Maneuver Warfare Handbook

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A surprising book, giving wisdom about tactical advantage to overcome your enemy eventhough he's superior by bruteforce.
This is the "judo" of military attack.
What he describes here can be applied in other topics.
As he demonstrate the ability to adapt is crucial for success, and we can see the same pattern in successful startup and business.

The purpose of maneuver warfare is to defeat the enemy by disrupting his ability to react, rather than by physical destruction of forces.

Foreword - Colonel John C. Studt

I served over 31 years active duty with the Marine Corps, saw combat in both Korea and Vietnam, and attended service schools from The Basic School to the National War College. Yet only toward the end of my military career did I realize how little I really understood the art of war.

What he has produced is a text book on how to conduct warfare, and it calls for a totally different approach than we teach in our schools today.

B. H. Liddell Hart once remarked that "The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out."


History suggests God is on the side of the bigger battalions -- unless the smaller battalions have a better idea. A slugging match against someone much stronger than yourself is never very promising. Even if you win. the cost is usually high. But if you can use judo against your larger opponent. if you can psych him out. throw him off balance. and use his own momentum against him. you can win. and often you can win quickly and at small cost.
Maneuver warfare can be thought of as military judo. It is a way of fighting smart. of out-thinking an opponent you may not be able to overpower with brute strength. As such. it offers Marines the best hope of winning the battles. campaigns and wars they may face in the future.

1 - The Theory of Maneuver Warfare

Maneuver warfare is not new. It probably dates from the first time a caveman surprised an enemy from behind instead of meeting him club-to-club.

The first clear case in recorded history was the battle of Leuctra in 371 B.C. The Thebans won that battle, thanks to a surprise strike against the right flank of the rigid Spartan phalanx.
Hannibal's defeat of the Romans at Cannae in 216 B.C., one of the most decisive tactical victories of all time, was an example of maneuver warfare.

"Maneuver…is organized movement of troops (forces) during combat operations to a new axis (line) and region for the purpose of taking an advantageous position relative to the enemy in order to deliver a decisive strike."
But when used in the phrase "maneuver warfare," maneuver means much more. It is what all these cases--Leuctra, Cannae, Vicksburg, the German 1918 offensive, the Suez Canal crossing and many, many others--have in common. The theory of maneuver warfare must answer the question: What was the essence of success in all of these cases?

Colonel Boyd's development of the theory of maneuver warfare began with a study of some mock air-to-air combat exercises.
American aviators were very successful in that conflict. They achieved a 10:1 kill ratio over their North Korean and Chinese opponents. Colonel Boyd began his study with the question: "How and why did we do so well?"

he MiG-IS, was superior to the American F-86. It could climb and accelerate faster, and it had a better sustained turn rate.
the F-86 was much superior to the MiG in two less obvious measures:
First, the pilot could see out much better. The F-86's bubble canopy gave its pilot very good outward vision;
Second, the F-86 had high-powered and highly effective hydraulic controls. This meant that while the MiG could do many individual actions--inc1uding turn. climb. and acce1erate--better than the F-86. the F-86 could transition from one action to another much more quickly than the MiG.

Using these two superiorities, the American pilots developed a tactical approach that forced the MiG into a series of actions. Each time the action changed, the F-86 gained a time advantage, because the F-86 pilot could see more quickly how the situation had changed and he could also make his aircraft shift more quickly to a new action. With each change, the MiG's actions became more inappropriate, until they were so inappropriate that the MiG gave the F-86 a good firing opportunity. Often. it appeared the MiG pilot realized what was happening to him and panicked, which made the American pilot's job all the easier.

He found that in battles, campaigns and wars like Leuctra. Vicksburg and France in 194D, a similar thing seemed to have happened. One side had presented the other with a sudden, unexpected change or a series of such changes to which it could not adjust in a timely manner. As a result, it was defeated, and it was generally defeated at small cost to the victor. Often, the losing side had been physically stronger than the winner. And often. the same sort of panic and paralysis the North Korean and Chinese pilots had shown seemed to occur.

Conflict can be seen as time-competitive observation-orienta- tion-decision-action cycles. Each party to a conflict begins by observing. He observes himself, his physical surroundings and his enemy. Dn the basis of his observation, he orients, that is to say, he makes a mental image or "snapshot" of his situation. On the basis of this orientation, he makes a decision. He puts the decision into effect, i.e., he acts. Then, because he assumes his action has changed the situation, he observes again, and starts the process anew. His actions follow this cycle, sometimes called the "Boyd Cycle" or "OODA Loop."
If one side in a conflict can conSistently go through the Boyd Cycle faster than the other, it gains a tremendous advantage. By the time the slower side acts, the faster side is doing something different from what he observed, and his action is inappropriate.
With each cycle, the slower party's action is inappropriate by a larger time margin. Even though he desperately strives to do something that will work, each action is less useful than its predecessor; he falls farther and farther behind. Ultimately, he ceases to be effective.

This is what happened to the Spartans at Leuctra, the Romans at Cannae. the French in 1940 and the Communist fighter pilots over Korea. Sometimes, a single action was enough, as in the Thebans' oblique attack at Leuctra. Sometimes. as in the Blitzkrieg or air combat over Korea, a series of OODA Loops was required. But whether it was through a single action or a large number, the essence of what happened was the same.

Maneuver means Boyd Cycl ing the enemy, being consistently faster through however many OODA Loops it takes until the enemy loses his cohesion-- until he can no longer fight as an effective, organized force.
Sometimes, a Boyd Cycled enemy panics or becomes passive. This is an ideal outcome for the victor, because a panicked or passive enemy can be annihilated or captured at the lowest cost in friendly casualties.
At other times, the outmaneuvered enemy may continue to fight as individuals or small units. But because he can no longer act effectively as a force, he is comparatively easy to destroy.

Agood example of a panicked enemy can be seen in Rommel's success at the battle of Caporetto in World War I, where with a force of about a battalion he took more than 10,000 Italian prisoners. At Cannae, the Romans continued to fight as individuals. But in both situations, the basis of victory was the same: one side Boyd Cycled the other.

If the object in maneuver warfare is to move through OODA Loops faster than the enemy. what do you need to do? How can you be consistently faster?

1/ Only a decentralized military can have a fast OODA Loop. If the observations must be passed up a chain of command, the orientation made and the decision taken at a high level, and the command for action then transmitted back down the chain. the OODA Loop is going to be slow.

2/ Maneuver warfare means you will not only accept confusion and disorder and operate successfully within it, through decentralization, you will also ~enerate confusion and disorder.
tacti cs of the German Blitzkrieg were inherently disorderly. Higher headquarters could neither direct nor predict the exact path of the advance. But the multitude of German reconnaissance thrusts generated massive confusion among the French in 1940. Each was reported as a new attack. The Germans seemed to be everywhere, and the French, whose system demanded certainty before making any decisions, were paralyzed.

3/ All patterns, recipes and formulas are to be avoided. The enemy must not be able to predict your actions. If your tactics follow predictable patterns, the enemy can easily cut inside your OODA Loop. If he can predict what you will do, he will be waiting for you.
Instead of a checklist or a cookbook, maneuver warfare requires commanders who can sense more than they can see, who understand the opponent's strengths and weaknesses and their own, and who can find the enemy's critical weaknesses in a specific situation.
They must be able to create multiple threats and keep the enemy uncertain as to which is real. They must be able to see their options in the situation before them, constantly create new options, and shift rapidly among options as the situation develops.

There can be no fixed schemes. Every scheme. every pattern is wrong. No two situations are identical. That is why the study of military history can be extremely dangerous.
Never do the same thing twice. Even if something works well for you once. by the second time the enemy will have adapted. So you have to think up something new.
you can't become a great military leader just by imitating so and so. It has to come from within. In the last analysis. military command is an art.

2 - Tactics and Operations