Author’s note: This is the second in a series of articles about the profession of arms. Over the series, I will chart the modern development of our profession in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, examining that development through the lens of four themes that have driven and influenced it: events, technology, ideas, and institutions. I will then examine how change in the strategic environment will drive continued evolution in the profession of arms. Importantly, I will propose areas where we, as members of this profession, must lead change and ensure our military institutions remain effective—at every level—into the twenty-first century.
Read the first article in the series here.
Part One of this series examined the modern origins of the profession of arms. The nineteenth century was a vital era for our profession. Technological developments, changes in society, and new thinking inside and outside military organization drove a wave of professionalism and the establishment of new institutions. Sir John Hackett has written that “as the nineteenth century drew to a close, professionalism in the armed services was everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. Germany led the field. France set about putting her professional institutions in order. The United States evolved with remarkable speed a coherent system of military professionalism.”
A new age of technological development began at the end of the nineteenth century. Now called the Second Industrial Revolution, the decades between 1880 and 1910 saw the birth of many technologies—electricity, the internal combustion engine, flight, the assembly line—upon which modern society relies. These new technologies would drive remarkable changes in society and commerce. This in turn resulted in two pulses of military professionalism that fundamentally changed the profession of arms in the twentieth century. The first pulse began at the start of the twentieth century and continued through the end of World War II. This was a period during which the Second Industrial Revolution most impacted military institutions. The second pulse started with the first use of atomic weapons and includes the post–World War II nuclear and digital ages.
This article examines the first era, which featured many milestones in the development of the modern profession. The complex interplay of technology, events, new ideas, and new military institutions from 1900 through the beginning of the atomic age in August 1945 resulted in what many would recognize today as the contemporary military establishment.
It is difficult to cover the full breadth of technological change that took place across the twentieth century. From electricity to the internet, from the biplane to the intercontinental ballistic missile, and from the horse to early automobiles to space travel, the development of new technologies affected both society and warfare. They affected how societies created economic wealth and projected military power. These impacts drove evolution in the profession of arms, including how it recruited and developed military personnel. However, any examination this evolution must begin with the new wave of technological developments that was a feature of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Electricity. Michael Faraday’s discovery of the induction of electric current in a moving magnetic field, in 1831, was the spark that eventually resulted in the large-scale conversion of mechanical energy into electricity. Electricity transformed many aspects of life, as well the methods of industrial production. It opened up new and more efficient manufacturing processes that would supply the voracious appetites for materiel in military forces throughout the course the twentieth century. But electricity was not a primary source of energy. The dynamo that generated a current required some form of outside energy—coal, wind, water, natural gas, or oil—to function. The same was true of another fundamental invention which transformed industry, society and warfare—the internal combustion engine.
Internal Combustion Engine. It was a Belgian engineer, Jean-Joseph Etienne Lenoir, who first developed a practical example of a working internal combustion engine. In 1859 he developed a combustion engine that burned a combination of coal gas and air. His Lenoir Engine was applied to stationary power plants, machine tools, motorboats, and early automobiles. With the discovery of major oilfields in Texas in 1901, a vastly expanded supply of energy for combustion engines became available. The combination of improving internal combustion engines, new automobile designs, and wider availability of gasoline led to an explosion in demand for these new vehicles. Combustion engines would be adapted for use across society—and by the military on land, at and under the sea, and eventually in the air.
Manufacturing. The increased demand for vehicles was accompanied by innovation in manufacturing. Perhaps the most relevant are the developments of Henry Ford in Detroit. Ford had been experimenting with vehicle design, built his first car in a shed behind his house in June 1896, and founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903. But one of his most significant contributions to the modern world was the development of the moving assembly line. This approach standardized construction and improved quality, while drastically lowering the cost of cars. Many of the technologies for these new land vehicles and their assembly would find their way onto the battlefield from 1914 onward. But an even more revolutionary technology was beginning to have an impact of society—powered aircraft.
Flight. It was the Montgolfier brothers, rising into the sky in their hot air balloon in 1783 that first realized human dreams of flight. Balloons would thereafter be used on many battlefields, especially during the US Civil War. But they were tethered in static locations, reliant on extensive ground infrastructure, and subject to sniping from the enemy. The flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk in 1903 radically changed this situation. The Wright brothers proved that powered, fixed-wing flight was possible and practical. Joining a fuselage and wings with small internal combustion engines, the new form of transport rapidly expanded the capacity of humans to traverse the planet. Aircraft also found their way to the battlefield in World War I. But these were still rickety, wood and canvas contraptions.
Powered by increasingly powerful engines, aircraft in the interwar years were soon carrying paying passengers, mail, and other cargo. International competitions saw daring aviators achieve increasingly ambitious goals such as the first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919 and the first trans-Pacific flight in 1928. Within forty years of the Wright brothers’ momentous achievement, large fleets of multi-engine bombers would be completing long-distance bombing raids over Germany and Japan. These flights, and the coordination between the ground and aircraft, was underpinned by yet another new technology—radio.
Using the EM Spectrum. Radio was another revolutionary new form of technology developed in during Second Industrial Revolution. Founded on the breakthroughs of Heinrich Hertz in Germany in the 1880s, wireless communications advanced with the discoveries of in the 1890s by Nikola Tesla, Edouard Branly, Oliver Joseph Lodge, and Guglielmo Marconi. By 1899, radio was being broadcast across the English Channel. On December 12, 1901, the first trans-Atlantic signal was transmitted from Cornwall and received at a new receiving station at St. John’s on Newfoundland. Marconi’s first customer was not a commercial entity; it was the British Royal Navy.
Reed Robert Bonadonna has described these years leading up to World War I as a “prelude to a tragedy” for the military profession. The technologies that emerged from this new industrial revolution—aircraft, radio, the assembly line, electricity, and the internal combustion engine—would all play their part in the world war that broke out in 1914. But the pace of technological development—in society and for the military profession—was not always matched by development of new ideas or organizations for the coming war. As Lawrence Freedman writes, “The growing range and lethality of weapons combined with more efficient forms of transportation and communications. The military did not so much ignore new developments as struggle to comprehend their implications.” This represents at least a partial failure of the military profession. It was too slow in recognizing the potential of new technologies, and too slow in developing new ideas and institutions to exploit them. This would have tragic implications for those who would fight the first battles of the coming war.
Events and Ideas
World War I. The war of 1914–1918 would initiate a period of military innovation and adaptation that continued, albeit at different paces in different nations, through to the end of World War II. The technologies of the Second Industrial Revolution underpinned development of new tools of war, including fighter aircraft, tanks, and submarines.
But these remained just tools. The new vehicles on land, in the air, and at sea allowed for more mobility for larger forces. This enhanced mobility permitted commanders at all levels to think about different forms of maneuver to avoid the traditional tactics that had dominated the battlefield since Frederick the Great. Such maneuvers would expand the scope and speed of military operations. But the journey to different thinking by military commanders was slow. As Max Hastings has described, the French armies went into battle in World War I against their German opponents “in dense masses clad in blue overcoats and red trousers, led by officers riding chargers, with colours flying and bands playing.” Between the commencement of hostilities in August 1914 and the end of that year, French forces had sustained over a million casualties. In the same time, Germany lost over 800,000 soldiers.
But gradually, those commanders that survived learned how to use the new tools of war in more innovative ways. The greatest operational challenge that they had to address was breaking through the kilometers-deep layers of trenches, barbed wire, and machine gun–swept defensive zones that stretched from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. While aircraft could fly over these trench lines, they were never able to provide a decisive stroke to support such a breakthrough. Gradually, German, British, French, Canadian, and Australian commanders on the Western Front devised new ways of combining infantry, engineers, artillery, tanks, logistics, and aerial reconnaissance to break through multiple defensive zones, reinforce them against counterattack, and continue advancing.
Other technological innovations from the Second Industrial Revolution also played a role in World War I. New forms of manufacturing—such as the assembly line—allowed nations to mass produce vehicles, aircraft, and ammunition at a rate that could not have even been imagined at the turn of the twentieth century. The result was that the profession of arms, largely focused on just military concerns before World War I, no longer had this luxury. Senior military leaders would henceforth require more knowledge about national industry, manufacturing capacity, and the national prioritization of resources and manpower. This realization saw the broadening of strategic theory beyond just military concerns. It was also one of the drivers that would lead to the establishment of the first colleges for educating senior officers in the period between World Wars I and II.
The Interwar Period and World War II. At the end of World War I, with all participants exhausted from their four-year struggle, the process of innovation and experimentation slowed. As Trevor Dupuy notes in his examination of the history of warfare, “in all the armies of the recent western alliance, there existed an undeniable degree of apathy towards innovation.” One British general speaking at the prestigious Royal United Service Institution in 1919 noted that “the tank proper was a freak. The circumstances which called it into existence were exceptional and are not likely to occur again.” These views were common in the interwar years. Many nations desired to forget the slaughter of the trenches and invest in new international bodies such as the League of Nations to prevent similar wars in the future.
But military innovation did not cease entirely after World War I. Several important operational problems focused the minds of military theorists and innovators during the interwar period. These problems included avoiding static trench warfare, moving troops across large expanses of the ocean and then having them land on an enemy shore. The solutions to these operational problems would see the transformation of airpower theory and aircraft, the evolution of combined arms and air-land tactics, amphibious and aircraft carrier operations, and submarine operations to cut oceanic logistic support lines.
War Leaps into the Air. The interwar years witnessed a profusion of theorists seeking to explore how aircraft might not only contribute to future military victory, but potentially provide the decisive edge in future conflicts. Led by theorists such as Giulio Douhet from Italy, Hugh Trenchard from Britain, and American Billy Mitchell, airpower advocates sought to prove the strategic utility of aircraft in warfare. Their advocacy often led to tremendous animosity from the services from which they emerged.
The ideas of the new air forces and their leading theorists would be tested in the early years of World War II. The integrated air defenses that were the brainchild of Royal Air Force officers such as Hugh Dowding proved themselves in the Battle of Britain in 1940. It was a turning point in the war, with Germany thereafter abandoning its plans to invade England and turning east towards their Götterdämmerung with the Red Army. Airpower also proved to be extraordinarily useful in the interdiction of land forces and in the battles of the Atlantic and the Central Pacific.
The doctrine of strategic bombing faced its greatest test during the war. Both the American approach (daylight, selective bombing) and the British approach (night-time, general area bombing) proved to be more difficult than pre-war advocates appreciated. As Williamson Murray and Allan Millet write in their examination of the Combined Bomber Offensive in A War to be Won, “Virtually nothing happened in the way pre-war air champions had predicted.” In Europe, bombing campaigns forced Germany to invest a massive amount of manpower, guns, and ammunition into defending the Reich, while also diverting resources into the V weapons in retaliation. In Japan, B-29s scorched the earth in firebombing raids on every major Japanese city and laid mines for its merchant ships and navy. In both Europe and the Pacific, airpower played a significant role in the Allied victory in World War II.
From the Sea. During the interwar period, airpower had also been developed in the naval domain. Throughout the 1920s, the British, American, and Japanese navies all invested heavily in their exploration of carrier-borne aircraft operations. There was some variance in the underpinning ideas for these new ships and their aircraft. The US Navy saw the carriers and their planes as a scouting capability for the main battlefleet composed of battleships and cruisers. The British and Japanese navies saw these new ships as more offensive.
At the start of World War II it was the British that would demonstrate the offensive utility of carrier aviation in their November 1940 raid on the Italian fleet at Taranto. Thereafter, carrier aviation played a role in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific theatres. Combining the production might of British, American, and Japanese industry, new doctrines for war at sea, and new weapons designed especially for carrier-based aircraft, carrier aviation became a potent and highly effective arm of naval forces. But this was not the only interwar development in the maritime domain. An important and complementary capability that was honed in the interwar period and then tested in Africa, Europe, and Pacific during World War II was amphibious operations.
Records of amphibious operations stretch back into antiquity. However, the modern form of amphibious operations was demonstrated during World War I. The British, Australian, French, Newfoundland, Indian, and New Zealand troops that landed at Gallipoli in 1915 supplied a wealth of lessons on the challenges and opportunities of amphibious operations. German forces also conducted amphibious operations, successfully, against the Russians in the Baltic. And despite the failure of the Gallipoli operations, the British continued amphibious operations during the war against German submarine bases in Belgium.
In the interwar period, Japan, Britain, and the United States all possessed operational problems that would require amphibious operations. For the British, there was an initial disinterest in amphibious capability in the immediate aftermath of World War I. However, in the 1920s and early 1930s, two trends increasingly drove a reinvigoration and greater investment in this capability: the desire for better cooperation between the services and Japanese actions in the Far East. Japan’s Army preferred to hone its amphibious capability based on landing at unopposed sites and it tested this mode in China. For the Japanese Imperial Navy, it was the potential need to seize US possessions in the Pacific that drove its development of amphibious capability. Despite continuous interservice rivalry, by 1941 the Japanese military possessed highly trained and capable amphibious forces. As Japan’s forces demonstrated over the following year, they were capable of rapid, successive amphibious landing operations that saw success in the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, and islands throughout the Pacific.
Finally, the US War Plan Orange was a key driver of amphibious capability (as well as carrier and submarine operational doctrine in the interwar period). The US Navy sought to solve the challenge of crossing the Pacific to retain its possessions, restrict Japanese expansion, and defeat Japan in a future war. The US Marines developed and continuously tested new doctrine for amphibious operations, with new landing craft, shipping, fire support, and logistics operations. This doctrine would be tested, employed, and improved upon throughout the war in the Pacific. The Marines, the US Army (in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific), as well as the Australian Army in the South West Pacific would be the beneficiaries of the interwar years’ experiments and doctrinal developments.
New Forms of War on the Land. A significant interwar problem was how to avoid land warfare devolving back to trench warfare and stalemate. All the main protagonists in World War I had drawn different lessons from the trench warfare on the Western Front. Only Germany, however, undertook a rigorous examination of lessons from the war. German forces’ experience with the open forms of warfare on the Eastern Front against the Russian military, the development of stormtroop tactics, and German observations of combined arms warfare on the Western Front were combined to construct one of the most innovative and deadly approaches to war of the twentieth century. These were the highly mobile German armored formations, coordinated by wireless radio, supported by close air support, and trained to exercise high degrees of initiative through mission command.
All the major participants in World War I experimented with armored formations in the interwar period. The British established their Experimental Mechanised Force (later renamed the Experimental Armoured Force) on the Salisbury Plain. The French and American militaries both explored different uses for the Renault tanks they had used on the Western Front. Alone among major nations, Japan had retained an infantry-centric approach to land warfare, with armored vehicles in support. But it was in Russia and Germany where the most creative concepts and doctrines for the employment of these new air-land networked armored forces were developed. By the 1930s, both nations possessed well-honed doctrine, capable forces, and excellent military leaders that could execute this new form of warfare. Key to this was the doctrinal development and experimentation of Hans von Seeckt and Heinz Guderian on the German side, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Vladimir Triandafillov in Russia.
Building on its lessons in Poland, the German army in May 1940 launched a rapid thrust through the Ardennes Forest into France with a massive combined arms, air-land force that in forty-six days defeated the French army. This German victory set the scene for the armies of every major nation to transform their ideas and organizations, lest they share France’s fate. This approach would eventually be copied by the British, American, and Russian militaries.
Communications and Radar. Radio would play a small role in World War I. Further refinements after the war, however, saw radio become more reliable, and the approaches for using it over longer ranges were established. Four key developments arose out of the early, rudimentary radio systems throughout the interwar period and in World War II. First, it could be used to coordinate naval and land forces, as well as early aircraft. Communications were then extended between air and land forces—a key element of the German development of combined arms warfare and the German military’s capacity to communicate and generate a superior tempo to an adversary.
A second impact of radio was the discovery of radar. Working to a British Ministry of Defence requirement, Scottish scientist Robert Watson Watt demonstrated the detection of aircraft using radio waves in a secret trial for the British Air Ministry in 1936. This led to the development and deployment of a secret system of radars along the southern and eastern coasts of England by the end of 1938—just in time for the onset of World War II.
Another impact of radio was its use as a tool of propaganda. After observing the influence of radio on civilian populations in the 1920s and 1930s, all major belligerents in World War II sought to bend that influence to their advantage in wartime. Radio was used to provide key messages to civilians and military alike to enhance national cohesion and nurture confidence in victory.
A final use of radio was electronic warfare. This was a capability that was critical in the Allies’ victories in the Battle of the Atlantic against German U-boats, the North Africa campaigns, and campaigns in the Central and South West Pacific. Techniques such as radio direction finding, jamming, signals and network analysis, and code breaking were all developed in the interwar period and honed to a high art throughout World War II. The developments in electronic warfare, and the techniques that it spawned, continue to influence the design and implementation of cyber and information warfare campaigns up until the current era.
These developments in radio and radar would have a significant impact on war and the profession of arms. For the first time, military leaders could gain a clearer picture of enemy movements (initially in the air) well beyond the horizon with radar. This demanded different planning approaches as well as evolved forms of command and control (as demonstrated by the British air defense network in 1940). Radio allowed for more rapid dissemination of orders, as well as the quick passage of information through various echelons of military command. It also allowed the profession of arms to exploit an entirely new dimension of war. Radio could be used to intercept messages and shape the intentions of an enemy or friendly population. It demanded that the profession henceforth be able—at every level—to reconceive competition and conflict through the lens of a balance of influence and violence.
New War Beneath the Waves. The first military “submersible,” the hand-powered Turtle, almost pulled off a major military coup in its attack on the HMS Eagle in New York Harbor in 1776. Yet despite the early promise of submersible vessels, it was not until the early 1900s that technologies such reliable propulsion, torpedoes, communications, and life support allowed for sustained submarine operations and the construction of naval submarine fleets.
World War I provided an early demonstration of the effectiveness of submarines. While they were used in the Pacific (Australia lost its first submarine, HMAS AE1, off the Duke of York Islands in 1914), their primary impact was in the Atlantic. German U-boats, of ever-increasing sophistication, conducted a campaign against naval and merchant vessels throughout the war. While this generation of submarines primarily operated on the surface, diving mainly to attack or avoid detection, they were devastatingly effective. In the ensuing First Battle of the Atlantic, the allies lost over four thousand ships; the Germans lost over 170 U-boats.
By World War II, all the major belligerents maintained fleets of submarines. At the start of the war, Germany again sought to cut off Britain from its overseas sources of supply through the Second Battle of the Atlantic. While this saw significant losses of Allied merchant vessels from 1939 to 1943, thereafter new technologies such as long-range aircraft, code breaking, escort carriers, more rapid production of ships, and better convoy tactics enabled the Allies to gain the upper hand. By 1944, U-boat losses were on the rise and Allied fleets were able to cross the Atlantic. While the Allies lost over three thousand ships in the Atlantic, the cost to Germany was extreme. The German Kreigsmarine lost almost eight hundred U-Boats and twenty-eight thousand submariners over the course of the war.
In the Pacific, US submarines were to prove decisive. Entering the war as scouting vessels, they evolved their tactics to become a devasting weapon against Japanese naval and merchant vessels. This had a major impact on the Japanese war economy, which was highly reliant on the import of many basic commodities such as coal and ore. By July 1945, Japanese stockpiles of strategic materials were almost entirely exhausted and the US Navy’s submarine campaign was preventing the entry of imports. Submarines had played a significant part in achieving the US and British Combined Chiefs of Staff’s objective to establish a sea and air blockade of Japan. In the Atlantic and Pacific, submarines proved their tactical and strategic worth. The undersea dominion was now firmly established as an integral part of the profession of arms. This would continue through to the end of the twentieth century and into the current era.
Air Forces. Perhaps the most significant new institution that appeared during the first pulse of professionalization in the twentieth century were air forces. The term airpower was first used in H.G. Wells’s book War in the Air (1908). Even before this, the concept of land and naval operations being supported by flying machines was described by a British Royal Engineer, Maj. J.D. Fullerton, at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. But despite the efforts of a small number of flying enthusiasts, the flimsy flying machines of the early 1900s were not taken seriously by most military officers.
When World War I broke out, the new flying contraptions were used mainly for scouting. But as the war progressed, new roles became clear. Aircraft scouting for artillery were soon identified as a threat; the only way to drive off these scouting aircraft was with other aircraft. Thus emerged the concept of pursuit, and eventually, that of air control. Aircraft were also found useful against troops on the ground. And toward the end of the war, large bombing aircraft and Zeppelins were employed over England, driving the British to develop a capability for air defense.
By 1917, it was becoming clearer that the profession of arms had established itself in a new domain of warfare: the air. The flying squadrons, their maintenance organizations, as well as the headquarters and coordinating mechanisms for air support to land and naval forces all had to be established and adapted as the war evolved and lessons were learned about the employment of aircraft. In Britain, influential reports written by South African Gen. J.C. Smuts described the rationale for an independent air force for Britain. Smuts wrote that “the day may not be far off when aerial operations with their devastation of enemy lands and the destruction of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale may become the principal operations of war.” Shortly afterwards the Royal Air Force was formed, on April 1, 1918.
Before World War I, the US Army had established a very small air organization within its Signal Corps—the Aeronautical Division, and from 1914, the Aviation Section. On the entry of the United States into the war, it still consisted of a small squadron of scouting aircraft and twenty-six qualified pilots. Under the guidance of leaders such as Raynal Bolling, Mason Patrick, and Benjamin Foulois, the US air capability was greatly expanded. By the end of World War I, the service had procured over six thousand aircraft. In May 1918, a separate Army Air Service was founded. This provided the foundations for the development and growth of airpower in the United States through the interwar period and into World War II.
World War I supplied many lessons in the use of airpower. As a result, in the interwar period there was a rapid expansion in the establishment of independent air forces, as well as army and naval air arms. The establishment of the Royal Air Force in 1918 was followed in quick time by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921, the Luftwaffe in 1933, and the French Air Force in 1934.
War Colleges. Another important institution developed in the first half of the twentieth century was the war college. The military education systems of most contemporary nations have four general levels: initial training; advanced or specialized training (by corps or rank); service or joint staff courses for mid-career officers; and war or national defense colleges. This fourth and highest level had its genesis at the dawn of the twentieth century. It was a new and compelling concept in military education that, in due course, would spread around the world in the following decades.
The first modern war college was formed in 1901 by the US Army at Washington Barracks (now Fort McNair). The driver for its establishment was poor command and staff performances during the Spanish-American war. It was designed to educate senior officers on the great problems of national defense, military science, and responsible command. In its initial iteration, there was no formal curriculum; students studied the problems of the day and acted as an element of the War Department undertaking war planning duties. But the college would evolve in the wake of the technological advances of the new industrial revolution, and the enhanced appreciation of strategy in the wake of World War I.
The colleges established in the interwar years were a response to the broadening of strategy and national security from a principally military approach to a national one in the wake of World War I. They were set up to prepare leaders to appreciate social, economic, and political factors in addition to their military expertise. The first of these was the US Army’s Army Industrial College, founded in 1924, which Samuel Huntington describes as the most important new military institution of the interwar period. It was set up to educate officers about procurement and economic mobilization.
Another war college established in the interwar years was the Imperial War College in Britain. Founded in 1927, it had a stated aim of training a body of senior officers and civilian officials in the broadest aspects of imperial strategy. With a small permanent staff, it set an example for the war colleges that followed by the broad use of visiting guest speakers and syndicate discussions. Another characteristic of the Imperial War College stands out. As Sturton Davis notes in his 1974 study, The Development and Characteristics of National Defence Colleges, “A real endeavour was made to ensure that course members would become broader individuals.” This broadening aspect of the college retains contemporary relevance. The development of broad-minded, collaborative senior military leaders is essential in the planning and execution of modern joint operations.
The Birth of Standing Joint Headquarters. In some form, joint operations have been around for hundreds of years. This includes the cooperation of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Adm. David Dixon Porter during the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign and the British Gallipoli operation in 1915. Learning the lessons from World War I, the British formed the British Chiefs of Staff Committee—a strategic joint committee—in 1923. This aimed to ensure better strategic direction for Britain’s armed forces and to provide improved advice to government. The United States also had a strategic joint board to coordinate war plans between the Army and the Navy, but it was not a service chief–level organization and not suited to wartime activities.
It was World War II where truly joint operations were born and honed. Williamson Murray has written that “joint operations proved quite dubious in the early years for both the British and the Americans.” This quickly changed as each theatre evolved, requiring greater effort and further integration. The formation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, between America and Britain, in 1942 was a key driver. The effective functioning of the Combined Chiefs of Staff required each nation to have a coordinated position prior to their meetings. Hence, new joint headquarters were created.
The American response was the formation of its own Joint Chiefs of Staff—an equivalent of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee, in February 1942. Operations against Germany also drove the need for better joint coordination. For the British, the failed campaign in France and the Low Countries, as well as the Dieppe disaster, presented them with no choice but to think seriously about inter-service cooperation. The Americans were presented with similar learning opportunities during the landings in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and Anzio, which drove institutional developments in joint operations.
By the end of the war, the military institutions of both nations better appreciated the power and reach that was possible through joint collaboration. This laid the foundations for further development of joint operations and headquarters after the war. It was the impetus for modern education, training, and development of leaders that were able to work in their home services but also in joint operations.
The technologies of the Second Industrial Revolution were important drivers of the first pulse of twentieth-century military professionalism. At the same time, the absorption of these new technologies required different military ideas and new organizations. Some of the new technologies drove radically new organizations and ideas, such as air forces and submarine services. These were radical because they saw humans fighting in entirely new physical environments. These developments drove new training, education, and career modalities that would both complement and compete with the established land and naval services.
The wars of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945 had a profound impact on the modern profession of arms. War expanded into a new physical domain (the air) and into the electromagnetic spectrum. This expanded the body of knowledge required by military officers to be effective leaders and planners. At the same time, modern manufacturing capability expanded the capacity of military institutions to conduct more operations over larger swaths of the earth and drove the need for military leaders to better understand national industry and transportation capacity. This led to the profession of arms, and its civilian masters, broadening their understanding of strategy, which forced an evolution in senior military leader education and development.
But two emerging developments at the end of World War II would thereafter drive another pulse of military professionalism in the second half of the twentieth century. The first, the birth of atomic weapons in July 1945 heralded the beginning of the nuclear age. The second, the development of early analog computers, would introduce a new age of augmenting human cognitive capabilities. These developments form the start point for Part Three of this series.
Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan is an Australian Army officer. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the USMC Command and Staff College and School of Advanced Warfare, he is a passionate advocate of professional education and lifelong learning. He has commanded at platoon, squadron, regiment, task force, and brigade level, and is a science fiction fan, a cricket tragic, terrible gardener, and an aspiring writer. In January 2018, he assumed command of the Australian Defence College in Canberra, Australia. He is an adjunct scholar at the Modern War Institute, and tweets under the handle @WarInTheFuture.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image: No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps next to their Bristol F.2 fighters, at Mejdel, 1918.