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Progression of US Tank Doctrine in the Pacific Theater

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  • Progression of US Tank Doctrine in the Pacific Theater

    Here is a 60 page essay by Joseph DiDomenico, a Masters student at Norwich University entitled "The Progression of Tank Doctrine in the Pacific Theater of Operations: 1943-1945." The link: The paper is behind the firewall, but free for those with an account and signing up for an account is free and painless (especially if you already have a Facebook account). Here is a snip from the introduction:

    While the battle of Tarawa produced significant losses, many leaders reflected on its impact on amphibious and tank tactics and questioned why it took so long to identify such a failure of doctrine. Several historians believe that the progression of armor doctrine was gradual and began in 1942 during the attack on the island of Guadalcanal. Joint Marine and Army forces began to learn that imperfections with the tank made the use of armor in harsh island terrain difficult. While this is in part true, they often blamed the terrain for these “imperfections,” not the doctrine. This document shows how tank employment was founded on Army principles and changed considerably after armored forces were recognized as critical in island assaults and its doctrine was proven faulty following the battle of Tarawa.

    By the outbreak of World War Two, the employment of the tank in an amphibious operation had not been truly understood. The Marines focused most of their doctrine on evolving a synchronized and planned amphibious assault to secure a foothold on shore.2 Marine doctrine severely neglected the long-term ground campaign that was needed to follow the assault phase. Closely tied to that doctrine is the role of the tank. The Marine Corps adopted tank technology and doctrine from the Army, which in turn fundamentally prepared for the large tank on tank battles of Europe. Therein lies a significant gap in employing tanks appropriately during an amphibious assault, and on restricted island terrain. The heavy losses and ad-hoc tank-infantry tactics employed by elements of C Company became the forcing function that modified doctrine. The battle was the catalyst: changing the training, task organization, tactics, and equipment of the tank corps and the role or armor in amphibious operations.

    This paper shows the doctrinal progression of Armor in the Pacific. It explains why the battle for Tarawa was the primary element that changed the interwar doctrine into an effective set of guidelines for tanks in modern warfare. To show doctrinal progress and indicate changes, this highlights key sources like Marine Corps Tables of Organization (T/Os) for tank battalions, and inter-war and post war Field Manuals and publications. It also requires after action reports, veteran interviews, and operational summaries that point out the techniques used for Tank battalions prior to the battle of Tarawa. With this information, this assault and inland operations on Tarawa becomes a starting point for tracking doctrinal change. Next will be summaries of operations throughout the Central Pacific to include campaigns in the Marshall, Mariana, and Ryukyu Islands. Finally the Tank Matter’s Conference convened in May 1945 and captured all the tactical applications employed as a result of Tarawa. The result of this conference was a revised table of organization for the Marine Corps that lasted through the Vietnam War and the publication of the Marine Corps Amphibious Operations:
    Employment of Tanks (Phib-18)
    in 1946.This paper will conclude that Tarawa was the key element proving that the interwar doctrine of the Tentative Manual for Landing Operations and the Army’s 17 series Field Manuals, were seriously flawed in how tanks were employed in amphibious operations throughout the Pacific Theater.
    Interesting read. The only negative for me is that the essay uses endnotes, not footnotes. I hate that!

    Also, Panther and CarpeDiem, please do not move this into the armor subforum. There is little enough devoted to the PTO on these boards as it is and I'd rather this not get lost. Of course, if no one is interested, bury the thread wherever you like.

  • #2
    I agree, moving this thread from the PTO forum would be a mistake. It is a minor discussion in the general subject of armor, but a significant one in the context of US ground forces in the PTO.


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