Commander Denny is a retired Reserve Naval Intelligence Officer who started in Vietnam in 1972 as a Second Aviation Electrician and retired in 2010 as a Commanding Officer. In addition to his reserve service, he was an electronics civil engineer for the Army Missile Command and intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), with four deployments to Iraq. After retiring from the DIA, he served as Senior Intelligence Analyst for US Central Command with an additional tour of Iraq.
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For decades, the United States Marine Corps has attempted to modify its force structure to improve performance in an environment of limited funding. Rather than continuing to make changes at the sidelines, we had better go back to a debate that started after WWII and prematurely truncated during the Korean War. Does the United States need a light infantry force specialized in amphibious operations as a separate service, or should the Marine Corps be downsized to the small police force it was before the First? World war and the amphibious organization incorporated into the army?
The discussion after World War II was primarily sparked by President Harry S. Truman, with Army General George C. Marshall (who later served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense) and General of the army and future President Dwight D Eisenhower. While it is true that all three were in the military (President Truman was a captain in World War I and became a colonel and regiment commander in the reserves), they clearly knew the demands of American defense. Although discussion with Korea ceased, the question was actually answered in 1957 by Brigadier General Victor Krulak in a letter to Marine Corps Commandant General Randolph Pate: “The United States does not need to. a Marine Corps. However, for good reasons that transcend cold logic completely, the United States wants a Marine Corps. “
Krulak was right in 1957, and what he said is even more true today. The army, navy and air force are perfectly capable of accomplishing the missions of the marine corps. The Army can take on the responsibilities of light infantry and amphibious assault. The invasion of Normandy in 1944, the largest invasion in history, was solely a military effort for the United States. When it comes to Marine Corps air, the Navy and Air Force are perfectly capable of providing close air support, while the Army can also perform rotary wing missions and reclining necessary. The nation wants the Marines. The question may be how to retain the aspects the nation wants, while eliminating the Marines as a separate branch and reaping the benefits of a simplified chain of command, a smaller overall force, and another. evolution of the realignment and closure of the base (BRAC).
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Deconstruct the Marine Corps
So what aspects does the nation want? If the Marine Corps answers this question, the answer will likely be what it currently has, but with better funding. The Marine Corps’ informal propaganda apparatus, which President Truman reluctantly complimented as the second in the world behind that of Joseph Stalin, will demand the status quo. For the first time in a generation, the lack of a significant number of former military personnel in Congress – coupled with national fatigue after waging an unsuccessful two-decade war – may allow for serious discussion of this topic.
Aviation is perhaps the easiest part of the current Marine Corps to remove. There is unlikely to be a huge community of support with the nation for maritime aviation, especially the fixed-wing aspects. For most Americans, their knowledge of maritime aviation is probably limited to looking at Ruffled leather collars (1951) and The Great Santini (1979). Likewise, the average citizen may see no difference between rotary and tilt-wing marine aviation and its military counterparts. The average citizen probably does not see any difference because the differences that do exist, mainly the ability to fly from ships, are minor. The nation does not need an aviation force separate from the Marine Corps, and probably few in the country know enough about it to want it. Eliminating marine aviation by integrating it into the military and navy would halve the size of the service, which currently has around 184,000 active-duty members.
The American public is much less likely to accept the complete demise of the Fleet Marine Forces, the ubiquitous “Mud Marine”. Stripped of aviation, the Marine Corps would resemble the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, both in size (around 88,000 troops) and in capabilities – both are light infantry, both are airmobiles, and both are capable of airborne and amphibious operations. Both see themselves as “elite” forces with a strong esprit de corps. The transition of maritime forces from the fleet into the yet to be established XIX Marine Amphibious Corps would retain the necessary amphibious expertise, simplify the chain of command, and could be done in a way that retains many of the unique elements that make a Marine a sailor.
The establishment of the Army’s XIX Marine Amphibious Corps at Camp Pendleton on the West Coast would give the nation a light infantry “center of excellence” on each coast. Reducing the commander of the Marine Corps to a three-star general, like the commander of the XVIII Corps, would help reduce the gradual increase in rank structure observed over the past 50 years across the Department of the United Nations. Defense (DoD). Army traditions are probably flexible enough to retain many of the Marine Corps’ treasured accessories, such as dress blue and the eagle, globe, and anchor emblem. Army airborne troops currently wear their brown berets and cavalry units wear their cowboy hats and spurs. Additionally, if the XVIII Corps can informally use the term “top” for the first command sergeant, the XIX Corps may well use “gunny” for the E-7s. Likewise, young men and women could enlist to become Marines and continue to cross Parris Island for a training camp.
Incorporating the Marine Corps into the military would greatly simplify the DoD chain of command and eliminate the need for the commander to go to the military and beg for future armor and artillery support. Likewise, XIX Corps Marines would have an equal chance of gaining new capabilities integrated into the Army, while potentially allowing Army Chiefs to reduce the operational tempo of both Corps, although both are still rapid deployment units.
To say that the Marines would resist incorporation into the Army and Navy is a gross understatement. However, there are concessions that could make it slightly less toxic to Marines and less objectionable to the public and Congress. Allowing Navy fixed-wing pilots inducted into the Navy to complete their careers using the ranks and uniforms of the Marine Corps would likely help and, given the history of the Navy’s mixed uniforms, would likely go unnoticed by the public. . Similar concessions for the current generation of Marines incorporated into the military could potentially facilitate their transition. But however successful those mitigation efforts were, the DoD would likely envision a decade of angst and the occasional confusion. The key will be Congress, which will have to rewrite the legislation, including Title 10 in the United States. As previously mentioned, there are fewer Marines in Congress today than at any time since the early 1950s (there are 15 Marine Corps veterans in the 117th Congress). This, coupled with the inevitable savings from yet another round of base closures, may be enough for the initiative championed by President Truman and advocated by Generals Eisenhower and Marshall to be completed.
General Krulak has rightly said that the United States does not need but wants the Marine Corps. For the best interests of the nation, the DoD should at least know whether the American public and Congress will accept an XIX Marine Amphibious Corps. If the answer is yes, then a myriad of questions will have to be answered: Does the nation need two separate light infantry corps? What Marine Corps facilities will be closed or reduced? How many military and civilian personnel in the Marine Corps, made redundant by the changes, will be made redundant? And what, if any, will remain as the Navy police force? If the topic is heard fairly, the answers may surprise us all.
Since 1873, the US Naval Institute has championed intellectual debate on key issues for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. To find out more, visit usni.org.
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