The CIDG Program in Vietnam and its Evolutionary Impact

Mobilization and Training Centers: The Critical Link in the Strategic Policy of Global Deployment

Logistics During Grant's Vicksburg Campaign

The First Army Group Commander: Sherman and the Atlanta Campaign

Clausewitz Holy Trinity and Failure in Three Wars: Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Lebanon

Examining the "Minute Man" Paradigm: A Look to the Future

Task Force Smith-A Study of Force Readiness

General John Buford-An Unsung Hero

Operational Intelligence in the Forgotten Theater: ULTRA, MAGIC, and the CBI

Coalition Warfare under John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough

Desert Storm Topical Oral History Project

Economic Aid to the Soviets: The Continued War Against Communism Napoleon's Jena Campaign: A Critical Analysis

Clausewitz for Modern Readers

Grant at Vicksburg: A Critical Analysis

The Indian Wars and National Military Strategy

The Siberian Expedition

Erich Ludendorff-Strategic Leader

General A.P. Hill, CSA, Leader-Warrior: A Study of Military Leadership

The Waterloo Campaign: The Tenets of Campaigning

Historical Account of the 4th Battalion, 37th Armor in Operation Desert Storm

The Philippine Scouts: A Historical Precedence for Americanized Mercenaries

Impact of the Monroe Doctrine on National Security Toward Latin America

An American Titan: General of the Army George Marshall as a Strategic Leader

George Crook and the Indian Wars: Their Contribution to the Evolution of American Military Thought

Clausewitz and Torgau: Link-up on the Elbe

British Logistics in the Falkland Island War: Implications for Sustaining Ground Combat in Remote Areas

Inactivation: Lessons for Building Down Frederick the Great: Quick study of a Strategist North African Campaign and Case Study

MG Leonard Wood, Soldier-Diplomat: A Study in Political and Military Leadership

Antietam Staff Ride

North Africa Campaign and Case Study

Operation "Husky," The Invasion of Sicily: A Case Study

New Force Structure of the Contingency Corps

Separate Brigades as Round Outs for Partial Divisions

Characteristics of Chemical Wars in the Past

The 106th Infantry Division: Mobilization Lessons to Prevent Unit Disintegration

The following list of topics is offered for students looking for Strategic Research Project writing topics. The list is by no means inclusive, but intended to demonstrate the wide range of issues which can be supported by available historical research material and faculty. If you are interested in the topic or a related topic, consult your seminar historian, or contact the office of the Director, Military History for assistance.

Air Power: Topics on air power and the U.S. Air Force. The Air war and its role in Vietnam and recent conflicts.

Alliances: Are personalities important in the fashioning and maintenance of alliances? Study one or more of the U.S. alliances formed to wage war or conduct police actions with the objective of discerning the impact of the human dimensions of the members of the alliance.

American Civil War: Study the 1862 reorganization of the Union Army. Attempt to determine how George McClellan was able to combine the Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac on the march following the Union defeat at 2nd Manassas and prior to the battle at Antietam, September 1862.

American Indian War: The investigation of the clash of cultures and the political/economic implications of the American Indian wars may illuminate some of the current and future challenges of U.S. involvement in ethnic conflicts.

Coalition Operations: Possible topics include a search for principles, necessary traits in commanders thereof, or characteristics necessary for success or which have led to failure in such operations. Campaigns for study include WWII, Pacific and European theaters, and Lebanon, 1982.

Command and Signal: Using communications and deep intelligence as themes, study the employment of signal operations during the Antietam Campaign.

Courage: Resignation in protest or over conflict of principles is often mentioned as the correct decision for senior leaders when in disagreement with political leaders. General Ridgway resigned in protest to downsizing plans by the Eisenhower administration. What was the impact of his action on the Army and his political masters? Joint Operations: Study early U.S. efforts at conducting joint operations with a study of Civil War operations against Vicksburg during Grant's 1863 Campaign.

Leadership: Military history and biography can teach much about leadership. Select an event in history or a leader who succeeded or failed and come to your own conclusions about leadership and the qualities of successful leaders.

Military Reformers: Two great military thinkers of the 19th century, Emory Upton and John A. Logan, had diametrically opposing views on how the readiness of the U.S. Army could be improved. This topic also lends itself to a study of the merits of regular soldiers versus reserve components.

Military Technology: Technology has altered the face of battle with each new invention. Conduct a study of selected items of military technology addressing its use, impact, timeliness, and impact on warfare. The Military History Institute has considerable material available to support this kind of research.

Military Technological Revolution: The Military Technological Revolution promises to reshape warfare over the next twenty years. What are the emerging technologies with the greatest military potential and how will they influence the Art of War?

Military Theorists: Insights on the art of war from the period of the American revolution influenced 17th and 18th Century theorists, and vice versa.

Mobilization: Are there important lessons yet to be learned from the mobilization planning conducted at the Army War College in the interwar years, 1920-1940?

Operational Art: European theater of war operations in WWII afford opportunities to study the evolution and practice of the operational art. Possible topics include a study of the battle in the Huertgen Forest and the American response to the 1944 German offensive in the Ardennes. Peace Support Operations: Any study on the Congo Operation would be valuable. The Congo resembles some of the problems now in Somalia and former Yugoslavia.

Readiness: Speculations on readiness. Consider how the Unit Status Reports (USRs) for the Army of the Potomac, or the Army of Northern Virginia might have read on 13 September 1862.

Roles and Missions: Change is never easy, especially when change means reshaping something near and dear to the institution. Study the great cavalry debate, 1865-1920, and learn how the cavalry branch was reshaped by reality.

Round Out Units: Will a greater reliance on round out units result from downsizing the force? Will reserve officers be at risk of replacement by active duty officers in future call-ups? A well-written study on these and related topics has the potential for contributing to the meaningful discussions among today's policy makers on these issues.

Special Operations/Unconventional/Guerrilla War: WWII documents on this topic are now available for anyone interested. Additionally, there is documentation for more recent missions. Dr. Partin, the command historian of USSOCOM, has offered to provide all of his files and interviews to any researcher at AWC.

Strategy: Undertake a study of Robert E. Lee's 1862 Maryland Campaign. Match Lee's military objectives with the strategic objectives of the Confederacy.

U.N. Operations: Any historical appraisal on previous U.N. operations or peace enforcement such as Cyprus.

War Plans: Conduct a study to determine the extent and quality of war planning conducted at the Army War College pre-WWI or during the period between the first and second world wars.

War and the Militia: Research actions taken by the Army in 1941-42 to provide wartime senior leadership for the activated National Guard Divisions. In the early days of WWII, large numbers of senior National Guard officers were replaced by younger Regular officers which had an impact on the Army during the war years and continues to this day.


  Voluntary Programs:

The Joint Warfighting Advanced Studies Program, (JWASP), has been offered at the USAWC in one form or another since 1986. The course was developed initially at the request of War College students who wanted to spend more time reading and studying the art of war, campaigning and the operational art.

In addition to lectures by distinguished senior officers, campaign planning exercises, and field trips, historical case study analysis supports learning in WSP. Students are afforded the opportunity to prepare and present their analysis of both successful and unsuccessful military campaigns and operations conducted by U.S., allied, and enemy armies. Case studies include campaigns from World War II, European and Pacific Theaters, Indochina, Arab-Israeli War, and recent U.S. military operations in Southwest Asia.

JWASP is a voluntary program which counts as three elective courses. Students who sign up for the course are in effect concentrating their elective studies on the theoretical and practical uses of the military element of power to achieve national objectives.

Although not a history course per se, history provides the context in which to study the application of the operational art. A quote from General Douglas MacArthur's 1935 report to the Secretary of the Army best describes how JWASP uses historical case study analysis to accomplish its learning objectives. "The military student does not seek to learn from history the minutiae of method and technique. In every age these are decisively influenced by the characteristics of weapons currently available and by the means at hand for maneuvering, supplying, and controlling combat forces. But research does bring to light those fundamental principles... which have been productive of success. The principles know no limitations of time..."

Students of the operational art interested in a concentrated study of joint and combined operations will find what they are looking for in JWASP.

The Staff Ride

The The Staff Ride in its present form was first proposed by COL Arthur Wagner about the turn of the century, and initially executed in 1906 by MAJ Eben Swift, who led 12 Leavenworth students on a two-week ride from Chattanooga to Atlanta. For the next four years the Staff Ride was an integral part of the Leavenworth curriculum as students returned to study Sherman's campaigns or visited battlefields in the east-all of it on horseback. One of the Leavenworth instructors on these early Staff Rides was CAPT M.F. Steele, author of a well-known text on American Campaigns. "We rode about 30 miles yesterday," Steele wrote his wife near Dalton, Georgia, "stopping at various historical positions, finding the old earthworks and battle positions ... all of which were notable objects in the campaign. ... All morning we have had discussion of the features of the campaign. ... After getting some lunch and taking a nap I had to study my 'spiel.' I have to discuss [GEN Joseph E.] Johnston's withdrawal from this position ... this evening. We have a big tent, which these devils call the "hot air tent," in which every evening we have our discussion, a different man having the main discussion each evening."

This was the technique. Student officers and instructors discussed the application of principles to the battle and to the terrain, for with the recent introduction of the applicatory method of instruction at Leavenworth it was now believed that principles were best learned by their application rather than through abstract study. The study of military theory alone was no longer considered sufficient. As MAJ Eben Swift, senior instructor in military art and assistant commandant at the Staff School at Leavenworth from 1904 to 1906, put it, "full success" of the applicatory system "depends upon the number of examples considered and upon the variety and manner in which principles are applied." Beginning with Map Problems, the class progressed to the Kriegspeil, Tactical Rides, Maneuvers, and finally-as the capstone course-to the Historical Staff Ride.

The time was ripe. Congress had already passed legislation in the 1890's creating National Military Parks at Chickamauga, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg to commemorate the deeds of the volunteer armies, North and South, but also "for historical and professional study" by army officers. And, the Army had been at work since the end of Lincoln's first administration collecting and editing the correspondence, orders, reports and returns of the Union and Confederate armies. The first volume of The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies was published in 1880 and the last of the 128 volumes appeared twenty years later. By the end of the century, therefore, the Army had the tools it needed to assimilate the Civil War experience in the professional education of officers.

When Major Swift was assigned to the Army War College in 1906, he introduced the Historical Staff Ride. Initially students and instructors made day-long trips from Washington to nearby battlefields to analyze tactical problems and work them out on the ground, but beginning in 1909 the entire staff devoted the last month of the course to a staff ride over the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Grant's 1864 campaign, and the Shenandoah Valley. When Antietam and Gettysburg were added in 1912, the Staff Ride involved some 600 miles-on horseback!

Students were supported most of the way by a cavalry detachment from Fort Myers who took care of the horses, served as orderlies, and manned the wagon train, and at night they camped on private property. Each officer previously had been assigned to research some phase of a particular battle or campaign "for careful analytical study," and after his presentation the class would consider the action and how it might be fought under modern conditions. The emphasis was on organization, scouting and reconnaissance, the exercise of command, marches, deployments, the attack and defense, supply, and losses.

The following entry from the Diary of the 1911 Staff Ride illustrates the technique:

15 May. Camp broken at Chancellorsville at 0600; officers left at 0655 and rode to ..... Fairview, on a line of old gun pits, where Captain John H. Wholley, 2d Infantry, discussed the Confederate attack on Hooker at Chancellorsville, which Major Frederick P. Reynolds, Medical Department, reviewed the operations of the medical department in the... campaign and explained how the Medical Department of the present day would perform its functions in a battle under modern conditions. Party then proceeded to campaign on Wilderness Run.

These early tours were combined history and staff rides, for on three occasions during the four weeks, as the class moved from one battlefield to the next, an officer from the General Staff would arrive with a problem to be worked en route. Presenting a general situation, he would give the necessary, military situation, identify the LOG base, send out recon parties, and then ask the different groups to function as the staff of the BLUE commander and present his estimate of the situation, orders and instructions. Following the critique of the various solutions the General Staff Officer returned to Washington while the class moved on to the next battlefield.

Staff Rides were an important part of the curriculum. John A. Lejuene recalled especially the discussions that made the experience his student year (1910) "of immense value to us professionally," while MG Hunter Liggett, then president of the War College, asserted that "no officer who took these staff rides failed to appreciate their immense advantages.... The students needed the trip to send them back to their troops physically and mentally fit after the long winter grind in school."

The 1913 Ride was the last of these combined history and staff rides. A crisis on the Mexican Border in 1914 caused the Staff Ride to be canceled as students were sent back to their regiments, and crises caused by the sinking of the Lusitania, Poncho Villa's raid into New Mexico in 1916, and the American entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, caused the War College to dismiss its students before it was time for the capstone course. Probably the only Historical Staff Ride over Civil War battlefields conducted by the Army during the war was a detailed tour of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign conducted by instructors of the Electrical Engineering Course at Fort Monroe in 1918. Half a century later GEN Lyman L. Lemnitzer remembered that the experience had been "one of the most satisfying things at Fort Monroe."

The Staff Ride returned to the War College soon after the war. In the spring of 1920 the War College class once again set off this time in motor cars to Fredericksburg and the battlefields around Richmond. It was no coincidence that trenches and breastworks had dominated these particular battles, and in a sense the experience combined features of both the old Staff Ride and the Historical Staff Ride. At Cold Harbor, for example, students used the facts of history to determine their Estimate of the Situation, Plan of Action, and Decision-a thought process already familiar to those who had commanded or served on staffs in France. COL Andrew Throne, the British assistant military attaché who had been invited to participate, described the experience as "the most interesting days I have spent in this country." The next year 107 officers and 28 Cadillac touring cars (these were the days before Jack Anderson!) returned to the Virginia battlefields, but there were not sufficient funds to include Antietam and Gettysburg.

In 1922, American units stationed in Germany had conducted Staff Rides over the recent battlefields and the 1870 battlefields around Metz, and GEN John J. Pershing suggested that War College students participate with French counterparts in a staff ride to the Meuse-Argonne region. A feasibility study by COL Oliver L. Spaulding, director of the Historical Section of the War Plans Division (which had recently been assigned to the War College), reported the proposal "practical but undesirable." Spaulding believed there would be greater benefit from studying an American campaign "here on its own ground."

There seems, however, to have been little interest in staff rides anywhere for the next decade. Indeed, to judge from the index of the course at the War College, there was very little interest in the Civil War. Trips to the vicinity of Gettysburg were essentially Field Exercises based upon the "Gettysburg-Antietam General Map," on ground selected because it was "excellent terrain," available, and for its "historic interest." The only connection between the Field Exercise and the old Historical Staff Ride was the occasional lecture on the battle of Gettysburg delivered on the site.

In 1927 the Historical Section, Army War College which was essentially a research organization and not a teaching department was directed to make a study of battlefields in the United States, and in 1934 the Secretary of Interior requested assistance from the Historical Section in preparing maps and documentation for the new National Military Parks at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Wilderness/Spotsylvania. The maps prepared by this section aided the Park Service in marking the old battle lines and perhaps stimulated renewed interest in staff rides, for in March 1935, MG Malin Craig a graduate of both the 1910 and 1920 courses, revived the Historical Staff Ride.

The technique was essentially that used when Craig was a student. Each student would be assigned responsibility for some phase of a battle or campaign. As GEN Maxwell Taylor recalled, the student "would be charged with really becoming an expert on a given battle." He was urged to read the "orders actually issued, messages sent and returns made" in the Official Records and cautioned that the commanders' Reports, "made after the event and frequently from memory," needed to be supported by other evidence. Students worked in pairs, one reconstructing events from the Confederate perspective and the other focusing upon the Union commander.

When the research was completed each went out to reconnoiter the ground. Here, too, the Guidance was specific.

Use the first stop on arrival at the battlefields to thoroughly orient yourself on the terrain features as related to the actual forces employed. Trace on the ground the routes, zones of action and defensive positions of the units you will talk about. Then select the points where you will present and prepare a detailed time schedule showing routes the class will take, time of travel, of embussing and debussing and of actual presentation.

In contrast to the presentations given in earlier Staff Rides, students were instructed to deal "principally from the view points of the higher command army, theater, and GHQ and ... stress principally those features of the military art that are applicable today and will be applicable tomorrow."

Only so much of the detailed battlefield tactics should be presented as is necessary to properly complete the larger picture and to sustain the interest of the listeners. And here the stress should be primarily on those elements that are still important in battle ... leadership and the psychology of men in combat.

At each stop the "Union" and "Confederate" presenters would give only such information as was known to the commander at the time, for "only thus can the class get a true perspective for judging the actions of these commanders and a correct viewpoint for learning the worthwhile lessons of the campaign."

As members of the class in civilian clothing (most photographs show them wearing white, long-sleeved shirts and tropical hats) sat on folding chairs scrutinizing special maps produced for the occasion, the "empressario" (Taylor's word) stood by the sound truck and asked the listener what he would do in similar circumstances. The Guidance was specific on this point: "it is not desirable to have the question answered by any of the listeners. Some will know the answer, but all who do not will ask themselves ... 'Now just what Would I do'?" At the scheduled time the bus horns would sound three blasts and the class would re-embark and proceed to the next stop.

This was the format for every staff ride from 1935 to 1939, which was the last conducted at the War College before World War II. By this time the class comprised 110 officers traveling in three air-conditioned buses and accompanied by a sound truck, a reconnaissance car, and a light truck to carry materials for map boards, mounts for photos, and mimeographed lectures to be issued to each student at each battle. The trip involved 923 miles from Gettysburg through the Shenandoah Valley to Yorktown, studying not only the battles but the influence of logistics upon the conception and execution of the operations.

The Infantry Journal in September 1939 contains a delightful piece entitled "Bill Busher Goes to College." As the year at the War College progressed and 'Major Busher' was about to end his student year, his spirit released of responsibilities, soared higher and higher as the time approached for his final clearance and embarkation upon the historical ride. That tour was the grand finale: a deluxe exposition on military history. And the entire trip turned out to be just like the busses the class and instructors rode in-not only streamlined but air-conditioned as well.

For nine days Bill and his school fellows traveled about in solid comfort. They ate in air-cooled dining rooms, had their baggage carried in and out of hotels, were dished out ice water at every halt, and handed folding chairs to rest on during the talks. All they had to do was sit and listen. And some of them kicked at doing that! "Which only goes to show we're soldiers in spite of our education," Bill remarked.

This was not the reason there was no Staff Ride in 1940. In his Oral History GEN Maxwell Taylor relates how "tremendously interested" he was in his assignment (Second Manassas) as he "toured every hill top in the area" and prepared his presentation.

The class was about ready to move out into the field for these visits when Hitler ... launched a blitzkrieg in Europe, and rushed through France with Panzers and aircraft. Somebody got cold feet at the War Department saying, "Why, we would look silly studying the battles of the Civil War when obviously the kind of war that General Grant and General Lee fought doesn't exist anymore, we're going to be criticized," and hence they called off the whole business. I thought it was stupid then and I think it is even more stupid as I look back on it in retrospect.

This time it was many years before the Staff Ride reappeared. When the Army War College was moved to Carlisle Barracks in 1951, it became traditional for the entire class to visit Gettysburg, but this was a far cry from requiring the entire class to spend weeks in preparation for a Staff Ride serving as the capstone course in the curriculum. Beginning in 1968, the Summer ROTC Workshop at the US Military Academy included a visit each year to the battlefields of Antietam and Gettysburg. At Gettysburg the participants were treated to the normal tour led by a commercial guide, but at Antietam the experience was essentially that of the old Staff Ride minus the detailed preparation. In the mid-1980's the National War College began to conduct something approximating a Staff Ride each fall at Antietam on a strictly volunteer basis, and in the spring of 1983, the Staff Ride was reinstituted - at Leavenworth an elective course and the Army War College as a volunteer activity.

It is a growing activity. In 1986 the Center of Military History identified about 300 staff rides that were conducted or in the planning stage, here or in Europe. This is probably a conservative estimate, for each year students, faculty and staff at the War College normally lead about half this many to battlefields like Gettysburg, Antietam, South Mountain, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Shenandoah Valley, and even the Atlanta campaign. The groups range from ROTC detachments to the Secretary of the Army and his Staff. We have conducted the entire classes of the National War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Marine Staff College, and TRADOC-the list is endless. How far will this go? How long will it last? No one knows.

"Perspectives in Military History" Lecture Series

Each month throughout the academic year, except December, the Army Historical and Education Center (AHEC) presents a distinguished speaker on a military history topic. The lectures are presented in the AHEC facility located on Army Heritage Drive. The building will be open at 6:50 p.m.; the lecture begins promptly at 7:15 p.m. The talk is followed by an informal question and answer period and an opportunity to meet the speaker.

The schedule for the academic year will be published at a later date.