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Principles Of Operations Over The Sea

Since steamers have supplanted sailing ships for commercial
intercourse it is possible to transport our large troop forces in
them; but fixed plans should be formulated with the view of making use
of these strong and numerous vessels in over-seas operations. The main
difficulty arises in the fact that all sea and land fighting forces
must be combined. However, any consequent friction can easily be
avoided if the army and fleet, in time of peace, become familiar with
their mutual dependence and with the need of individual cooperation.
It is plain, therefore, that operations over the sea should be planned
for in advance. There is no prospect of success unless the parts of
the complicated mechanism are individually prepared.

The selection of a favorable time and situation for operations is an
important factor in its success. If an unexpected landing could be
made the opponents would not succeed in making a strong defense, nor
would they be able to concentrate sufficient forces to oppose the
invasion. Hence the preparation of the land operations must be so
thoroughly advanced that in case of war the rapidity of mobilizing and
transporting would assure an advantageous surprise. How difficult and
costly this task is has been demonstrated by the United States in its
expedition to Cuba and by England in transporting its first troops to
South Africa.

The object of the operation must by all means be concealed and the
preliminary preparations should be planned so as to delude the
opponents. Napoleon's expedition against Egypt and the manner in
which it was undertaken even to-day remains a standard example.

A landing operation on an enemy's shore is generally possible only
where one is superior in naval strength to that which the enemy can
muster at a critical time. After a landing a victory at sea by our
opponents would not be of benefit to them, in case they have not
provided sufficient land fighting forces successfully to combat the
invasion. Therefore, it is imperative at least to strengthen our
German battle fleet so greatly that it would assure the troops a safe
passage, and also defeat or hold in check that portion of the enemy's
naval forces which they could readily employ.

If the transports sail ahead of the fleet there is the possibility
that with a reverse at sea the landing operations could not be carried
through. The rule to be followed is to employ for operations over the
sea all available battleships, part in the regular fleet and part as
an escort for the protection of the transports. In no case should the
land forces be transported on battleships, for they would restrict the
fighting value of the ships. So, for example, the French admiral
Gauthaunce--1801--in spite of his superior battle fleet was compelled
to withdraw to Toulon before the English fleet because his ships had
suffered in fighting value through the presence of land troops.

Only the largest steamships are to be considered for transports
because they have a greater field for action, can carry more troops
and require a smaller escort of battleships, thereby giving a small
battle fleet like ours more available strength, which is, of course,
of great value.

Naturally, the ships should be loaded to a capacity in proportion to
the length of the voyage. In cases where the distance is not great the
transport ships can make the trip twice, but it is important that the
principal part of the expedition go in the first transports so as not
to land an inefficient force on the enemy's coast. The whole purpose
of the enterprise might be defeated through lack of aggressive
strength of the landing troops. The number of troops to be landed must
be greater than the estimated number of the enemy. As they must be
able to assume the offensive, it is desirable that the militia be
debarred and only well drilled forces, under experienced officers, be
sent over. Such a combination gives the required fighting value.

In spite of the difficulty experienced in transporting horses, the
cavalry is an extremely valuable adjunct in operations of invasion,
playing a great part in offensive movements and in assisting the
field and heavy artillery. The cavalry will also be able to prevent an
attack on the infantry, which might otherwise inflict damage hard to
retrieve. In the Crimean War Marshal St. Arnault was hindered in the
pursuit of the routed Russians because of the deficiency in the
cavalry and artillery in the French army. He had only one hundred
troopers at his disposal, and his guns, drawn by only four horses,
were greatly hampered in their movements.

The difficulties in transporting large cavalry and artillery divisions
can be overcome through modern methods. The extent of our merchant
marine makes it possible to forward the necessary number of troops,
but it must be remembered that on account of our present political
position we can send only as strong a force as we can afford to
dispense with at home, without endangering the country.

The management of the complete operation over the sea as a rule can be
better executed by an army officer than by a naval officer, for the
success of the enterprise depends principally on the land operations.
This leadership would usually fall to the commanding officer of the
transport fleet and escorting squadron. It is out of the question to
change commands at such a critical period as disembarking. With us the
commander-in-chief of the transport troops is lower in rank than the
commander of the escorting squadron, a designation which the
vicissitudes of war have found very disadvantageous. More than one
well-planned operation has been restrained by the commanding admiral
because he sacrificed favorable conditions from the standpoint of land
operations to gain a slight advantage from a naval standpoint. On the
other hand, Napoleon I, against the advice of his admirals,
disembarked his troops in Egypt, and thereby kept them from sharing
the fate of the fleet.

After successful landings it may be necessary to place the transport
fleet and its escort in command of the chief of the land troops. Even
the battle fleet should be under his direction when a change of base
is necessary or when the land and sea forces are in joint action. For
technical naval questions the chief command would be assigned to an
officer of the Admiral Staff. In a joint attack on a coast city the
advantage of harmony and cooperation is readily seen. In the battle on
the Alma this fact was demonstrated, the striking of the fleet on the
flank was not ordered by the commander of the land forces and was not
brought about in unison with the land attack.

Next: Preparations During Peace

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