China’s “Xi JinPing Says He Is Preparing China For War” so we find ourselves in a situation very similar to the period immediately prior to the United States entry into World War 2. The time we have to to prepare for the worst is indeed short.

“I want the mistake [made] down in Louisiana, not over in Europe, and the only way to do this thing is to try it out, and if it doesn’t work, find out what we need to make it work.”  General George C. Marshall

The Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 were large-scale military exercises conducted by the United States Army in Louisiana and Texas to prepare for the possibility of US involvement in World War II and test America’s General officers and Colonels before they went into combat in Europe. China’s rise as an aggressive global superpower sets today’s context and its latest actions confirm it is now vitally necessary for the next Secretary of Defense to direct the US military to conduct large-scale exercises and war games modeled on the Louisiana Maneuvers, focusing on the context of a potential conflict with China and its allies as soon as possible. No circumstances highlight the need for an America First national security policy with these maneuvers as a key component more than the China threat.

Retired US Air Force Colonel Jeff Decker wrote about this idea in 2022 albeit limited to an Army and Air Force makeup:

“The GHQ Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941 are an important reminder/example as “great power competition” discussions and planning continue. Could the US Army and Air Force “replicate” the Louisiana Maneuvers—albeit at a different location?

The 1941 version included 472,000 participants in the exercise area.  Today’s US Army consists of around 480,000 active-duty troops—are there even enough available “cooks and billet personnel” without expensive contractors supporting the exercise?  Would the Guard and Reserve components be required to perform basic soldiering support?  Is there enough rail transport capability to move units to their assembly areas?

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Notice I used the word replicate…

Recall, the Army had undergone a tremendous growth in numbers, doctrinal changes, and the initial stages of newly fielded equipment from 1939-41.  When you review the “camera roll” link observe the mixture of old (horse cavalry, campaign hats, WW I doughboy helmets) with the new (armor, “steel pot” helmets, and paratroopers)—however, there was an overriding insistence on realism throughout these wargames regardless of uniform combination and available weapons and equipment.

In the spirit of a 20XX GHQ Maneuvers scenario and evaluating the capabilities of an army where other leadership priorities have been at the forefront for the past 18 months—a “back to school” exam should be considered to determine how these focus areas have affected the readiness for a kinetic land battle campaign scenario with hundreds of thousands engaged.

A question to ponder—how would umpires “shape” the exercise?

For instance, since the electrical and cyber grid will be one of the first targets taken out; would umpires rule all non-tactical transport would not be available (due to the transition to electric vehicles)?  Many soldiers would now have to march to their respective Forward Edge of the Battle Areas (FEBA).  Participants could argue that armor and other fighting vehicles can be used to transport soldiers (recall Russian T-34s carrying “Ivan” into battle).  However, part of the initial target set would also be fuel depots and trucks—“Murphy” running amok again!

What about the pre-positioned ships with conventionally powered spare vehicles, fuel, and parts…an umpire’s ruling may determine several hypersonic missiles eliminated the pre-positioned fleet and oilers at anchor.

Would there be a potential shortage of combat arms personnel and replacements (due to non-deployable status and vaccine refusal)?  Combat service and combat service support personnel (e.g., vehicle repair and cyber soldiers) would have to be reassigned to their respective brigade combat teams as infantry.

How would these replacements endure their new responsibilities?  There are some in Congress and the professional punditry who say a computer operator or administrative specialist does not need to be as physically fit as someone nearer to the “front.”  Remember the bandsman, cooks, and clerks at several Belgian crossroad towns in December 1944?

Bottom line—is it fair to say—our opponents are planning on returning the battlespace mirroring Western Louisiana and Eastern Texas in September 1941 and not what the United States has enjoyed the past 20 years AND planning on having in the current and future fight.

Our technical strengths will be the first to go “NMC” (non-mission capable)—should the unit commanders at all levels and the soldiers they command be ready physically and mentally for this type of battlespace?

Further reading about these pivotal wargames, you discover the “usual suspects” (Marshall, McNair, Eisenhower, Patton) making their mark.  Other names are mere footnotes or a victim of the October 1941 “purge” of commanders who performed poorly or were frankly overwhelmed with what would be expected of them when war came (“31 of 42 corps and division commanders were relieved or assigned to career-ending duties.”)

Lieutenant General Ben Lear was one of these individuals.  On 6 July 1941 while playing golf in Memphis, Tennessee, he earned the nickname “Yoo Hoo.”  Observing an Army convoy (35th Infantry Division consisting of 80 trucks and 350 soldiers) Lear heard the soldiers making “lewd and obscene” catcalls to a group of women.  His punishment for the men of this convoy was to have them march 15 miles back to the camp they came from.  Many soldiers struggled and some collapsed due to the extreme almost 100 degree heat.

According to the 21 July 1941 edition of Time Magazine there was a storm of public criticism for this severe action and calls for Lear’s retirement.  Even Congress (the division commander was Major General Ralph E. Truman, cousin of the future president) weighed in on the matter concurring with public sentiment.  However, the Army refused saying it was not a case of sexual harassment but of indiscipline and no action was taken.  Lear’s infamous nickname stuck.

What if Lear had marched with these men—would the situation have ended differently?

The 35th did not perform well during the maneuvers and as part of the October 1941 “purge” Truman was relieved of command and chose to retire.

Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge George Marshall the man who pushed the maneuver idea after he became Chief of Staff two years earlier.  I had not been aware of the multi-book series featuring his memoranda and speeches.  A real joy to peruse and a reminder that he was not afraid to call the shots as he saw them (even to a soldier’s mother -see below). Imagine blunt talk from a senior officer today?  They would most likely be labeled toxic and fired for failing to share an empathic “feel good” tweet.

How would the corps, division, and brigade commanders be rated upon the conclusion of a 20XX GHQ Maneuvers—would there be another October purge?”

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Building on Colonel Decker’s questions, there are several factors to consider when the US military plans a large-scale live exercise focused on China as the central hegemonic foe:

  1. Geopolitical implications: The global political environment has changed significantly since 1941, and some might argue any large-scale military exercise focusing on a specific country, such as China, could escalate tensions and potentially provoke a response from the targeted country. They are wrong, it is much more likely to serve as a strong deterrent to further Chinese Communist Party aggression.
  2. Interoperability: Today’s US military is much more integrated and joint than it was in 1941. Any large-scale exercise would need to involve all branches of the military (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force), as well as potentially incorporating allied forces from other countries, and finally, incorporating the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (UPS, FED EX, DHL air fleets–civilian supply chain apparatus.)
  3. Technological advancements: Modern warfare relies heavily on technology, such as precision-guided munitions, advanced communication systems, cyber warfare, and space-based capabilities. A large-scale exercise would need to incorporate these technologies in a way that accurately represents the complexity of modern warfare and their weaknesses.
  4. Geographical considerations: China is a vast country with diverse terrain, including mountains, deserts, and urban areas. Any exercise simulating a conflict with China would need to take these factors and many others into account, requiring a large and more diverse training area that likely encompasses the entire Indo-Pacific Area of Operations.
  5. Cost and resources: Large-scale military exercises can be extremely expensive and resource-intensive, and some will say the US military would need to balance the benefits of such an exercise against other priorities. They are wrong. If the Congress can appropriate $100 billion dollars to the Ukrainian effort–there should be the same–no–higher priority to ensure American military readiness. There is no higher national security priority than the readiness of our Armed Forces to fight and defeat our most dangerous adversary.
  6. Yes, there will likely be an “October purge” necessary from weak officer performance in these maneuvers. The American officer corps performance will be hampered due to political ideologues (in the Soviet military they were known as zampolits) implementing policies destructive of each military department team’s cohesion and combat readiness. Critical race theory, Diversity-Inclusion- Equity policies, transgenderism, anti-religion, and unfounded attacks through made up “anti-white extremism” indoctrination are all being aggressively implemented in an authoritarian way that must be uprooted and eliminated from the Department of Defense.
  7. The bottom line is about answering questions like this – how much has all this social engineering increased “aircraft availability” and “mission capable” (MC) rates? The current known facts support the argument that the answer is none. They may have even caused MC rates to fall below war readiness levels to fall far below mission readiness standards like is highlighted by headlines like this – Pentagon Says Only Half of Its F-35 Jet Fleet Is Mission-Ready.

As General Marshall pointed out, it is better to see deficiencies in training than it is to see dead soldiers in combat. Paraphrasing The Angry Staff Officer in his 2016 article about the need for new maneuvers – Have current commanders have ever led their forces as part of a conventional force-on-force engagement? Have brigade combat team commanders maneuvered their elements alongside like-sized brigades? Can the US Armed Forces show that they are prepared to fight on land, air, sea, space, and in cyberspace against a near-peer force? The answer to all of this is, “no.” Sure, combined arms exercises serve to validate units’ readiness at lower levels, but moving beyond more than one or two brigade-sized units brings a complexity the type of which we have not seen in decades. Our leaders and enlisted personnel are proficient at low-intensity warfare, from experience, but we lack the depth that comes from a massive exercise or actual great power conflict. We will need a new, strong Secretary of Defense to make this happen due to the politicization of the officer corps but our time is short. The time to do this is now, focusing on China.

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