U.S.Marines and irregular warfare, 1898-2007 (incl. Haiti), ix+343p, U.S. Marine Corps Univversity press [Drew-check for...


Material Information

U.S.Marines and irregular warfare, 1898-2007 (incl. Haiti), ix+343p, U.S. Marine Corps Univversity press Drew-check for copyright before scanning
Physical Description:
Mixed Material
Quantico, VA, USMC Pr., 2008


General Note:
General Note:
SLU-Loccust St- D 214.13:W 23

Record Information

Source Institution:
Saint Louis University
Holding Location:
Saint Louis University
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
System ID:

This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text

This copy of a rare volume in its collections,
digitized on-site under the
LLMC Extern-Scanner Program,
is made available courtesy of the

Saint Louis University Law Library





Compiled by
Colonel Stephen S. Evans
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Marine Corps University
United States Marine Corps
Quantico, Virginia


160 00000 500




This anthology presents a collection of 27 articles on counterinsurgency warfare
and includes a broad bibliography that collectively describe the role played by the
United States in various counterinsurgency and irregular warfare efforts from 1898
until 2007, with a particular emphasis on the role of the Marine Corps in the conduct
of such efforts. Like other previously published USMC History Division anthologies
on earlier wars, the purpose of this volume is to provide readers with a general
overview and introduction to the topic of counterinsurgency and irregular warfare.
Designed essentially as a primer, this volume is intended to serve as an initial educa-
tional resource that provides Marine officers and other national security professionals
with the historical basis for modern-day USMC counterinsurgency strategy and oper-
ational doctrine.
Using a broad range of historical and contemporary examples of U.S. involvement
in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare, this particular anthology has drawn its
articles from an equally wide range of publishers. As such, I would like to thank the
editors of the Naval Institute Press, Parameters, Military Review, Marine Corps
Gazette, Strategic Forum, Aerospace Power Journal, Revista/Review Interamericana,
Orbis, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Hispanic American Historical Review, Center
for Strategic and International Studies, Washington Quarterly, Royal United Services
Institute Journal, and Foreign Service Journal for permitting the reproduction of the
articles that comprise this volume. Their valued support has made the creation of this
volume possible.

Dr. Charles P. Neimeyer
Director of Marine Corps History

~i*LrPXrl~-i~lEP-rraarril~-~r ---rr


This anthology joins a growing number of works whose topic is counterinsurgency
and irregular warfare. Continuing discussion and study of these subjects is of critical
importance to the ongoing efforts of the United States and its allies in the Global War
on Terrorism.
The 27 articles presented here, as well as the works referenced in this book's
"Selected Bibliography," represent only a small fraction of the enormous body of lit-
erature written about these subjects. Especially since the tragic events of 9/11 and the
consequent advent of the Global War on Terrorism, there has been a remarkable
surge of interest in counterinsurgency, reflected most notably in the very large num-
ber of recent articles, monographs, studies, and reports that are found in a variety of
highly divergent sources. These run the academic gamut from traditional military,
government, and university studies and publications to those produced by a host of
think tank and nongovernmental organizations. The articles selected for inclusion in
this anthology all help to illustrate the complexity involved in conducting counterin-
surgency and irregular war efforts, both historically and in the contemporary Global
War on Terrorism.
The anthology is divided broadly into two halves: the first half presents historical
examples of counterinsurgency involving the United States, while the second half
addresses the nation's contemporary efforts in this regard. Part One contains three
articles on counterinsurgency doctrine and theory. Parts Two through Six present arti-
cles about historical counterinsurgency efforts by the United States, with particular
emphasis on the role played by the Marine Corps. Specifically, Part Two recounts the
United States' first taste of fighting a prolonged, overseas counterinsurgency-the
Philippine Insurrection. The experience gained in this conflict soon came to be
employed on numerous occasions and at various locations in the Caribbean during
the course of the "Banana Wars"; most prominently in the long-term military occupa-
tions of Nicaragua (Part Three), Haiti (Part Four), and the Dominican Republic (Part
Five). Because of its all-too-frequent involvement in a range of counterinsurgency
efforts, the United States in general, and the Marine Corps in particular, became quite
proficient in conducting a variety of civil and military counterinsurgency operations.
In fact, many of the experiences and lessons garnered from the Philippines and the
Banana Wars eventually came to be incorporated into one of the Marine Corps' sem-
inal publications-the Small Wars Manual-in 1940. Regrettably, some of these les-
sons had to be relearned for America's involvement in Vietnam (Part Six).
After a 30-year hiatus, the United States once again finds itself engaged in several
prolonged counterinsurgencies and a number of related counterterrorism efforts, all
part of the ongoing, overarching Global War on Terrorism (Part Seven). The princi-

pal-though certainly not the exclusive-focus of these contemporary counterinsur-
gency and counterterrorism efforts is on al-Qaeda and other proponents of radical
Islamist ideologies (Part Eight). While the Global War on Terrorism is truly global in
scale, with operations stretching from Columbia to Indonesia and the Philippines, the
main battlefields are in Afghanistan (Part Nine), Iraq (Part Ten), and the Horn of
Africa (Part Eleven). Compared with America's counterinsurgency operations of the
previous century, contemporary counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts are
far more likely to be multinational, joint-service, interagency affairs that are corre-
spondingly far more difficult to plan and to coordinate successfully.
Although further details can be found in the initial section of the volume's "Selected
Bibliography," several things should be noted here in regard to the rationale and
development of the bibliography. First, like the anthology itself, the bibliographic
entries deal with topics concerning counterinsurgency and irregular warfare involv-
ing only the United States; the experiences of European nations, the Soviet Union,
and others are left largely unexplored. Beyond this, because it is intended primarily
as an introduction and educational resource, the entries comprise English-language
and secondary sources only. Lastly, because the cutoff for research for this volume
was mid-2007, the impact of the surge in Iraq is not addressed. Despite these con-
straints, the references manage to address a broad range of subjects: on higher-end
operational/strategic level of war considerations, on geopolitical context, and on a
varied array of related topics-political theory, historical case studies, failed states,
cultural studies and analysis, and many others-that all provide context or play a role
in conducting a counterinsurgency and achieving success in the realm of irregular
My sincere thanks to Dr. Charles Neimeyer, Director of the Marine Corps History
Division, for granting me wide latitude in determining the scope of the project, in
organizing the topics to be addressed, in selecting the articles that would be includ-
ed in the anthology, and in compiling and selecting the bibliographic entries. Thanks
also to Captain C. Cameron Wilson for researching various photo collections and
helping to select the photographs contained in this volume. Major Valerie Jackson's
Editing and Design section at History Division, and in particular W. Stephen Hill and
Greg Macheak, were responsible for transforming an eclectic array of electronic files,
photocopies, and photographs into a manageable format. Additional guidance and
advice was provided by Colonel Patricia Saint, Deputy Director, by Charles D.
Melson, Chief Historian, and by Kenneth H. Williams, Senior Editor. Wanda J. Renfrow
aided with the editing, and Emily D. Funderburke, an Editing and Design intern,
helped re-create many of the graphics from the articles.

Stephen S. Evans, PhD
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

;~i':~i~PBZBl~na--mxra~^-l-- -

Table of Contents

F o re w o rd ...................................................................... ............................................. ............ .....iii
Preface ...................................................... .................. ......................iv
Part I
Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Theory
Insurgency: Modern Warfare Evolves into a Fourth Generation
Thom as X H am m es ..................... .....................................................................1........
Back to the Street Without Joy: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam ahd
Other Small Wars
Robert M Cassidy ...... ................................................................................ 13
Countering Irregular Threats: A Comprehensive Approach
Marine Corps Combat Development Command................................................................. 23
Part II
Philippine Insurrection, 1899-1902
Lessons from a Successful Counterinsurgency: The Philippines, 1899-1902
Tim othy K D eady ........................... ............................................................................. 29
We Will Go Heavily Armed: The Marines' Small War on Samar, 1901-1902
B ria n M cA llister Lin n ..................................................... .................................................... 41
Part III
Nicaragua, 1909-1933
Airpower and Restraint in Small Wars: Marine Corps Aviation in the Second Nicaraguan
Campaign, 1927-1933
W ray R Joh n so n ........................................................................ ...................... ...................... 55
U.S. Marines and Miskito Indians: The Rio Coco Patrol in 1928
David C. Brooks ............................................................. ........ ................... 67
Lessons from Yesterday's Operations Short of War: Nicaragua and the Small Wars Manual
Richard J. M acak r. ....................................................................................... 79

Part IV

Haiti, 1915-1934
The American Occupation of Haiti: Problems and Programs, 1920-1928
Robert Debs Heinljr. and Nancy Gordon Heini .............................................. ................... 89
Administering the Protectorates: The U.S. Occupation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Richard M illett and G. Dale Gaddy............................................................ .................. 101
Part V

Dominican Republic, 1916-1924
Caudillos and Gavilleros versus the United States Marines: Guerrilla Insurgency During the
Dominican Intervention, 1916-1924
Bnice Calder ......... ........... ........................... .................. 117
Cacos and Caudillos: Marines and Counterinsurgency in Hispanolia, 1915-1924
G raham A Cosm as ..................................................................................... .................135
Part VI

A Feather in Their Cap? The Marines' Combined Action Program in Vietnam
Lawrence A. Yates..... ....................................................................... 147
CORDS/Phoenix: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam for the Future
Dale Andrade and James H. Wilbanks ............. ....... ......................159
Part VII

Global War on Terrorism: Overview and Strategy
Challenges in Fighting a Global Insurgency
D a vid W B a rn o .......................................................................... ..................................... 175
Countering Evolved Insurgent Networks
Thom as X H am m es .......................................................................................................... 187
Advances in Predeployment Culture Training: The U.S. Marine Corps Approach
B arak A Salm oni............................................................................................ ................. 197

Islamism, Islamists, and Insurgency
A Clash of Systems: An Analytical Framework to Demystify the Radical Islamist Threat


Andrew Harvey, Ian Sullivan, and Ralph Groves ....... .............................................. 209
The Concept and Practice of Jihad in Islam
M ichael G K napp ........................... ...................................................... ..................221
Part IX
Understanding the Taliban and Insurgency in Afghanistan
Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason....... .................................. 231
Afghanistan Four Years On: An Assessment
Sean M Maloney ..... ......................................................................... 247
Part X

Assessing Iraq's Sunni Arab Insurgency
Michael Eisenstadt and Jeffrey White....... ......... ...... ...........................257
Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq
Steven M etz ................................................. ................................................................. 283
Part XI

Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the

Horn of Africa
Around the Horn
D avid J. D anelo ............................. ............................................................................. 293
The War on Terrorism in the Horn of Africa
Tom D ubs .............................. .............. ..... ............ .. ........ .. .................. ... 301
Recognizing Somaliland: Forward Step in Countering Terrorism?
K urt Sbillinger ............................ ................................................................................. 309
Fighting Terrorism in East Africa and the Horn
D a vid H Sh in n .......................................................................... ...................................... 3 17

Selected B ib liograp h y ....................................................................................... ................... 325
Permission and Acknowledgments ....................................................................341


Sftr, e rrl r" ..

.,, ,:; ,, t-- .:

La7 rt .* ,,'. *, : t C L

- .: ; ": .: : ; ; I

. ,: f 1. ,o .
:.- .'.
# .. ...

'-.,'" ;, t' "'-'".. -- ,
'- .- -

F -. .. '.- .


IP d
t AA
59 'r?^fe

^^**^ f~l i' -:t
li > ',.*l .9
, ., : .
,,... r : : ,:. _-
'-. .'-a,- m -,c
l~d' 2 '

-..: =._ .

* U *N*~
* K

L.; ,


Insurgency: Modern Warfare Evolves into a

Fourth Generation

by Thomas X. Hammes

Strategic Forum, January 2005

Fourth-generation warfare, which is now
playing out in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a
modern form of insurgency. Its practition-
ers seek to convince enemy political lead-
ers that their strategic goals are either
unachievable or too costly for the per-
ceived benefit. The fundamental precept is
that superior political will, when properly
employed, can defeat greater economic
and military power. Because it is organized
to ensure political rather than military suc-
cess, this type of warfare is difficult to
Strategically, fourth-generation warfare
remains focused on changing the minds of
decisionmakers. Politically, it involves
transnational, national, and subnational
organizations and networks. Operationally,
it uses different messages for different audi-
ences, all of which focus on breaking an
opponent's political will. Tactically, it uti-
lizes materials present in the society under
attack-to include industrial chemicals, liq-
uefied natural gas, or fertilizers.
Although these modern insurgencies are
the only type of war that the United States
has lost (Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia),
they can be overcome-witness Malaya
(1950s), Oman (1970s), and El Salvador
(1980s). Winning, however, requires coher-
ent, patient action that encompasses the
full range of political, economic, social, and
military activities. The United States cannot
force its opponents to fight the short, high-
technology wars it easily dominates.
Instead, the nation must learn to fight
fourth-generation wars anew.

On 1 May 2003, President George W. Bush
declared the end of major combat in
Iraq. While most Americans rejoiced at
this announcement, students of history under-
stood that it simply meant the easy part was over.
In the following months, peace did not break out,
and the troops did not come home. In fact, Iraqi
insurgents have struck back hard. Instead of
peace, each day Americans read about the death
of another soldier, the detonation of deadly car
bombs, the assassination of civilians, and Iraqi
Barely three months later, in August, a series of
bombs hit a police academy graduation ceremo-
ny, the Jordanian Embassy, and United Nations
(UN) headquarters in Baghdad. The Ayatollah
Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim (leader of the
Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq)
was killed, and an attempt was made to kill the
Baghdad chief of police. These attacks marked
the opening of the anti-coalition campaign that
continued through the turnover of authority to
the Interim Iraqi Government. As of this writing,
the violence continues as Iraqi authorities strug-
gle to provide security for their people and work
to rebuild their country. Unfortunately, Iraq has
become the scene of another fourth-generation
At the same time things were degenerating in
Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan was moving into
fourth-generation conflict. While al-Qaeda and
the Taliban were not attacking U.S. troops direct-
ly, they were moving aggressively to defeat the
U.S.-supported Hamid Kharzai government.
Decisively defeated in the conventional campaign
by a combination of U.S. firepower and Northern
Alliance troops, the anti-coalition forces have
returned to the style of warfare that succeeded

against the Soviets. The Taliban's emphasis on
derailing the recent presidential elections shows
they understand that fourth-generation warfare is
a political rather than military struggle. By trying
to prevent Afghans from voting, they sought to
undermine the legitimacy of whoever won the
elections. Instead of defeating the government's
security forces, they plan to destroy its legitimacy.
While polling for the presidential election pro-
ceeded without major incident, it remains to be
seen whether this positive step has set the Taliban
back politically-and much more contentious
legislative elections are just over the horizon.
In Iraq, the attacks on and threats against oil
pipelines are economic and political in nature.
The insurgents are assessing a tax on the entire
world's economy by raising the price of oil. They
hope such attacks will weaken the Iraqi govern-
ment while simultaneously bringing economic
and political pressure to bear on the United
States. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's shift from
military action to the political arena most likely
means no real change in goals, only methods. He
can use his political and social networks in con-
junction with his militias to advance his goals.
In Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Spain, al-Qaeda
and its affiliates managed a series of high-profile
attacks and are promising a major attack on the
United States. Despite the Bush administration's
declaration of victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, the
war on terror has not been an entirely one-sided
As debilitating and regular as these attacks are,
this kind of warfare is not new but rather has
been evolving over the last seven decades. The
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have moved from
third-generation warfare, America's forte, to
fourth-generation warfare. It is much too early to
predict the outcome of either fight, but the anti-
coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are
attempting to tie their fourth-generation tactics
into integrated strategic campaigns. At the same
time, al-Qaeda is maintaining its own strategic
campaign: to defeat the United States and its
Opponents in various parts of the world know
that fourth-generation warfare is the only kind the
United States has ever lost-and not just once,
but three times: in Vietnam, Lebanon, and

Somalia. This form of warfare also defeated the
French in Vietnam and Algeria and the Soviet
Onion in Afghanistan. It continues to bleed Russia
in Chechnya and the United States in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and other areas where it is engaged
in the war on terror. This record of defeat of
major powers by much weaker fourth-generation
opponents makes it essential to understand this
new form of warfare and adapt accordingly.
Mao Zedong was the first to define modern
insurgency as a political struggle and use it suc-
cessfully. Each practitioner since has learned,
usually through a painful process of trial and
error, from his predecessors or co-combatants.
Each then has adjusted the lessons to his own
fight and added his own refinements. The cumu-
lative result is a new approach to war. The anti-
coalition forces in Iraq, the Taliban in
Afghanistan, the Chechens, and the al-Qaeda net-
work are simply the latest to use an approach that
has been developing for decades.
Since World War II, wars have been a mixed
bag of conventional and unconventional con-
flicts. Conventional wars-the Korean War, the
Israeli-Arab wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973, the
Falklands (Malvinas) War, the Iran-Iraq war, and
the first Gulf War-generally have ended with a
return to the strategic status quo. While some ter-
ritory changed hands and, in some cases, regimes
changed, each state came out of the war with
largely the same political, economic, and social
structure with which it entered. In short, the
strategic situation of the participants did not
change significantly.
In contrast, unconventional wars-the
Communist revolution in China, the first and sec-
ond Indochina wars, the Algerian war of inde-
pendence, the Sandinista struggle in Nicaragua,
the Iranian revolution, the Afghan-Soviet war of
the 1980s, the first intifada, and the Hizbullah
campaign in South Lebanon-display a markedly
different pattern. Each ended with major changes
in the political, economic, and social structure of
the territories involved. While the changes may
not have been better for the people, they were
distinct. Even those unconventional wars where
the insurgents lost (Malaya, Oman, El Salvador)
led to significant changes. The message is clear
for anyone wishing to shift the political balance

Fourth-Generation Warfare in Perspective

The term fourth-generation warfare came into use among military strategists and planners in the late 1980s
as a way to characterize the dynamics and future direction of warfare.This community postulated the evolu-
tion of warfare in several distinct phases.The first generation of modern (post-Westphalian) war was dominat-
ed by massed manpower and culminated in the Napoleonic Wars. Firepower characterized the second gener-
ation, which culminated in World War I.The third generation was dominated by maneuver as developed by
the Germans in World War II.The fourth generation has evolved in ways that take advantage of the political,
social, economic, and technical changes since World War II. It makes use of the advantages those changes offer
an unconventional enemy. For background and a compilation of papers and articles on the subject, see the
Defense and the National Interest Web site at ment/4gw-articles/>.

of power: only unconventional war works against
established powers.

Strategic Aspects

Fourth-generation warfare attempts to change
the minds of enemy policymakers directly. But this
change is not to be achieved through the tradition-
al first- through third-generation objective of
destroying the enemy's armed forces and the
capacity to regenerate them. Both the epic, deci-
sive battles of the Napoleonic era and the wide-
ranging, high-speed maneuver campaigns of the
20th century are irrelevant to this new warfare.
More relevant is the way in which specific mes-
sages are targeted toward policymakers and those
who can influence them. Although tailored for var-
ious audiences, each message is designed to
achieve the basic purpose of war: to change an
opponent's political position on a matter of nation-
al interest.
The struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan show
these characteristics. In each, the insurgents are
sending one message to their supporters, another
to the undecided population, and a third to the
coalition decisionmakers. Supporters are told that
they are defending the faith and their country
against outside invaders. The message to uncom-
mitted or pro-coalition countrymen is to stay out
of the fight between the insurgents and the
invaders, who will eventually leave. Finally, the
coalition, particularly the Americans, is advised to
withdraw or be engaged in an endless, costly fight.
Fourth-generation warfare is not bloodless. As
shown in the chart on page 6, the casualties we

have sustained in fighting insurgents in Iraq long
ago passed those we sustained in the comparative-
ly short, high-intensity phase that toppled Saddam.
And even then, most casualties will tend to be
civilian, a pattern borne out by fighting in Iraq,
Chechnya, Palestinian areas, and elsewhere.
Further, many of those casualties will be caused
not by military weapons but rather by materials
made available within society. Thus, the opponent
does not have to build the warfighting infrastruc-
ture required by earlier generations of war.
As displayed in the Beirut bombings, the
Khobar Towers bombing, the Northern Ireland
campaign, the American Embassy bombings in
Africa, the 9/11 attacks, and the ongoing bombing
campaign in Iraq, fourth-generation warfare prac-
titioners are increasingly using materials made
available by the society they are attacking. This
allows them to take a very different strategic
approach. It relieves the practitioners of the neces-
sity of defending core production assets and frees
them to focus on offense rather than defense. It
also relieves them of the burden of moving sup-
plies long distances. Instead, only money and
ideas-both of which can be digitized and moved
instantly-must be transported.
Furthermore, even at the strategic level, the
importance of the media in shaping the policy of
the participants will continue to increase. This was
demonstrated when U.S. interest in Somalia, previ-
ously negligible, was stimulated by the repeated
images of thousands of starving Somali children.
Conversely, the images of U.S. soldiers being
dragged through the streets ended that commit-
ment. The media will remain a major factor from

the strategic to the tactical level. In fact, world-
wide media exposure can quickly give a tactical
action strategic impact.

Political Aspects

Fourth-generation warriors exploit interna-
tional, transnational, national, and subnational
networks politically for their own purposes. A
growing variety of international conduits are
available: the United Nations, the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Bank, the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries,
and dozens of others. Each organization has a
different function in international affairs, but
each has its own vulnerabilities and can be used
to convey a political message to its leadership
and then to target capital cities. While these inter-
national organizations may not be able to change
the minds of national leaders directly, they can
be used to slow or paralyze an international
The prime objective of the fourth-generation
practitioner is to create political paralysis in both
the international organizations (usually not a dif-
ficult task) and the target nation (difficulty varies
with the nation being targeted). In addition to
normal political attacks, planners can influence
other aspects of the target society. For instance,
they know that the security situation in a country
has a direct effect on the ability of that nation to
get loans. This gives the attacker a different
venue to affect the position of a nation-the
mere threat of action may be enough to impact

the financial status of the target nation and
encourage it to negotiate. Thus, if the objective is
to paralyze the political processes of a target
nation, a number of methods can be used.
Attacks by the al-Sadr militia on oil production
infrastructure in southern Iraq have illustrated
this fact. Nigerian rebels have also used the
threat to oil production to force negotiation on
the Nigerian government. The fact that oil prices
were at a record high gave the rebels more lever-
age because each day's delay increased the costs
to the Nigerian government. As the world
becomes ever more interconnected, the potential
for varied approaches increases, and the effects
may reinforce each other.
A coherent fourth-generation warfare plan
always exploits transnational elements in various
ways. The vehicles may include not only extrem-
ist belief-based organizations such as Islamic
Jihad, but also nationalistic organizations such as
the Palestinians and Kurds, mainline Christian
churches, humanitarian organizations, economic
structures such as the stock and bond markets,
and even criminal organizations such as narco-
traffickers and arms merchants. The key traits of
transnational organizations are that none are
contained completely within a recognized
nation-state's borders; none have official mem-
bers that report back to nation-states; and they
owe no loyalty to any nation-and sometimes lit-
tle to their own organizations.
The use of such transnational elements will
vary with the strategic situation, but they offer a
number of possibilities. They can be a source of

Insurgencies throughout History

Insurgency, often referred to as guerrilla warfare, is not new. The very name guerrilla ("little war") dates
back to the Spanish resistance against Napoleon's occupation of Spain (1809-1813). In fact, insurgency far pre-
dates that campaign. Darius the Great, King of Persia (558-486 BC), and Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
both fought insurgents during their reigns. Insurgency continued as a form of war through the ages.The Irish
nationalist, Michael Collins, drove the British out of Ireland with an insurgent campaign during 1916-1921. In
all cases, the weaker side used insurgent tactics to counter the superior military power of its enemies.
However, in the 20th century, the political aspects of insurgency came to dominate these struggles.The goal
became the destruction of the enemy's political will rather than the exhaustion of his conventional military
power.Advances in communications technology and the growth of formal and informal networks have great-
ly increased the ability of the insurgent to attack the will of enemy decisionmakers directly.

recruits. They can be used (at times unwittingly)
as cover to move people and assets. They can be
an effective source of funds; charitable organiza-
tions have supported terrorist organizations as
diverse as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and
al-Qaeda. During the 1970s, for example, Irish
bars on the east coast of America often had jars
where patrons could make donations, ostensibly
to provide support to Irish families, but in fact
much of the money went directly to support IRA
insurgent operations.
At times, entire organizations can be used
openly to support the position of the fourth-gen-
eration warfare operator. Usually this is done
when the organization genuinely agrees with the
position of one of the antagonists, but false flag
operations are also viable. Such support can lend
legitimacy to a movement and even reverse long-
held international views of a specific situation.
National political institutions are primary tar-
gets for fourth-generation messages. Insurgents
fighting the United States-whether the North
Vietnamese, the Sandinistas, or the Palestinians-
know that if Congress cuts off funds, U.S. allies
would lose their wars. Thus, congressmen have
been targeted with the message that the war was
unwinnable and it made no sense to keep fight-
ing it. The Sandinistas even worked hard to make
individual congressmen part of their network by
sponsoring trips for congressional aides and
mainline church groups to insurgent-held areas
in Nicaragua. If they could convince their guests
that Anastasio Somoza's government was indeed
corrupt, they would actively lobby other aides
and the congressmen themselves to cut off aid to
Somoza. Nongovernmental national groups-
churches, diaspora associations, business groups,
and even lobbying firms-have been major play-
ers in shaping national policies. The United
States must assume its opponents will continue
these efforts.
Subnational organizations can represent both
groups who are minorities in their traditional
homelands, such as the Basque, and those who
are self-selecting minorities, such as Sons of
Liberty and Aryan Nation. These groups are in
unusual positions; they can be either enemies or
allies of the established powers. It simply
depends upon who best serves their interests.

Even more challenging is the fact that since they
are not unified groups, one element of a subna-
tional group may support the government while
another supports the insurgents.
Political alliances, interests, and positions
among and between insurgents will change
according to various political, economic, social,
and military aspects of the conflict. While this has
been a factor in all wars (Italy changed sides in
the middle of World War II, the largest conven-
tional war), it will be prevalent in fourth-genera-
tion war. It is much easier for nonstate entities
(tribes, clans, businesses, criminal groups, racial
groups, subnational groups, and transnational
groups) to change sides than it is for nation-
states or national groups. A government usually
ties itself to a specific cause. It has to convince
decisionmakers or its people to support it. Thus,
it can be awkward for that government to change
sides in midconflict without losing the confi-
dence of its people. Often, the act of changing
sides will lead to the fall of the government. In
contrast, nonstate entities get involved only for
their own needs, and, if these needs change,
they can easily shift loyalties.

Operational Techniques

To influence this wide variety of networks
effectively, the fourth-generation warfare opera-
tional planner must seek different pathways for
various messages. Traditional diplomatic chan-
nels, both official and unofficial, are still impor-
tant but are no longer the only route for commu-
nication and influence. Other networks rival the
prominence of the official ones. The media have
become a primary avenue, as seen in places such
as Vietnam, the West Bank, and Iraq. However,
the sheer diversity and fragmentation of the
media make it much more challenging for either
side to control the message. Professional lobby-
ing groups also have proven effective.
An increasingly important avenue is the
Internet and the power it provides grassroots
campaigns. Whether it is the international cam-
paign to ban landmines or Abu Musab al-
Zarqawi's terror campaign in Iraq, the Internet
provides an alternative channel for high-impact
messages unfiltered by editors or political influ-

U.S. Military Casualties in Iraq: Higher Against the Insurgents Than Against Saddam's Armed Forces


^ -n C 3

il -5 ii




0 120




m Major Combat Phase Insurgency Phase
Source Based on U.S. Government data compiled on the Global Security Web site, available at http//globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_casualties.htm

ence. It can also be used to raise money.
A key factor in a fourth-generation warfare
campaign is that the audience is not a unified tar-
get. It is increasingly fragmented into interest
groups that may realign or even shift sides
depending on how a particular campaign affects
their issues. During the first intifada, the
Palestinians tailored messages for different con-
stituencies. The Israelis have used the same tech-
nique during the al-Aqsa intifada, and the anti-
coalition forces are doing so today in Iraq and
The United States has been slow to understand
the importance of these communications. As
recently as last year [20041], military spokesmen
insisted that the insurgent attacks on U.S. troops in
Iraq were "militarily insignificant." This was at a
time when each attack was on the front page of
major daily newspapers in the United States and
Europe. While the actual casualties may have been
few, each story reached the decisionmakers in
Congress and the public.
To succeed, the fourth-generation operational
planner must determine the message he wants to
send; the networks best suited to carry those mes-
sages; the actions that will cause the network to
send the message; and the feedback system that
will tell him if the message is being received. In
Bosnia, the seizure of UN hostages by Serb forces

during the NATO bombing campaign of 1995 was
the first step of a cycle. The media were used to
transmit images of the peacekeepers chained to
buildings. Then the Serbs watched television to
determine the response of the various govern-
ments. It allowed them to commit the act, transmit
it via various channels, observe the response, and
then decide what to do next. All this occurred
much faster than the bureaucratic reporting
processes of NATO could complete the same
During the first intifada, the Palestinians made
"an operational decision to limit the use of vio-
lence. They confronted the Israeli Army not with
heavily armed guerrillas but with teenagers armed
only with rocks. Thus, they neutralized U.S. sup-
port for Israeli action, froze Israeli defense forces,
and influenced the Israeli national election, which
led to the Oslo Accords.
Similarly, the series of bombings conducted by
the Iraqi insurgents throughout the fall and winter
of 2003-2004 carefully targeted the organizations
most helpful to the Coalition Provisional
Authority-police, the United Nations, non-
governmental organizations (NGOs), coalition
partners, the Kurdish political parties, and Shia
clerics. Each event was tactically separated by time
and space, but each fit together operationally to
attack America's strategic position in the country.



5 0 0 45 L, i 4ii
1 E .

-~ -~ r'


. zom 4) zo
0) 0)
U) Zo -a U) Zo!'!3
^s *^og,! &0M

In Iraq, the United States has found no evi-
dence of central direction at this early date in the
insurgency, yet the pattern of the attacks has rep-
resented a coherent approach to driving the
coalition out of the country. The question is:
With no coordination, how could the insurgents
reinforce each others' actions?
The insurgents could track each attack and, to
a degree, measure its effectiveness by monitoring
the Iraqi, U.S., and international media. Those
attacks that succeeded were quickly emulated;
those that failed ceased to be used. The insurgents
showed many of the characteristics of a self-
organizing network. Each attack is designed to
prevent a stable, democratic government from
emerging. Not all attacks have succeeded, but
they have kept UN presence to a minimum and
have driven many NGOs out of the country.
Further, the coalition is shrinking, and the insur-
gency has clearly affected the price of oil. And the
threat of instability spreading to the rest of the
Persian Gulf increases the upward pressure on oil
To complicate matters, fourth-generation war-
fare will incorporate elements of earlier genera-
tions of war. Even as the Israelis struggled with
the intifada, they had to remain aware that major
conventional forces were on their border. In
Vietnam, the United States and later South
Vietnam had to deal with aggressive, effective
fourth-generation guerrillas while always being
prepared to deal with major North Vietnamese
conventional forces. Clearly, the new generation
of warfare seeks to place an enemy on the horns
of this dilemma. Just as clearly, this is an inten-
tional approach that reaches all the way back to
Action in one or all of the fields above will not
be limited to the geographic location (if any) of
the antagonists but will take place worldwide.
From New York to Bali and Madrid, al-Qaeda and
its affiliates have forcefully illustrated this to their
enemies. Though some elements will be more
attractive as targets, no element of American soci-
ety, no matter where it is in the world, is off lim-
its to attack. The Bush administration actions in
Afghanistan and elsewhere against the al-Qaeda
network show that effective counters must also be

The range of possible fourth-generation oppo-
nents is broad. It is important to remember that
such an opponent does not need a large com-
mand and control system. At a time when U.S.
forces are pouring more money and manpower
into command and control, commercial technolo-
gy makes worldwide, secure communications
available to anyone with a laptop and a credit
card. It also provides access to 1-meter-resolution
satellite imagery, extensive information on U.S.
troop movements, immediate updates on national
debates, and international discussion forums.
Finally, it provides a worldwide financial network
that is fairly secure. In fact, with the proliferation
of Internet cafes, one needs neither the credit card
nor the laptop-only an understanding of how e-
mail and a browser work and some basic human
intelligence tradecraft.
Ideas and funds can be moved through a vari-
ety of methods from e-mail to surface mail to per-
sonal courier to messages embedded in classified
advertisements. The opponent will try to sub-
merge his communications in the noise of the
everyday activity. He will use commercial sources
and vehicles to disguise the movement of materi-
al and funds as commerce. His people will do
their best to merge into whatever civil society they
find themselves in. As a result, detecting the oper-
ational-level activities of a sophisticated opponent
will be extraordinarily difficult.

Tactical Considerations

Fourth-generation warfare takes place in the
complex environment of low-intensity conflict.
Every potential opponent has observed the Gulf
War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and operations in
Afghanistan. They understand that if the United
States is provided clear targets, no matter how
well fortified, those targets will be destroyed. Just
as certainly, they have seen the success of the
Somalis and the Sandinistas. They have also seen
and are absorbing the continuing lessons of
Chechnya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They
will not fight with conventional means.
In attempting to change the minds of key deci-
sion makers, antagonists will use several tactical
paths to get their message through to presidents,
prime ministers, cabinet members, legislators, and

even voters. Immediate, high-impact messages
will probably come via visual media-and the
more dramatic and bloody the image, the stronger
the message. Longer term, less immediate, but
more thought-provoking messages will be passed.
through business, religious, economic, academic,
artistic, and even social networks. While the mes-
sages will be based on a strategic theme, the
delivery will be by tactical action such as guided
tours of refugee camps, exclusive interviews with
insurgent leaders, targeted kidnapping, behead-
ings, car bombings, and assassinations.
This warfare will involve a mixture of interna-
tional, transnational, national, and subnational
actors. Since the operational planner of a fourth-
generation campaign must use all the tools avail-
able, the United States probably will have to deal
with actors from all these arenas at the tactical
level as well. Even more challenging, some will
be violent actors and others nonviolent. In fact,
the term noncombatant applies much more read-
ily to conventional conflicts between states than
to fourth-generation war involving state and non-
state actors. Nonviolent actors, while being legal-
ly noncombatants, will be a critical part of tactical
actions. By using crowds, protesters, media inter-
views, Internet Web sites, and other nonviolent
methods, fourth-generation warriors can create
tactical dilemmas for opponents. Tactical
resources in police, intelligence, military, propa-
ganda, and political spheres will be needed to
deal with the distractions they create.
Tactical military action (for example, terrorist,
guerrilla, or, rarely, conventional) will be tied to
the message and targeted at various groups. The
19 August 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters
in Iraq convinced the organization that continuing
to operate in Iraq would be too costly. The 19
August 2004 burning of southern Iraq oil build-
ings had an immediate effect on the per- barrel
price of oil. These were two tactical actions with
different messages for different target audiences,
yet they both support the strategic goal of increas-
ing the cost to the United States of staying in Iraq.

WMD Attacks

Only by looking at current conflicts as fourth-
generation warfare events can America's true vul-

nerabilities to an attack with weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) be seen. Even a limited bio-
logical attack with a contagious agent, such as
plague, will result in a shutdown of major seg-
ments of air travel, shipping, and trade. Smallpox
will require a total quarantine of the affected areas
until the incubation period has passed. The
potential for billions of dollars in losses to disrupt-
ed trade is obvious, as well as years of continuing
loss due to subsequent litigation.
WMD attacks may not focus on physical
destruction but rather on area denial or disrup-
tion. The ability of a single person to shut down
Senate office buildings and post offices with two
anthrax letters is a vivid example of an area denial
weapon. Disruption can easily be made even
more widespread. The use of containerized
freight to deliver either a WMD or a high-yield
explosive will have more far-reaching and costly
effects on the international trade network than the
shutdown of international air routes. Security for
airliners and air freight is easy compared to the
problem of inspecting seaborne shipping contain-
ers. -Yet containers are the basic component for
the majority of international trade today, and the
United States has no current system to secure or
inspect them. By taking advantage of this vulner-
ability, terrorists can impose huge economic costs
with little effort. They do not have to limit their
actions to the containers but can also use the
ships themselves. Ships flying flags of conven-
ience do so to minimize the ability of government
efforts to regulate or tax them. It is logical to
assume the same characteristics will appeal to ter-
Finally, terrorists do not even have to provide
the materials for simple chemical attacks. The
1984 chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India,
killed more people than 9/11 and left more with
serious long-term injuries. While Bhopal was an
accident, it presents a precedent for a devastating
chemical attack.
The existence of chemical plants and the
movement of toxic industrial chemicals needed to
support the American lifestyle ensure the raw
material for a chemical attack is always present. In
addition to the widely recognized potential for
chemical attack, it is fairly certain terrorists are
today exploring how to use liquid natural gas

tankers, fuel trucks, radioactive waste, and other
available material for future attacks. These are just
a few of the resources available to an intelligent,
creative opponent.

Long Timelines

Fourth-generation warfare timelines, organiza-
tions, and objectives are very different from those
of conventional war. Of particular importance is
the fact that timelines are much longer. Failure to
understand that essential fact is why many
observers do not fully appreciate the magnitude
of the challenge presented by a fourth-generation
When the United States has to fight, it prefers
to wage short, well-defined wars. For the United
States, a long war is five years-which, in fact,
was the duration of major U.S. involvement in
Vietnam (1965-1970). The nation entered when
the war was already under way and left before it
was over. Even then, the U.S. public thought the
country had been at war too long.
But fourth-generation wars are long. The
Chinese Communists fought for 28 years; the
Vietnamese Communists for 30; the Sandinistas
for 18. The Palestinians have been resisting Israeli
occupation for 37 years so far-and some would
argue they have been fighting since 1948. The
Chechens have been fighting over 10 years-this
time. Al-Qaeda has been fighting for their vision
of the world for 20 years since the founding of
Maktab al-Khidamar in 1984. Numerous other
insurgencies in the world have lasted decades.
Accordingly, when getting involved in this type of
fight, the United States must plan for a decades-
long commitment. From an American point of
view, duration may well be the single most
important characteristic of fourth-generation war-
fare. Leadership must maintain the focus of effort
through numerous elections and even changes of
administration to prevail in such an effort.
The United States must understand that fourth-
generation organizations are different. Since Mao,
they have focused on the long-term political via-
bility of the movement rather than on its short-
term tactical effectiveness. They do not see them-
selves as military organizations but rather as webs
that generate the political power central to this

type of warfare. Thus, these organizations are uni-
fied by ideas. The leadership and the organiza-
tions are networked to provide for survivability
and continuity when attacked. And the leadership
recognizes that their most important function is to
sustain the idea and the organizations, not simply
to win on the battlefield.
These opponents focus on the political aspects
of the conflict because they accept that war is ulti-
mately a political act. Since the final objective is
changing the minds of the enemy's political lead-
ership, the intermediate objectives are all mile-
stones focused on shifting the opinion of the var-
ious target audiences. They know that time is on
their side.
Noted military strategist Harry Summers
recounted how he once told a North Vietnamese
colonel that the United States had never been
beaten on the battlefield. The officer replied,
"That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."1
Because of the long timelines and its political
nature, the objectives are different. Fourth-gener-
ation opponents do not seek the defeat of the
enemy forces. They seek the erosion of the
enemy's political will and can win even if the
opposing military force is largely intact. They
focus on winning wars, not battles.

U.S. Response

Fourth-generation opponents are not invinci-
ble. They can be beaten, but only by coherent,
patient actions that encompass all agencies of the
government and elements of the private sector.
Their warfare encompasses the fields of diploma-
cy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and
economic and social development. American
efforts must be organized as a network rather than
in the traditional vertical bureaucracies of Federal
departments. This interagency process will have
to exert its influence for the duration of the war-
from the initiation of planning to the final with-
drawal of forces.
Besides dealing with the long timelines, devel-
oping genuine interagency networks will be the
most difficult U.S. problem in fighting a fourth-
generation opponent. This will require fundamen-
tal changes in how national security leadership
trains, develops, promotes, deploys, and employs

personnel across the Federal Government. The
current system, which is based on 19th-century
bureaucratic theory, cannot support 21st-century
operations. In particular, the United States must
be able to:
train personnel in a genuine interagency
environment. From the classroom to daily opera-
tions to interagency training exercises, personnel
must think and act as part of a network rather
than a hierarchy.
develop personnel through the equivalent of
military joint tours. As in the military, these tours
must be an essential step for promotion.
deploy interagency personnel from all seg-
ments of the U.S. Government overseas for much
longer tours. The current 3- to 12-month overseas
tours in a crisis cannot work in fights lasting
operate as interagency elements down to the
tactical level. This means abandoning the agency-
specific stovepipes that link operations overseas
to their U.S. headquarters. The British War
Committee system used in the Malaya emergency
provides one model that eliminated the
stovepipes and ensured unified effort at every
level of government. Starting in peacetime, per-
sonnel must be trained to be effective linking into
the interagency process, and those who do so
should be rewarded. The current process of
rewarding those who work entirely within a spe-
cific agency prevents effective networking.
eliminate the detailed, bureaucratic process-
es that characterize peacetime government actions
(particularly contracting and purchasing). People
have to be trusted and held accountable. Longer
tours of duty will be essential, both to ensure that
personnel understand the specific situation well
enough to make decisions and can legitimately be
held accountable for their actions. The current
short tours mean no one masters his or her job,
the records are incomplete, and accountability
cannot be maintained.
develop procedures for fully integrating the
range of international organizations, NGOs, allies,
and specialists necessary to succeed against an
adept, agile insurgent.

These are major challenges, but a model exists
with which to work. Presidential Decision
Directive 56 provides an excellent starting point.2
Based on lessons learned from U.S. involvement
in multiple crises and complex contingencies dur-
ing the 1990s, it provides guidance for both train-
ing and operations in an interagency environment
that can be adapted for the purpose of waging
fourth-generation warfare.
Yet this is only a starting point. In the same
way that the Armed Forces had to learn to fight
jointly to master third-generation war, the entire
government must learn to operate in a genuine
interagency fashion to master fourth-generation
conflict. There are no simple, one department,
one-dimensional solutions to these wars. Even
with a fully functioning interagency process, the
assumption must be made that fourth-generation
wars will last a decade or more.


As German military strategist Carl von
Clausewitz once observed: "The first, the
supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment
that the statesman and commander have to make
is to establish by that test the kind of war on
which they are embarking; neither mistaking it
for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is
alien to its nature.'"3 Fourth-generation war, like its
predecessors, will continue to evolve in ways that
mirror global society as a whole. As the United
States moves away from a hierarchical, industrial-
based society to a networked, information-based
society, its political, socioeconomic, and techno-
logical bases will also evolve.
With this evolution come opportunity and haz-
ard. The key to providing for security lies in rec-
ognizing these changes for what they are. In
understanding the kind of war being fought, the
United States must not attempt to shape it into
something it is not. Opponents cannot be forced
into a third-generation war that maximizes
American strengths; they will fight the fourth-gen-
eration war that challenges U.S. weaknesses.
Clausewitz's admonition to national leaders
remains as valid as ever, and it must guide the
planning for future wars


1. Harry G. Summers, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis
of the Vietnam War (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1982),
2. Presidential Decision Directive 56 was developed by
the Clinton administration to manage complex contin-
gency operations. Although canceled by the Bush
administration, it still provides a well-thought-out
model for insurgency operations.
3. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Peter Paret and

Michael Howard (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1976), 88.
About the Author
Thomas X. Hammes, Colonel, USMC (Ret.), is the author of The *7.
and the Stone: On Warfare in the 21st Century (2004), an influential
book on fourth-generation warfare, a subject on which he has been pub-
lishing since 1989. At the time this article was published, he was a senior
military fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at National
Defense University in Washington, D.C. In his 30 years in the Marine
Corps, Hammes served at all levels in the operating forces and participat-
ed in stabilization operations in Somalia and Iraq.

I, IE~t
I~; Y 7 '(1? -. J4J -

I 25 -
-~ -t

4g It- /

- i-

- I.Cv

- -

"*'~ ~ ~ "- I.'**i
... ._ -- -"i': -. .' 4 -- .... -

.... .,. s- ~ -^ --. ., _" -. ,
.. .. -, .....( 1 '



`14 1
4 _-
...- '.- -,* .F
.. -,', s', .-

.-7,. -.77
-. ,? .. 4,

,,, t 4.. ,..
.-:" ... ;

-p. *, ^ t,^-&-^-



- 1

....JIK~ -~

Back to the Street

without Joy:


Lessons from

Vietnam and Other

Small Wars

by Robert M. Cassidy

Parameters, Summer 2004

"The deplorable experience in Vietnam over-
shadows American thinking about guerrilla insur-
Anthony James Joes1

"Fools say they learn from experience; I prefer to
learn from the experience of others."
Otto von Bismark2

In 1961, Bernard Fall, a scholar and practi-
tioner of war, published a book entitled The
Street Without Joy. The book provided a
lucid account of why the French Expeditionary
Corps failed to defeat the Viet Minh during the
Indochina War, and the book's title derived
from the French soldiers' sardonic moniker for
Highway 1 on the coast of Indochina-
"Ambush Alley," or the "Street without Joy." In
1967, while patrolling with U.S. Marines on the
Street without Joy in Vietnam, Bernard Fall was
killed by an improvised explosive mine during
a Viet Cong ambush. In 2003, after the fall of
Baghdad and following the conventional phase
of Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. and Coalition
forces operating in the Sunni Triangle began
fighting a counter-guerrilla type war in which
much of the enemy insurgent activity occurred
along Highway 1, another street exhibiting little
joy. Learning from the experience of other U.S.
counterinsurgencies is preferable to the alterna-


_.- c

The U.S. military has had a host of successful
experiences in counterguerrilla war, including
some distinct successes with certain aspects of
the Vietnam War. However, the paradox stem-
ming from America's unsuccessful crusade in -
the jungles of Vietnam is this-because the
experience was perceived as anathema to the
mainstream American military, hard lessons
learned there about fighting guerrillas were nei-
ther embedded nor preserved in the U.S. Army's
institutional memory. The American military
culture's efforts to expunge the specter of
Vietnam, embodied in the mantra "No More
Vietnams," also prevented the U.S. Army as an
institution from really learning from those les-
sons. In fact, even the term counterinsurgency
seemed to become a reviled and unwelcome
word, one that the doctrinal cognoscenti of the
1980s conveniently transmogrified into "foreign
internal defense." Even though many lessons
exist in the U.S. military's historical experience
with small wars, the lessons from the Vietnam
War were the most voluminous. Yet these les-
sons were most likely the least read, because
the Army's intellectual rebirth after Vietnam
focused almost exclusively on a big convention-
al war in Europe-the scenario preferred by the
U.S. military culture.3
Since the U.S. Army and its coalition partners
are currently prosecuting counterguerrilla wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is useful to revisit the
lessons from Vietnam and other counterinsur-
gencies because they are germane to the wars
of today and tomorrow. Capturing all or many
of these lessons is beyond the scope of this arti-
cle and is most likely beyond the scope of a sin-
gle-volume book. However, this article aims to
distill some of the more relevant counterinsur-
gency lessons from the American military's
experiences during Vietnam and before. A big-
ger goal of this article, however, is to highlight
some salient studies for professional reading as
the U.S. Army starts to inculcate a mindset that
embraces the challenges of counterinsurgency
and to develop a culture that learns from past
lessons in counterinsurgency. This analysis also
offers a brief explanation of U.S. military culture
and the hitherto embedded cultural obstacles to
learning how to fight guerrillas. To simplify and

clarify at the outset, the terms counterinsur-
gency, counterguerrilla warfare, small war, and
asymmetric conflict are used interchangeably. It
is a form of warfare in which enemies of the
regime or occupying force aim to undermine
the regime by employing classical guerrilla tac-
The U.S. Army and the broader American
military are only now, well into the second
decade after the end of the Cold War, whole-
heartedly trying to transform their culture, or
mindset. Senior civilian and military leaders of
the defense establishment realize that military
cultural change is a precondition for innovative
and adaptive approaches to meet the exigencies
of a more complex security landscape, one in
which our adversaries will most likely adopt
unorthodox strategies and tactics to undermine
our technological overmatch in the Western,
orthodox, way of war. Military culture can gen-
erally be defined as the embedded beliefs and
attitudes within a military organization that
shape that organization's preference on when
and -how the military instrument should be
used. Because these institutional beliefs some-
times tend to value certain roles and marginal-
ize others, military culture can impede innova-
tion in ways of warfare that lie outside that
organization's valued, or core, roles.5
For most of the 20th century, the U.S. military
culture (notwithstanding the Marines' work in
small wars) generally embraced the big conven-
-tional war paradigm and fundamentally
eschewed small wars and insurgencies. Thus,
instead of learning from our experiences in
Vietnam, the Philippines, the Marine Corps'
experience in the Banana Wars, and the Indian
campaigns, the U.S. Army for most of the last
100 years has viewed these experiences as
ephemeral anomalies and aberrations-distrac-
tions from preparing to win big wars against
other big powers. As a result of marginalizing
the counterinsurgencies and small wars that it
has spent most of its existence prosecuting, the
U.S. military's big-war cultural preferences have
impeded it from fully benefiting-studying, dis-
tilling, and incorporating into doctrine-from
our somewhat extensive lessons in small wars
and insurgencies. This article starts by briefly

examining some of the salient lessons for coun-
terinsurgency from Vietnam and lists some of
the sources for lessons from that war that have
been neglected or forgotten. This article also
examines some sources and lessons of coun-
terinsurgencies and small wars predating

Vietnam-The "Other War" and
Valuable Lessons

If and when most Americans think about
Vietnam, they probably think of General William
C. Westmoreland, the Americanization of the war
that was engendered by the big-unit battles of
attrition, and the Tet Offensive of 1968. However,
there was another war-counterinsurgency and
pacification-where many Special Forces,
Marines, and other advisers employed small-war
methods with some success. Moreover, when
General Creighton Abrams became the com-
mander of the war in Vietnam in 1968, he put an
end to the two-war approach by adopting a one-
war focus on pacification. Although this came
too late to regain the political support for the war
that was irrevocably squandered during the
Westmoreland years, Abrams' unified strategy to
clear and hold the countryside by pacifying and
securing the population met with much success.
Abrams based his approach on a study pre-
pared by the Army staff in 1966 that was enti-
tled A Program for the Paci jiau,.i: and Long-
Term Development of South Vietnam (PROVN
Study). The experiences of the Special Forces in
organizing Civilian Irregular Defense Groups
(CIDG), the Marines' Combined Action Program
(CAP), and Abrams' PROVN Study-based expan-
sion of the Civil Operations and Revolutionary
(later Rural) Development and Support
(CORDS) pacification effort under Military
Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) all offer
some valuable lessons for current and future
For much of the Vietnam War, the 5th Special
Forces Group trained and led CIDG mobile
strike forces and reconnaissance companies that
comprised ethnic minority tribes and groups
from the mountain and border regions. These

strike forces essentially conducted recohnais-
sance by means of small-unit patrols and
defended their home bases in the border areas,
denying them to the Viet Cong and North
Vietnamese regular units. What's more, during
1966-67 American field commanders increas-
ingly employed Special Forces-led "Mike" units
in long-range reconnaissance missions or as
economy-of-force security elements for regular
units. Other CIDG-type forces, called mobile
guerrilla forces, raided enemy base areas and
employed hit-and-run guerrilla tactics against
regular enemy units. The Special Forces also
recruited heavily among the Nung tribes for
"Delta," "Sigma," and "Omega" units-Special
Forces-led reconnaissance and reaction forces.
To be sure, the CIDG program provided a sig-
nificant contribution to the war effort. The
approximately 2,500 soldiers assigned to the 5th
Special Forces Group essentially raised and led
an army of 50,000 tribal fighters to operate in
some of the most difficult and dangerous terrain
in Vietnam. The CIDG patrolling of border
infiltration areas provided reliable tactical intel-
ligence, and the units secured populations in
areas that might have been otherwise conceded
to the enemy.7
Another program that greatly improved the
U.S. military's capacity to secure the population
and to acquire better tactical intelligence was
the U.S. Marine Corps' Combined Action
Program (CAP). The CAP was a local innovation
with potential strategic impact-it coupled a
Marine rifle squad with a platoon of local
indigenous forces and positioned this com-
bined-action platoon in the village of those
local forces. This combined Marine/indigenous
platoon trained, patrolled, defended, and lived
in the village together. The mission of the CAP
was to destroy the Viet Cong infrastructure
within the village or hamlet area of responsibil-
ity; protect public security and help maintain
law and order; protect friendly infrastructure;
protect bases and communications within the
villages and hamlets; organize indigenous intel-
ligence nets; participate in civic action; and
conduct propaganda against the Viet Cong.
Civic action played an important role in efforts
to destroy the Viet Cong, as it acquired impor-

tant intelligence about enemy activity from the
local population. Because of the combined-
action platoon's proximity to the people and
because it protected the people from reprisals,
it was ideal for gaining intelligence from the
locals. The Marines' emphasis on pacifying the
highly populated areas prevented the guerrillas
from coercing the local population into provid-
ing rice, intelligence, and sanctuary to the
enemy. The Marines would clear and hold a vil-
lage in this way and then expand the secured
area. The CAP units accounted for 7.6 percent
of the enemy killed while representing only 1.5
percent of the Marines in Vietnam. The lessons
from CAP provide one model for protracted
counterinsurgencies, because the program
employed U.S. troops and leadership in an
economy of force while maximizing indigenous
troops. A modest investment of U.S. forces at
the village level can yield major improvements
in local security and intelligence.8
Although CORDS was integrated under
MACV when Abrams was still the Deputy
Commander in 1967, it was Abrams and William
Colby, as the Director of CORDS, who expand-
ed and invested CORDS with good people and
resources. Under the one-war strategy, CORDS
was established as the organization under
MACV to unify and provide single oversight of
the pacification effort. After 1968, Abrams and
Colby made CORDS and pacification the main
effort. The invigorated civil and rural develop-
ment program provided increased support,
advisers, and funding to the police and territo-
rial forces (regional forces and popular forces).
Essentially, this rural development allowed mil-
itary and civilian U.S. Agency for International
Development advisers to work with their
Vietnamese counterparts at the province and
village level to improve local security and
develop infrastructure. Identifying and eliminat-
ing the Viet Cong infrastructure was a critical
part of the new focus on pacification, and
Colby's approach-the Accelerated Pacification
Campaign-included the Phuong Hoang pro-
gram, or Phoenix. The purpose of Phoenix was
to neutralize the Viet Cong infrastructure, and
although the program received some negative
attention in the instances when it was abused,

its use of former Viet Cong and indigenous
Provisional Reconnaissance Units to root out
the enemy's shadow government was very
effective. The CORDS' Accelerated Pacification
Campaign focused on territorial security, neu-
tralizing Viet Cong infrastructure, and support-
ing programs for self-defense and self-govern-
ment at the local level.9
The Accelerated Pacification Campaign
began in November 1968, and by late 1970 the
government of the Republic of Vietnam con-
trolled most of the countryside. The "other
war"-pacification-had essentially been won.
"Four million members of the People's Self-
Defense Force, armed with some 600,000
weapons" constituted a powerful example of
the commitment of the population in support of
the Republic of Vietnam and in opposition to
the enemy. Expanded, better advised, and bet-
ter armed, the Regional Forces and Popular
Forces represented the most significant
improvement. Under CORDS, these forces
became capable of providing close-in security
for the rural population. The Hamlet Evaluation
System, though imperfect and quantitative, indi-
cated that from 1969 to 1970, 2,600 hamlets
(three million people) had been secured. Other
more practical measures of the Accelerated
Pacification Campaign's success were a reduc-
tion in the extortion of taxes by the Viet Cong,
a reduction in recruiting by the enemy in South
Vietnam, and a decrease in enemy food provi-
sions taken from the villagers.
In addition to the MACV and CORDS pacifi-
cation efforts, other factors contributed to South
Vietnam's control of the countryside. First, the
enemy's Tet Offensive in January 1968 and
Mini-Tet in May 1968 resulted in devastating
losses to Viet Cong forces in the south, allow-
ing MACV/CORDS to intensify pacification.
Second, the enemy's brutal methods (including
mass murder in Hue) during Tet shocked the
civilian population of South Vietnam, creating a
willingness to accept the more aggressive con-
scription required to expand indigenous forces.
Last, one can surmise that Ho Chi Minh's death
in September 1969 may have had some nega-
tive effect on the quality and direction of the
North Vietnamese army's leadership.10

In and of themselves, the CIDG, CAP, and
CORDS programs met with success in prosecut-
ing key aspects of the counterinsurgency in
Vietnam. Each program expanded the quality
and quantity of the forces conducting pacifica-
tion and counterinsurgency, improved the
capacity for dispersed small-unit patrolling, and
consequently improved the scope and content
of actionable intelligence. One can only postu-
late, counterfactually, how the war might have
gone if both CAP and CIDG had been harmo-
nized and unified under CORDS and MACV,
with Colby and Abrams at the helm, back in
1964. Ironically, Abrams had been on the short
list of those considered for the MACV command
in 1964. The lessons and successes of these pro-
grams are salient today because in both
Afghanistan and Iraq, improving the quantity
and capabilities of indigenous forces, ensuring
that there is an integrated and unified civil-mil-
itary approach, and the security of the popula-
tion all continue to be central goals.11
None of these Vietnam-era programs, howev-
er, was without problems. The CIDG program
was plagued by two persistent flaws. First, con-
tinuous hostility between the South Vietnamese
and the ethnic minority groups who comprised
CIDG strike forces impeded the U.S. efforts to
have Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Special Forces
take over the CIDG program. Second, partly as
a consequence of that, 5th Special Forces
Group failed to develop an effective indigenous
U.S. counterpart organization to lead the
CIDG-the RVN Special Forces proved ineffec-
tive in this role. Moreover, U.S. Marines them-
selves who have written studies that generally
laud the benefits of the CAP model also reveal
that the combined-action platoons were not all
completely effective. In some instances the
effects of CAP "were transitory at best" because
the villagers became dependent on the Marines
for security. In other instances, especially
before General Abrams ushered-in a new
emphasis on training popular forces, the local
militia's poor equipment and training made
them miserably incapable of defending the vil-
lages without the Marines. As for CORDS, the
one major problem with rural development was
that until 1967 it was not integrated under

MACV, which seriously undermined 'any
prospect of actually achieving unity of effort
and unity of purpose. Abrams' influence
resolved this by allowing MACV to oversee
CORDS as well as regular military formations.12
Three works written during or about the
Vietnam era are highly relevant to fighting
counterinsurgencies: The Guerrilla and How to
Fight Him, edited by Lieutenant Colonel T.N.
Greene; the U.S. Army's 1966 PROVN Study;
and Lewis Sorley's A Better War, published in
1999. The Guerrilla and How to Fight Him is a
great single-volume compendium on the nature
and theory of guerrilla warfare. The most ger-
mane chapter the book is "The Theory and the
Threat," which includes a primer on guerrilla
warfare by Mao; an analysis of Mao, time,
space, and will by Edward Katzenbach; and a
section on guerrilla warfare by Peter Paret and
John Shy. This book also includes two sections
on why the French lost the first Indochina War,
one written by Vo Nguyen Giap and the other
by Bernard Fall. The PROVN Study and A Better
War offer valuable insights on pacification and
the command and control required for integrat-
ing the civil and military efforts in counterinsur-
gency. A Better War is the shorter and more
readable of the two, but the executive summa-
ry, the "resume," and chapter five of the PROVN
Study merit reading because this analysis
formed the foundation of the approach
explained in A Better War.

Lessons from Counterinsur-
gencies before Vietnam

Before Vietnam, both the Army and the
Marine Corps had much experience fighting
guerrilla-style opponents. The Army seemed to
learn anew for each counterinsurgency, while
the Marines codified their corpus of experience
in the 1940 Small Wars Manual. In fact, the
Marines' lessons from leading Nicaraguan
Guardia Nacional indigenous patrols in counter-
guerrilla operations against Sandino's guerrillas
may very well have served as the basis from
which to design their CAP model in Vietnam.
Nonetheless, there are a host of good works

and lessons from the Banana Wars, from the
Philippine Insurrection, and from the Indian
Wars. This section encapsulates some of the
common lessons from these wars and recom-
mends some key books that cover them. The
Hukbulahap Rebellion in the Philippines fol-
lowing World War II is excluded because the
U.S. role there was essentially limited to provid-
ing money and the advice of Edward Lansdale.
From the Marines' experience in Haiti, the
Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua during the
first part of the 20th century, they learned that
small wars, unlike conventional wars, present
no defined or linear battle area and theater of
operations. While delay in the use of force may
be interpreted as weakness, the Small Wars
Manual maintains, the brutal use of force is not
appropriate either. "In small wars, tolerance,
sympathy, and kindness should be the keynote
to our relationship with the mass of the popu-
lation." For small wars, the manual urges U.S.
forces to employ as many indigenous troops as
practical early on to confer proper responsibili-
ty on indigenous agencies for restoring law and
order. Moreover, it stresses the importance of
focusing on the social, economic, and political
development of the people more than on sim-
ple material destruction. It also underscores the
importance of aggressive patrolling, population
security, and the denial of sanctuary to the
insurgents. An overarching principle, though, is
not to fight small wars with big-war
methods-the goal is to gain results with the
least application of force and minimum loss of
civilian (non-combatant) life.
The 1940 Small Wars Manual and the draft
of its 2004 addendum, Small Wars, are the best
sources for distilling the Marines' lessons from
the Banana Wars and beyond. While the logisti-
cal and physical aspects of the 1940 manual
have become obsolete, the portions that
address the fundamentals and principles of
small wars are still quite relevant. One indica-
tion of this manual's continued relevance is the
fact that the 2004 draft, Small Wars, is not
intended to supplant the earlier version but to
complement it by linking it to the 21st centu-
During the Philippine insurgency, the

American military won a relatively bloodless
but unambiguous victory in three and a half
years in a way that established the basis for a
future friendship between Americans and
Filipinos. Anthony James Joes, a scholar on
American and guerrilla warfare, succinctly
explains why:
There were no screaming jets acciden-
tally bombing helpless villages, no B-52s,
no napalm, no artillery barrages, no collat-
eral damage. Instead, the Americans con-
ducted a decentralized war of small
mobile units armed mainly with rifles and
aided by native Filipinos, hunting guerril-
las who were increasingly isolated both by
the indifference or hostility of much of the
population and by the concentration of
scattered peasant groups into larger settle-
ments. 14

During the Philippine Insurrection from 1899
to 1902, the U.S. military learned to avoid big-
unit search-and destroy missions because they
were counterproductive; to maximize the
employment of indigenous scouts and paramil-
itary forces to increase and sustain decentral-
ized patrolling; to mobilize popular support by
focusing on the improvement of schools, hospi-
tals, and infrastructure; and to enhance regime
legitimacy by allowing insurgents and former
insurgents to organize anti-regime political par-
ties. In Savage Wars of Peace, an award-winning
study on America's role in small wars, Max Boot
attributed American success in the Philippine
Insurrection to a balanced and sound applica-
tion of sticks and carrots; the U.S. military used
aggressive patrolling and force to pursue and
crush insurgents; it generally treated captured
rebels well; and it generated goodwill among
the population by running schools and hospi-
tals, and by improving sanitation. In addition to
Boot's book, America and Guerrilla Warfare by
Anthony James Joes and America's Forgotten
Wars by Sam C. Sarkesian both offer insightful
chapters on U.S. military counterinsurgency
methods in the Philippines.15 Sarkesian writes

There is a need to learn from history, ana-
lyze American involvement and the nature

of low-intensity conflict, and translate
these into strategy and operational doc-
trines. Without some sense of historical
continuity, Americans are likely to relearn
the lessons of history each time they are
faced with a low intensity conflict.16

When Brigadier General Jack Pershing
returned to the Philippines to serve as military
governor of the Moro Province between 1909
and 1913, he applied the lessons he had learned
as a captain during the Philippine Insurrection
to pacify the Moros. He established the
Philippine Constabulary, comprising loyal
Filipinos from the main islands and serving as a
police force, to assist in the campaign to pacify
the Moros. Pershing did not attempt to apply
military force alone to suppress the Moro rebel-
lion. "Pershing felt that an understanding of
Moro customs and habits was essential in suc-
cessfully dealing with them-and he went to
extraordinary lengths to understand Moro soci-
ety and culture." Pershing understood the
imperative of having American forces involved
at the grass-roots level. He also comprehended
the social-political aspects and knew that mili-
tary goals sometimes had to be subordinated to
them. "He scattered small detachments of sol-
diers throughout the interior, to guarantee
peaceful existence of those tribes that wanted
to raise hemp, produce timber, or farm." To
influence and win the people, there had to be
contact between them and his soldiers. During
his first tour there as a captain, he was allowed
inside the "Forbidden Kingdom" and as an
honor not granted to any other white man, he
was made a Moro Datu.17
More removed in time and context, the
Indian Wars of the 19th century nonetheless
provide some lessons for counterinsurgency.
These lessons also demonstrate that the overar-
ching fundamentals for fighting small wars are
indeed timeless. With little preserved institu-
tional memory and less codified doctrine for
counterinsurgency, the late-19th-century U.S.
Army had to adapt on the fly to Indian tactics.
A loose body of principles emerged from the
Indian Wars: to ensure the close civil-military
coordination of the pacification effort, to pro-

vide firm but fair and paternalistic governance,
and to reform the economic and educational
spheres. Good treatment of prisoners, attention
to the Indians' grievances, and the avoidance of
killing women and children (learned by error)
were also regarded as fundamental to any long-
term solution. Additionally, General George
Crook developed the tactic of inserting small
teams from friendly Apache tribes into the sanc-
tuaries of insurgent Apaches to neutralize them,
to psychologically unhinge them, and to sap
their will. This technique subsequently emerged
in one form or another in the Philippines, dur-
ing the Banana Wars, and during the Vietnam
One of the better books on the U.S. Army's
role in counterguerrilla warfare against the
Indians is Andrew J. Birtle's U.S. Army
Counterinsurgency and Contingency Oper-
ations Doctrine, 1860-1941. It includes some
interesting and relevant sections entitled
"Indian Warfare and Military Thought," "U.S.
Army Counter-guerrilla Operations on the
Western Frontier," and "The Army and Indian
Pacification." Birtle describes one of the few
manuals published during the era on how to
operate on the Plains, The Prairie Traveler, as
"perhaps the single most important work on the
conduct of frontier expeditions published under
the aegis of the War Department." Captain
Randolph Marcy's The Prairie Traveler was a
"how-to" manual for packing, traveling, track-
ing, and bivouacking on the Plains. More
important, it was also a primer on fighting the
In formulating principles for pacification,
Marcy looked at his own experiences on the
frontier as well as the French and Turkish expe-
riences conducting pacification operations in
North Africa to arrive at three lessons: over-dis-
persion strips the counterinsurgent force of ini-
tiative, increases its vulnerability, and saps its
morale; mobility is an imperative (mounting
infantry on mules was one way of increasing
mobility during that era); and the best way to
counter an elusive guerrilla was to employ
mobile mounted forces at night to surprise the
enemy at dawn. However, The Prairie Traveler
conveys one central message that is still salient

and germane today: it urges soldiers to be adap-
tive by coupling conventional discipline with
the self-reliance, individuality, and rapid mobil-
ity of the insurgent.19

A Mindset for Winning the
"War of the Flea"

In The War of the Flea: Guerrilla Warfare in
Theory and Practice, author Robert Taber

Analogically, the guerrilla fights the war of
the flea, and his military enemy suffers the
dog's disadvantages: too much to defend;
too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy
to come to grips with. If the war continues
long enough-this is the theory-the dog
succumbs to exhaustion and anemia with-
out ever having found anything on which
to close its jaws or to rake with its claws.20

The "war of the flea" is harder than fighting
against enemies who opt, imprudently, to fight
the U.S. military according to the conventional
paradigm it has historically preferred and in
which it is unequaled. Our current and future
adversaries in the protracted war on terror are
fighting-and will continue to fight-the "war
of the flea." Employing hit-and-run ambushes,
they strive to turn Coalition lines of communi-
cation and friendly regime key roads into
"streets without joy." However, the lessons from
previous U.S. military successes in fighting the
elusive guerrilla show that with the right mind-
set and with some knowledge of the aforemen-
tioned methods, the war of the flea is in fact

The U.S. Army is adapting in contact, learn-
ing and capturing lessons anew for beating the
guerrilla. As it transforms and develops a mind-
set that places much more emphasis on stabili-
ty operations and counterinsurgency, the books
listed in this article are ones that should appear
on reading lists and in the curricula of profes-
sional schools, beginning with the basic cours-


1. Anthony James Joes, America and Guerrilla Warfare
(Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2000), 325.
2. Gited in Samuel B. Griffith II, "Guerrilla, Part I,"
Marine Corps Gazette, July 1950, 43.
3. For an explanation of this rebirth, see Robert M.
Cassidy, "Prophets or Praetorians: The Uptonian
Paradox and the Powell Corollary," Parameters, 33
(Autumn 2003), 132-33.
4. For a lengthier explanation of counterinsurgency,
small war, or asymmetric conflict, see Robert M.
Cassidy, "Why Great Powers Fight Small Wars Badly,"
Military Review, 82:43 (September-October 2002). For
a definition of guerrilla insurgency, see Joes, 333.
5. For a short discussion on military culture and big-
war preferences, see Robert M. Cassidy, Russia in
Afghanistan and Chechnya: Military Strategic Culture
and the Paradoxes ofAsymmetric Conflict (Carlisle, Pa.:
U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute,
2003), 8, 54-60.
6. U.S. Department of the Army, A Program for the
Pacification and Long-Term Development of South
Vietnam (Washington: Department of the Army, 1966),
1-9; and Lewis Sorley, A Better War (New York:
Harcourt Brace, 1999), 10-125. Some analysis in this
article derives from a briefing produced by the
USAREUR Commanding General's Initiatives Group
(CIG). The briefing was distributed to USAREUR units
in Iraq in December 2003.
7. Jeffrey J. Clarke, Advice and Support: The Final Years
(Washington: U.S. Army Center of Military History,
1988), 196-207.
8. Frank Pelli, "Insurgency, Counterinsurgency, and the
Marines in Vietnam," unpublished paper, USMC
Command and Staff College, Quantico, Va., 1990,
13-16; and Brooks R. Brewington, "Combined Action
Platoons: A Strategy for Peace Enforcement," unpub-
lished paper, USMC Command and Staff College,
Quantico, Va., 1996, 13-19.
9. Sorley, 22-23, 64-67.
10. Ibid., 64-67, 72-73, 217-24.
11. Ibid., 1.
12. Clarke, 207; Keith F. Kopets, "The Combined Action
Program: Vietnam," Military Review, 82:78-79
(July-August 2002).
13. U.S. Marine Corps, Small Wars Manual
(Washington: GPO, 1940), 1-1 to 1-31; Marine Corps
Combat Development Command, Small Wars (Draft)
(Quantico, Va.: U.S. Marine Corps, 2004), iii-iv; and
Max Boot, "A Century of Small Wars Shows They Can
be Won," Neiw York Times Week in Review, 6 July 2003.
14. Joes, 120-23.
15. Max Boot, Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and
the Rise of American Power (New York: Basic Books,
2003), 126.
16. Sam. C. Sarkesian, America's Forgotten Wars: The
Counterrevolutionary Past and Lessons for the Future

(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984), 245.
17. Ibid., 178-80.
18. Andrew J. Birtle, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and
Contingency Operations Doctrine, 1860-1941
(Washington: U.S. Army Center of Military History,
1988), 55-92.
19. Ibid., 64-66.
20. Robert Taber, The War of the Flea: Guerrilla
Warfare in Theory and Practice (New York: Lyle Stuart,
1965), 27-28.

About the Author
Robert M. Cassidy, Lieutenant Colonel, USA, holds a doctorate from the
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He has served in various leader-
ship and staff positions, including S3, 4th Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry
Division (Mechanized), in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as troop com-
mander, 1-17 Cavalry, 82d Airborne Division. Cassidy has published
numerous articles and two books, Peacekeeping in the Abyss: British and
American Doctrine and Practice after the Cold War (2004), and
Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terror: Military Culture
and Irregular War (2006).


4 -~ -
41 -



ce"~" ~er- -

A Concept for

Countering Irregular

Threats: A



by Marine Corps Combat Development
Command, 2006


Failed and failing states that harbor
transnational terrorists, foment insur-
gencies against friendly governments, or
promote irregular warfare against our allies
present problems whose resolution is criti-
cal to our national well-being. However, the
history of the last hundred years demonstrates
that we cannot reasonably expect to solve these
problems by military action alone. The Marine
Corps must take a broader approach to the
defense of the United States and of its national
interests overseas in an age of irregular threats.
People hungry for release from tyranny,
poverty, and despair are susceptible to manipu-
lation by the unscrupulous and the ideological
fanatic, who combine age-old strategies of insur-
gency and subversion with technological savvy
and rapid global access to information to make
themselves into information age enemies. This
requires military and civilian agencies of the U.S.
Government to join together in the strongest
interagency partnership to help the local people
and their governments relieve the immediate cri-
sis, reduce existing internal contradictions, and
move toward a condition that will preserve them
against further trouble. Only this kind of holistic
response can help a state quell the violence and
chaos that provide fresh opportunities for those
who would exploit a people's frustration in order
to threaten the United States.
In many efforts to counter Irregular
Threats, the political and cultural aspects of the
conflict rather than combat will be primary, and

Marines will be asked to do many things
other than combat operations to beat our
adversaries. This means that the "commander"
of some interventions may not be a serving mili-
tary officer but could be an Ambassador, a U.S.
Foreign Service officer, or a police officer, each
with a heavily civilian staff that ties together the
political and military strategy. Marines need to be
educated and trained to support humanitarian
and development initiatives as well as perform
combat operations to protect the civilian popula-
tion. With this mix of skills and abilities, the
Marine Corps will have the means to more effec-
tively apply its maneuver warfare-based
warfighting philosophy to irregular threats and to
attack our enemies from many angles at once,
wearing them down and drawing away their
popular support. The U.S. military will contribute
to winning wars against our irregular enemies
with kinetic and non-kinetic means, diminishing
the conditions that create instability while
destroying or pushing into irrelevance those who
seek to promote chaos, disorder, and suffering.


The nature of war has not changed since
ancient times, and insurgencies present complex
irregular threats which military force alone cannot
resolve. The 19th century military theorist Carl von
Clausewitz described a trinity of war consisting of
the military, the state, and the population. He pro-
posed a triangular relationship in which each of
these elements is equally relevant and in which all
three must remain in balance to achieve success-
ful resolution of a conflict. In the past, we have
concentrated on destroying the enemy's military.
But in non-industrial, counterinsurgency wars, our
strategic objective is the hearts and minds of the
people. Though the Clausewitzian Trinity remains
relevant, the focus must be re-balanced as the
fight to win the people becomes central. In these
savage wars of peace, modern technology has
greatly enhanced the insurgent's speed, reach, and
power. Marines need to learn when to fight
with weapons and when to fight with infor-
mation, humanitarian aid, economic advice,
and a boost toward good governance for the

The Single Campaign

Countering irregular threats requires a holistic
-application of the elements of national power to
maintain or re-establish a friendly government's
legitimacy in the eyes of its people.

local people. This ability to adapt resembles a
group of jazz musicians improvising on a theme.
To do that, Marines need to understand that
defeating an insurgency is first about winning the
support of the local people. We may use violence
to suppress an insurgency for a time, but the only
way to destroy it is by changing the way people
think about the insurgency.
Two elements are required for an effective
insurgency. Underlying social grievances result in
a population that is dissatisfied with the status
quo. The insurgent leadership provides catalysts
to move a population from dissatisfaction with its
government or ruling authority to active support
of the opposition. These two elements mean that:

Countering insurgency requires us to devel-
op a comprehensive understanding of the com-
plex character of a conflict, of its social, political,
historical, cultural, and economic contexts, and of
its participants. If we are going to fight among the
people, we must understand them.
Popular support for insurgency is always
about the people's seeking a better life or relief of
suffering by overthrowing the existing regime.
Human beings hesitate to move to radical
action, so popular support for an insurgency is
evidence that the people consider that any hope
for government or societal reform is futile.

With clarity and sincerity, we must communi-
cate to the local population through every deci-
sion and action that our intervention's purpose is
to support the needs of the people and to ensure
stability. It is important to remember that, if we
treat the people as our enemies, they will become
our enemies. Treat them as friends, and they may
become our friends.
We can rally the local people to our side and
undermine the insurgency that torments them and
threatens U.S. interests by designing a campaign

of inclusion. Today, real power is not about arma-
ments-it is about collaborative relationships.
First, we must include U.S. Government civilian
agencies with Marine planners and with units in
the field. Second, we must develop a fully collab-
orative partnership with personnel from the local
government and its military. Only by genuine
inclusion of all of these players can we hope to
produce and implement a campaign that is per-
ceived as legitimate by the local populace, earns
the support of the American people, and poises us
to defeat or destroy the insurgents and eliminate
their cause.
This approach elevates the Marine Corps to a
position as a full partner in the humanitarian,
development, and nation building work of civilian
agencies. It also makes those agencies full part-
ners in the Marine Corps' planning, preparation,
and implementation of combat and security oper-
ations. The most direct method of guiding our
efforts to achieve national objectives is to focus on
Lines of Operation.

Operational Approach to the
Six Lines Governance

"For the People." The rule of law and effective
public administration are essential to a func-
tioning society. There can be no lasting stability in

The Six Lines of Operation

Information Operations

"Nothing but the Truth." Information Ope-
rations are key to the success of all the other Lines
of Operation and must be viewed from both the
internal and external perspective. Externally, the
information campaign must aim at two things: iso-
lation of the insurgents from their support and
rebuilding the credibility of the government with
the local population. These aims should never be
put at risk by deception. Falsehoods serve no pur-
pose for U.S. objectives and are too easily discov-
ered in this information age. Only information
campaigns built on truth, no matter how
painful that truth may be for us, can help under-
mine an insurgency. Marines at every level need
to know how to use the information campaign to
improve civil-military relations, develop intelli-
gence, and shape local attitudes in advance of
operations. Internally, information is key to keep-
ing high the morale of the individual Marine.
Overcoming the often frustrating environment of
counterinsurgency can be achieved through
understanding the people, the enemy, and the
mission. This understanding will help maintain the
morale upon which military efficiency and disci-
pline often rest. Both internally and externally,
legitimacy is fundamental to information opera-
tions. Legitimacy can only be fostered if the mes-

a nation that lacks effective enforcement of its
national laws and sound management of the work
of the government. Re-establishing these capaci-
ties in a country will go a long way to preventing
the need for further U.S. intervention. In partner-
ship with local authorities, the counterinsurgent
team will need to assess the state of the existing
government's legal and administrative systems
and refurbish or return them to effectiveness. As
underlying social grievances, often expressed by
the insurgents in ideological terms, are key to an
insurgency, the local government must be assisted
in ameliorating grievances and resolving the inter-
nal contradictions that became the root causes of
the insurgency. To do this, our diplomats and
civilian agency personnel will need to become
expeditionary, as comfortable in flak jackets as
they are in business suits, and will need to stand
ready to serve on the front lines.

sage that is transmitted is reinforced by the actions
of the Marines who interact directly with the pop-
ulation. Our words and actions must be mutually
supporting to win the goodwill of the people and
destroy the insurgency. We must show the people
how bad the insurgents are and how good our
forces are.

Combat Operations (Protecting
the Civil Populace)

"War of the Stiletto." An insurgent, fighting a
war of ideas in a guerrilla style, does not need to
win any battles to achieve his objective of per-
suading a population to accept his cause.
Counterinsurgency demands a decentralized
operational approach built on a strong founda-
tion of comprehensive understanding and rapid
distribution of information in order to "out
adapt" the enemy. This will demonstrate that
the insurgents are not able to defend themselves
and the people they claim to want to protect.
Large units and large bases rarely are effective in
this kind of struggle. Large unit operations often
create animosity in the population, and guerillas
are only too happy for us to provide them big,
fixed targets for theatrical attacks. Counterguerril-
la warfare requires distributed units adapted for
fast, agile, and multi-axis attacks and for con-
ducting combat operations aimed at developing
intelligence. Small unit leaders must be trained to
carry much more of the burden of combat deci-
sion making, supported by a rapid flow of tac-
tical information and cultural intelligence.
Properly trained and disciplined, our small units
will out adapt the insurgents by moving asym-
metrically to isolate them, attack their command
and control, and demonstrate a determination to
help address the legitimate grievances of the
population. In this war among the people, collat-
eral damage must be seen as unacceptable as it
will undermine the intervention's objectives to
win popular support and to restore security and
stability. Any misuse of force feeds the insur-
gents' propaganda campaign and makes the
intervention more difficult and risky. Even more
so in a counterinsurgency environment, combat
operations demand the discriminate and precise

use of force. This line of operation provides the
wall of security behind which all of the other
lines are free to operate to positive effect and a
windbreak behind which the host nation can
gather its resources to restore stability for its peo-

Train and Employ Forces

"Breathing Room. Well-trained and energetic
indigenous security forces can so narrow the
geographic terrain available to the insurgents as
to squeeze them out of their area of operations
and nullify the insurgency by keeping them on
the run. It is critical that we tailor security pro-
grams and train security forces in a manner that
can be sustained by the indigenous government
and in ways that are politically and socially
acceptable to the people. This work should not
be delayed as it is tied to the departure of U.S.
military forces, an action that is critically impor-
tant to the legitimacy of the local government in
the eyes of its people, Americans at home, and
the world community. Imposing U.S. models on
indigenous security forces rarely succeeds. We
must find ways to do things the local way. This
demands exquisite understanding of local condi-
tions, tactical maturity, and cunning by all unit
leaders down through the squad level.

Essential Services

"Stop the Bleeding. "The provision of essential
services must be an interagency effort as it ulti-
mately will reduce grievances of the local popu-
lation and allow mission success. With their
resource and logistic capabilities, Marines will be
key players with their interagency, coalition, and
local partners. Often, Marines will need to be
the first providers or coordinators of food,
power, water, and rudimentary medical care until
civilian agencies arrive to take up the task. This
must be done in collaboration with the local
people to assure that their needs are met in cul-
turally acceptable ways and can be sustained by
the indigenous government. The local popula-
tion must be included as early as possible in
order to bolster the economy, build self-esteem,
and to place authority where it naturally should

USMC Small Wars Manual (1940)
Small Wars are operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with
diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inade-
quate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign pol-
icy of our Nation.The application of purely military means may not by itself restore peace and orderly govern-
ment because the fundamental causes of the condition of unrest may be economic, political, or social.There
may be many economic and social factors involved completely beyond military power. Peace and industry can-
not be restored permanently without appropriate provisions for the economic welfare of the people. The
efforts of the different agencies must be cooperative and coordinated to the attainment of the common end.

lie-in the hands of local leaders. Establishing
essential services is critical to the establishment
of local security.

Economic Development

"Toward a Better Life." This line of operation
has implications that last far beyond the depar-
ture of an intervention force. Reinvigorating or
creating a sustainable local economy requires
planning for immediate relief and for long-term
economic well-being. Marine commanders and
their staffs must work with U.S. civilian agencies
to further stop the bleeding by stabilizing the
local economy with public works projects that
relieve unemployment, micro-finance programs
that put back on their feet small businesses and
farms, and by seeking the help of those non-
governmental and charitable organizations capa-
ble of helping to get things moving. While the
long-term plan largely will be managed by civil-
ian agencies, Marines will need to provide secu-
rity and support in identifying those economic
activities in which the host nation has compara-
tive advantage and which ought to be promoted,
encouraging the host nation to engage with the
U.S. and other countries in trade agreements that
open jobs and promote business, persuading the
host nation to encourage U.S. and other coun-
tries' industry to move in, and expanding Peace
Corps, other countries' advisory programs, and
educational exchanges. The complexity of this
work means that, more than in any other Line of
Operation, Economic Development demands
that Marines and U.S. civilian agencies work in
intimate partnership with local authorities to
develop the culturally appropriate, sustainable
programs that can restore economic well-being.

Implications for Force
To meet the requirements of this concept, the
Marine Corps should:

Develop the fullest mutual understanding
and collaboration with U.S. Government civil-
ian agencies, by sharing in training exercises and
war games, to assure intimate cooperation in a coun-
terinsurgency effort.
Train Marines to be both fighters and peace
builders, capable as ever in combat operations but
able to support humanitarian and development
activities as well.
Train Marines in foreign languages, cultural
intelligence, negotiation, and dispute resolu-
Develop a counterinsurgency campaign
and operations planning program to mentor and
evaluate operational headquarters, from battalion to
Marine Expeditionary Force levels, in campaign
planning along the Lines of Operation approach.


While traditional Marine combat power remains
essential to victory over an insurgency, it is unlike-
ly to be decisive in defeating an adversary that
relies for its own power on the grievances and
aspirations of the local population. Winning and
preserving the goodwill of the people is the key to
victory. That can be achieved by deftly applying
the six Lines of Operation in partnership with the
other U.S. Government civilian agencies and the
indigenous government. War is war but, in coun-
terinsurgency, it often is best fought with the tools
of peace.

r 4r
-, ', -
-< ,^ .t- ^- '' "' *

y^^^ I..'. -^'"
A.? ^t'~iWl i rprjycjijj- rtjri^rF*e

.* *l -: .. I '*- f- / -.s ~
w- V.** .' .- I *.* ^ ^ if "

;' :, ,gm,

[-* .-.._ ..- : .. -; .. .- ;.*.. -. v ".
s, **,'-.- ".:*" *^"'.. "',,,E^ h"-"l -. '*"'

-. ...' ._ r." i.i U
.-* "* *. S ^ o ..... -

. .L- j.^ Y "'-.; .

W- -,J -,..
I -.Z ---.-, -. : *4

L~ Lr

04.,.- '" ,,*-- .. 11; > 'z

S. ^ --'-' -.^S & '"^ !*-d '>

* :Lk^^ "2^
^ '^,^^^^ ^S

'y.;, -.^ ^^ ^ 'e *e
S.;^-,ir^^^~^p >

r 'I



& ~rL~
~: --~


^ 1

ei ,_;- ,,, ., ,


A *


Lessons from a Successful Counterinsurgency:

The Philippines, 1899-1902

by Timothy K. Deady

Parameters, Spring 2005

"It should be the earnest and paramount
aim of the military administration to win
the confidence, respect, and affection of
the inhabitants of the Philippines and
by proving to them that the mission of the
United States is one of benevolent assimi-
lation, substituting the mild sway of justice
and right for arbitrary rule."

-President William McKinley,
21 December 1898
The United States topples an unsavory
regime in relatively brief military action,
suffering a few hundred fatalities. America
then finds itself having to administer a country
unaccustomed to democratic self-rule. Caught
unawares by an unexpectedly robust insur-
gency, the United States struggles to develop
and implement an effective counterinsurgency
strategy. The ongoing U.S. presidential cam-
paign serves as a catalyst to polarize public
opinion, as the insurrectionists step up their
offensive in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat
the incumbent Republican President.
These events-from a century ago-share a
number of striking parallels with the events of
2003 and 2004. The Philippine Insurrection of
1899-1902 was America's first major combat
operation of the 20th century. The American
policy of rewarding support and punishing
opposition in the Philippines, called "attraction
and chastisement," was an effective operational
strategy. By eliminating insurgent resistance, the
campaign successfully set the conditions neces-
sary for achieving the desired end-state.
After a brief review of the conflict, this article
will examine the strategic and operational les-
sons of America's successful campaign. It will
consider the belligerents' policy goals, strategies,

and their centers of gravity. (While neither side
planned their campaign using these strategic
concepts, these terms will be used in analyzing
the campaign to facilitate understanding.)
Without addressing the considerations of any
particular ongoing campaign, the article will
identify lessons applicable for winning today's
In order to determine the relevance of the
campaign today, this article will consider
changes in the international environment that
mitigate the direct application of methods suc-
cessfully employed in the Philippines. To apply
some lessons, one must identify alternative ways
more appropriate for modern norms that
achieve the same ends.

Historical Overview

Unfamiliar to many, the major events of the
insurrection that followed America's victory in
the Spanish-American War bear review. Admiral
George Dewey's May 1898 naval victory over the
Spanish fleet was followed in August by a brief,
face-saving Spanish defense and surrender of
Manila. Filipino forces had vanquished the
Spanish from the rest of the country, but the
Spanish surrendered the capital to U.S. Army
forces under Major General Wesley Merritt.
Filipino forces were under the command of
Emilio Aguinaldo, a 29-year-old member of the
educated class known as the illustrados. Having
led an insurrection against Spanish rule in 1896,
Aguinaldo, the self-proclaimed president, was
wary but hopeful that the American victory
would facilitate Philippine independence.
U.S. President William McKinley decided to
annex the archipelago for two principal reasons,
one ideological, the other interest-based. He
announced his decision to a group of missionar-
ies, citing America's duty to "educate the
Filipinos and uplift them and Christianize
them."1 Like many, he believed the Filipinos

were too backward to capably govern them-
selves.2 The practical consideration in an era of
unbridled colonialism was that a weak, inde-
pendent Philippines would be a tempting acqui-
sition for other colonial powers.

Filipinos were shocked when it became
known that the Treaty of Paris provided for the
United States to purchase the islands from Spain
for $20 million. Buoyed by their success in
defeating nearly all of the Spanish garrisons,
Filipino insurgents under Aguinaldo attacked
American forces in Manila on 4 February 1899.
The failure of this and subsequent conventional
battles with the Americans caused the rebel
leader to disband the field army and commence
guerrilla operations in November 1899. Almost
captured in December, Aguinaldo fled to north-
ern Luzon.
The Philippine geography had a significant
effect on the conduct of the campaign. An archi-
pelago of over 7,000 islands with few roads and
dozens of languages, the Philippines is diverse.
In 1900 the population was 7.4 million. It con-
sisted of 74 provinces, 34 of which never expe-
rienced rebel activity.3 Luzon, the largest island
in the archipelago and site of the capital, was
home to half the population. As such, Luzon's
military operations were the most extensive in
the insurrection. Communications between
insurgent forces, never great, broke apart after
Aguinaldo's flight. Significant centers of resist-
ance after his escape included those led by
General Vincente Lukban on the island of Samar
and General Miguel Malvar in southern Luzon.
Most insurgent leaders were illustrados from the
Tagalog ethnic group; Aguinaldo himself was
Tagalog and Chinese. As author Brian Linn
emphasizes, the insurrection was conducted dif-
ferently in different regions. Resistance was frag-
mented and varied from island to island.
Estimates of the insurgent forces vary
between 80,000 and 100,000, with tens of thou-
sands of auxiliaries.4 Lack of weapons and
munitions was a significant impediment to the
insurgents. U.S. troop strength was 40,000 at the
start of hostilities and peaked at 74,000 two
years later. Typically only 60 percent of

American troops were combat troops. With a
field strength ranging from 24,000 to 44,000, this
force was able to defeat an opponent many
times its size.5
Major General Elwell Otis, the U.S. command-
er at the start of hostilities (Merritt had joined the
Paris negotiations), initially focused his pacifica-
tion plan on civic action programs, targeting
action at the municipal level.6 When he relin-
quished command of his 60,000 troops in May
1900, he believed the insurrection to be broken.
Later in the summer of 1900, Aguinaldo began to
urge his followers to increase their attacks on
Americans. His goal was to sour Americans on
the war and ensure the victory of the anti-impe-
rialist William Jennings Bryan in the presidential
election.7 Concentrating forces for attacks in
September 1900, the guerrillas achieved success-
es against company-sized American units.
McKinley's reelection sapped motivation from
the resistance that had anticipated his defeat. On
the heels of this setback came another blow in
December 1900 with the reinvigorated pacifica-
tion efforts"of Otis's successor, Major General
Arthur MacArthur. MacArthur declared martial
law and implemented General Orders 100, a
Civil War-era directive on the law of war that,
among other tough provisions, subjected com-
batants not in uniform, and their supporters, to
execution. This program forced civilians to take
sides and served to increasingly isolate guerillas
from popular support. After more than a year on
the 'move, Aguinaldo was captured in March
The war's final year witnessed increased
atrocities on both sides. In southern Luzon,
Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell set up "con-
centration camps" for the regions 300,000 civil-
ians.8 Modeled on Indian reservations, the
camps isolated the guerrillas from their support-
ers. Bell then sent his troops to hunt down the
region's insurgents and destroy their supply
caches. On the island of Samar, a bolo
(machete) attack killed 48 of the 74 American
soldiers in the garrison at Balangiga in August
1901. A punitive expedition on Samar was con-
ducted so brutally that the island's commander,
Brigadier General Jacob Smith, was subsequent-
ly convicted at court-martial. Nonetheless, the

increasingly fragmented resistance continued to
wither. Lukban surrendered in February 1902
and Malvar two months later, effectively ending
resistance. President Roosevelt, who had suc-
ceeded McKinley after his assassination, waited
until the 4th of July to declare victory. The insur-
rection resulted in 4,234 American fatalities, over
tenfold the 379 soldiers killed worldwide in the
relatively quick victory over Spain.


American Policy and Centers of Gravity
Initially the U.S. policy toward the Philippines
was undetermined. McKinley directed Merritt to
provide order and security while the islands
were in U.S. possession, without defining their
eventual disposition. The President appointed a
Philippine Commission to evaluate and report
on the islands and recommend a disposition.
The chairman, Jacob Schurman, president of
Cornell University, concluded the natives were
not yet capable of self-government but should
eventually become independent. The desired
end-state was determined to be a stable, peace-
ful, democratic, independent Philippines allied
to the United States.9 Key to this were prevent-
ing a power vacuum (which could lead to colo-
nization by another developed country), improv-
ing the country's education and infrastructure,
and implementing and guiding the development
of democracy. The method decided upon to
achieve the end-state was annexation.
Strategy is the manner in which a nation
employs its national power to achieve policy
goals and a desired end-state. The "center of
gravity" is an important concept for understand-
ing how and where to employ the elements of
power. The concept's originator, Carl von
Clausewitz, identified it as the source of the
enemy's "power and movement, upon which
everything depends."10 Current U.S. doctrine
extends the concept to both belligerents in a
conflict and differentiates between strategic and
operational levels of the center of gravity.11 The
essence of strategy then is to apply the elements
of power to attack the enemy's centers of gravi-
ty and to safeguard one's own.
The Filipino insurgents accurately targeted

the U.S. strategic center of gravity-the national
willpower as expressed by the Commander-in-
Chief and supported by his superiors, the voting
public. The American populace's will to victory
was the powerful key that brought the nation's
formidable elements of power to bear.
America's source of operational power, its
operational center of gravity, was the forces
fielded in the Philippines. Particularly important
were the small garrisons. Their ability to elimi-
nate local resistance pacified regions and kept
them peaceful. From 53 garrisons in May 1900
when Otis departed, American presence had
expanded to over 500 by the time Aguinaldo
was captured.12 Largely isolated from higher-
echelon control, small garrisons lived and
worked in communities. They tracked and elim-
inated insurgents, built rapport with the popu-
lace, gathered intelligence, and implemented
civil works. The process was slow, but once an
area was pacified it was effectively denied to the

Filipino Policy and Centers of Gravity
Although a full evaluation of Filipino insur-
gent strategy is beyond the scope of this article,
its effect on the United States must be consid-
ered. The goal, or end-state, sought by the
Filipino insurgency was a sovereign, independ-
ent, socially stable Philippines led by the
illustrado oligarchy.
Local chieftains, landowners, and business-
men were the principles who controlled local
politics. The insurgency was strongest when
illustrados, principles, and peasants were uni-
fied in opposition to annexation. The peasants,
who provided the bulk of guerrilla manpower,
had interests different from their illustrado lead-
ers and the principles of their villages. Coupled
with the ethnic and geographic fragmentation,
unity was a daunting task. The challenge for
Aguinaldo and his generals was to sustain uni-
fied Filipino public opposition; this was the
insurrectos' strategic center of gravity.
The Filipino operational center of gravity was
the ability to sustain its force of 100,000 irregu-
lars in the field. The Filipino General Francisco
Macabulos described the insurrection's aim as,
"not to vanquish the [U.S. Army] but to inflict on

them constant losses."13 They sought to initially
use conventional (later guerrilla) tactics and an
increasing toll of U.S. casualties to contribute to
McKinley's defeat in the 1900 presidential elec-
tion. Their hope was that as President the
avowedly anti-imperialist William Jennings
Bryan would withdraw from the Philippines.
They pursued this short-term goal with guerrilla
tactics better suited to a protracted struggle.
While targeting McKinley motivated the insur-
gents in the short term, his victory demoralized
them and convinced many undecided Filipinos
that the United States would not depart precipi-
tately. 14

American Strategy,
American strategy effectively targeted both
the insurgents' strategic and operational centers
of gravity. The oft-repeated observation of Mao
Zedong, arguably the most successful insurgent
leader of the 20th century, bears repeating: "The
people are the sea in which the insurgent fish
swims and draws strength." The American paci-
fication program targeted the sea in which the
insurgents swam. It lowered the water level until
the sea became hundreds of lakes. As American
garrisons drained the local lakes, the insurgent
fish became easier to isolate and catch. When
the insurgents were unable to sustain a formida-
ble force in the field, confidence in victory-and
hence unified opposition-withered.
The elements of power America employed in
the Philippines were diplomatic, legal, informa-
tional, military, and economic. These instru-
ments were adapted to local conditions, some-
times without the permission of the Office of the
Military Governor. While there is some discre-
tion as to the category under which an activity
should be discussed (for example, the United
States concluded an agreement with the Vatican
that exercised both diplomacy and economic
power), the aggregate effect shows the United
States successfully employed its power to target
the Filipino centers of gravity.
After the role of the original Philippine
Commission was complete, McKinley appointed
a second Philippine Commission under William
Howard Taft, which arrived in June 1900. The
presidential charter to this body was to transition

the Philippines from military to civilian rule. As
implemented, the policy transferred control of
each province from the jurisdiction of the Office
of the Military Governor to the commission once
the province was pacified. When MacArthur
departed command in July 1901, all administra-
tive responsibility was transferred to the com-
mission, with Brigadier General Adna Chaffee
taking command of the army. Taft added
Filipino members to the commission. He also
organized local governments so the elected
Filipino officials were under close American
Taft supported formation of the Federal Party,
a group founded by Manila illustrados and for-
mer revolutionary officers that advocated recog-
nition of U.S. sovereignty as a step toward rep-
resentative government. The party channeled
Filipinos' desires for independence into a peace-
ful, democratic undertaking. Party members also
negotiated the surrender of a number of insur-
gent leaders.16
The famous baseball manager Casey Stengel
once described the secret of managing as being
able to "keep the guys who hate you away from
the guys who are undecided." Realizing that a
unified opposition would be more difficult to
quash, the United States exploited the natural
divisions within Filipino society. Given its geo-
graphic and cultural divides, the Philippines was
more easily divided than unified. Whereas Otis
had cultivated the elite, MacArthur assumed all
principles not publicly committed to the United
States were guilty of collaboration.17 They had
the most to lose, and once convinced of their
personal safety, were the most willing to coop-
erate with the Americans. It was 80 Filipino
scouts from the Macabebe ethnic group-under
four American officers-who served as a Trojan
horse that was admitted to Aguinaldo's camp.
Presenting themselves as insurgents, upon enter-
ing the camp they captured the insurgent leader
and his local supporters.
The United States employed political power
to make cooperation lucrative. As Filipinos' par-
ticipation in government grew, so did the auton-
omy the United States granted. Army garrison
commanders approved local government offi-
cials, including mayors and town councils.18 By

checking civilians' passes and providing labor,
local politicians earned the right to offer patron-
age and licenses.19 As commanders, Otis and
MacArthur headed both the army and the Office
of the Military Governor. Even commanders of
the smallest detachments were dual-hatted, with
their civil governance roles gradually assuming
primary importance as regions were pacified.
The Office of the Military Governor established
civil government and laws, built schools and
roads, and implemented other civic actions.
With time, more Filipinos came to believe in the
promise of democratic government, and a
tutored transition.
Often considered a subset of diplomatic
power, the law enforcement and judicial power
employed were significant. While there were
some abuses, prisoners generally were treated
well by the standards of the day.20 Three months
after the end of the revolt, the U.S. Congress
extended most of the protections of the U.S.
Constitution to Filipinos.21
The United States employed collective pun-
ishments that involved families and communi-
ties.22 Municipal officials or principles were
held responsible for events that occurred in their
towns. Prisoners were held until they-or fami-
ly or friends-provided information, weapons,
or both. Crops, buildings, and other property
could be confiscated or destroyed as punish-
ment. General Orders 100 lifted some restric-
tions on courts, resulting in more prisoners
being executed. Rebel leaders were deported to
Guam.23 Filipino police under American control
were an extension of U.S. law enforcement pow-
ers. The 246 native Manila police officers were
responsible for arresting 7,422, including three
revolutionary generals.24
In an era that preceded mass media, inform-
ing the people of events and progress was key
to winning Filipinos over to America's goals. The
teaching of Spanish had been restricted during
Spain's 300 years of occupation. Only 40 percent
of the population could read any language.25
English instruction served as a unifying force, a
lingua franca that compensated for differences in
tribal speech and the lack of written languages.
Education was one of the few points of agree-
ment between Americans who opposed and

those who supported annexation. It demonstrat-
ed goodwill and made a lasting contribution to
the Philippines. Major John Parker credited the
18 soldiers he employed as teachers in Laguna
as being more valuable in the classroom than if
they had been used more traditionally. Parker's
wife ran schools for 2,000 students, which he
believed tranquilized the country more "than a
thousand men."26 In a forerunner of the Peace
Corps, 1,000 Americans came to the Philippines
to teach.27 The United States also founded a uni-
versity in Manila. The commitment to education
supported American goals by indicating stead-
fastness and the intent to build for the long term.
Education was the most popular civic-action
mission that did not offer a direct military bene-
When General Orders 100 was implemented,
it was proclaimed in English, Spanish, and
Tagalog. It clarified that civic works were a sec-
ondary priority to "punitive measures against
those who continued to resist."29 Over time,
information operations convinced an increasing
number of Filipinos that their interests were best
served by the American administration and not
the principles.
While it was clear that positive incentives
might "reconcile the Filipinos to American rule
in the long run, the insurgency could be
defeated in the short term [only] by military
means."30 The additional garrisons, Filipino
troops, and effective use of the Navy all were
important to expanding the reach of American
military power.
General Otis had resisted creating large for-
mations of Filipino troops. Faced with the immi-
nent departure of U.S. volunteer units whose
term of service would expire in December 1900,
General MacArthur authorized the recruitment
and training of indigenous Filipino formations.31
Filipino scouts, police, and auxiliaries often
were recruited from social and ethnic groups
hostile to the wealthier Tagalog supporters of
Aguinaldo. With time it became clear that local
police were "some of the most effective coun-
terinsurgency forces the Army raised."32 The mil-
itary auxiliary corps of Filipinos loyal to the
United States grew to 15,000.33
As befits a campaign in an archipelago, a pri-

mary Navy role was interdiction of arms and
other shipments. Beyond that, the Navy provid-
ed coastal fire support and supported amphibi-
ous landings. The embargo's success is shown in
a number of facts. The insurgents' primary
weapon source was captured rifles and ammu-
nition. Guerrillas outnumbered firearms. This
led to the unusual order that if unable to save
both, rifles were a higher priority than com-
rades. Successful interdiction meant that most
insurgent ammunition was reloaded cartridges,
up to 60 percent of which misfired.
The military power employed went beyond
American troops engaged in fighting guerrillas.
Soldiers contributed to diplomatic and econom-
ic activities as well as civic works. Even in
remote locations, American troops supervised
road construction. The Army built and ran
schools and clinics, administered vaccines, and
"conducted sanitation programs and other char-
itable works."34
As has become characteristic of the American
way of war, the economic power employed was
significant. Infrastructure improvements such as
road-building and laying telegraph lines aided
both military operations and the local economy.
In a single two-month period near the end of
the conflict, 1,000 miles of roads were built.35
Another program of dual benefit to soldier and
citizen alike was disease eradication. The
Philippines was plagued with malaria, smallpox,
cholera, and typhoid.36 Army garrison com-
manders worked with local leaders to ensure
clean water and waste disposal.37 Civil servants
were paid relatively high wages.38 These and
other policies convinced the populace of
America's sincere desire to improve the lot of
the average Filipino.
Taft negotiated the purchase of 400,000 acres
of prime farmland from the Vatican for $7.2 mil-
lion, more than its actual value. Although the
land could have been appropriated, the pur-
chase kept the church, which had performed
many municipal government functions under
the Spanish, from resisting the U.S. administra-
tion. Filipino peasants gained a significant ben-
efit by purchasing parcels of land from the
American administration. The U.S. land purchase
and resale was astute. It offered benefits that

could not be matched by the insurgents to two
constituencies. It also served as a wedge issue
that separated the interests of the peasant guer-
rillas from their land-owning principal lead-
Sometimes curbing economic power aided
U.S. efforts. Congress barred large landholdings
by American citizens or corporations.40 By
avoiding even the appearance of any ulterior
motive or conflict of interest, America strength-
ened its claim to benevolence.
The weapon collection policy also merits a
mention. When implemented in 1899, a 30-peso
bounty was initially a dismal failure, with only a
few dozen weapons turned in nationwide. By
1901, when coupled with other successful paci-
fication policies, it was common for hundreds of
rifles to be surrendered by disbanding insurgent
groups. The lesson is that any given tactic, tech-
nique, or procedure employed in isolation may
fail, but as part of a comprehensive mix of car-
rots and sticks can be part of an effective pro-
In sumniarizing the application of the tools of
American power, it bears repeating that they
were not uniformly employed. They varied by
region and evolved over time. One district com-
mander, Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell, iden-
tified his civil functions as head of the police,
judiciary, civil administration, mail, telegraph,
tax collection, and road construction activities.41
Having unified control of the elements of power
enabled Bell and his counterparts to effectively
orchestrate the counterinsurgency.

Lessons Learned

The campaign holds a number of lessons at
the strategic and operational levels that are valu-
able for those planning and conducting stability
operations.42 Pacifying the Philippines proved to
be more difficult than anyone had predicted. A
total of 126,468 U.S. soldiers served there, with
troop strength averaging 40,000.
Negligible insurgent activity did not mean vic-
tory. Major General Otis headed home in May
1900 convinced that he had succeeded in sup-
pressing the insurrection; yet the war continued
for more than two years. Rebel sources subse-

quently revealed that the early 1900 lull was a
period of reorganization and reconstitution.
Effective strategy and tactics took time to
develop. There was considerable local variation
in the tactics, techniques, and procedures used.
American officers implemented forms of civil
government often contrary to guidance from the
Office of the Military Governor. Some permitted
elections; when none were willing to serve,
other commanders appointed Filipino leaders.

Strategic and Operational Errors
American victory came about despite a num-
ber of strategic and operational errors. President
McKinley had not determined U.S. policy toward
the Philippines when Admiral Dewey was dis-
patched and had still not done so after General
Merritt arrived. There was no unity of command
in political and military channels until MacArthur
relinquished his posts and General Chaffee was
subordinated to Taft.43 Various generals prema-
turely announced victory-attained or immi-
nent-a number of times. Theodore Roosevelt
prudently waited until a few months after field
forces had surrendered before declaring the war
over. Clearly, one does not need to execute per-
fectly to prevail.
The insurgents made a number of political
and military errors that helped the Americans.
Their support was too narrowly based; it rested
principally upon a relatively small principal oli-
garchy and the Tagalog-speaking regions of
Luzon.44 Their military errors were substantial.
They failed to attack Manila after they had
already seized the rest of the country, and then
attempted to fight a conventional war. They
delayed implementing unconventional tactics.
Having adopted the guerrilla tactics of protract-
ed warfare, Aguinaldo and his generals mistak-
enly led their followers to expect a quick victo-
ry with McKinley's defeat. The pre-election peak
of guerrilla activity in late 1900 cost soldiers,
equipment, weapons, and morale that were
never replaced.

Changes in the International Environment
The 20th century saw the greatest technolog-
ical and social changes in history. Some of these
clearly mitigate the direct application of methods

successfully employed in the Philippines. One
need only consider Kipling's poetic admonition
to "Pick up the White Man's Burden" for a quick
jolt into how different the prevailing standards
of acceptable discourse are today. It was an era
when the major powers often acted, either uni-
laterally or in alliance, to secure colonial advan-
tages.45 Changes in human rights, the media,
and international organizations are among those
that most significantly limit direct application of
the tactics, techniques, and procedures applied
in the Philippine Insurrection to early 21st-cen-
tury stability operations.
The standards for acceptable treatment of
prisoners of war and non-combatants also have
changed considerably. In the 19th century,
General Orders 100 was considered such a
model for the humane conduct of war that it was
adapted for use by European nations. Yet it pro-
vided for sanctions such as suspension of civil
rights, deportation, and summary execution.46
American soldiers moved hundreds of thousands
of Filipino civilians into concentration camps to
separate them from the guerrillas. The camps
served to separate the insurgents from their
source of strength, the general populace. While
incidents of torture and murder by U.S. troops
were recorded, they were not widespread.
Corporal punishment and physical hazing of
American soldiers was still permitted, including
use of the stockade. One American soldier was
tied, gagged, and repeatedly doused with water
as punishment for drunkenness. Though he
died, his superiors were found not to have used
excessive force.47
As unseemly as some treatment of Filipinos
may be to modern sensibilities, American sol-
diers generally acted benevolently. The best tes-
timony to this comes from the Filipinos them-
selves. Manual Quezon was an officer of
Aguinaldo's who later became President of the
Philippines. He complained of the difficulty the
insurgents faced in fostering nationalism under
their colonial master, "Damn the Americans!
Why don't they tyrannize us more?"48 The lesson
here is not merely that prevailing standards have
changed. Rather, Americans found legal means
to separate the population from the guerrillas
and did so while acting more humanely than the

generally accepted standards of the time.
Telecommunications did not exist in 1902.
One need only consider the visibility of the 2004
prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq to appreciate the
ubiquity and impact of global news and elec-
tronic mail today. News coverage influences
multiple audiences: the American people, oppo-
sition forces, the undecided population of the
occupied territory, and third parties such as cur-
rent and potential allies.
Discussing the impact of the modern media
on combat operations could fill volumes.
Considerations that particularly deserve mention
are the U.S. populace's famous impatience and
aversion to casualties. Americans prefer quick,
decisive, and relatively bloodless victories like
Urgent Fury and Desert Storm. The United States
suffered 4,234 dead and 2,818 wounded in the
Philippine Insurrection.49 Filipino casualties
dwarfed those of the Americans. Combat losses
exceeded 16,000, while civilian casualties num-
bered up to 200,000 due to disease, starvation,
and maltreatment by both sides.50 In today's 24-
hour news cycle, every combatant and collater-
al death is grist for at least one day's news mill.
At the time of this writing, Operations Iraqi
Freedom and Enduring Freedom are in their sec-
ond and third years, respectively. America is
unlikely to accept years of trial and error to
develop the proper mix of tactics, techniques,
and procedures if the casualty flow remains
steady. Future planners will be expected to
engage more troops, sooner, to speed pacifica-
The United States acted alone in the
Philippines. One marked change in the interna-
tional environment in the past century is the
increase in the prominence of international
organizations. The United Nations and NATO
are two of the most prominent institutions which
may aid or hinder U.S. objectives, but which
cannot be ignored. No such organizations exist-
ed in 1900.
Today's strategic planner must account for the
ubiquitous presence of international and non-
governmental organizations (NGOs). Credibility
is more freely granted to an alliance than to a
nation acting unilaterally. The challenge is to
incorporate the inevitable presence of interna-

tional organizations and NGOs into U.S. goals.
Ideally this can be done in ways that channel
their elements of power toward American ends.
At the least, it requires minimizing effects con-
trary to U.S. aims.

Applying the War's Lessons

Warfare, culture, and geography vary over
time and place. No plan can be transposed
unchanged from one context to another. The
key for the military planner is to glean the prop-
er lessons from principles and history, then
apply them to the challenge at hand. By focus-
ing on the strategic and operational lessons of
the Philippine Insurrection, this article seeks to
identify those higher-level lessons most likely to
retain relevancy across centuries and hemi-
What then does one take away as the overrid-
ing lessons of the Philippine Insurrection? At the
strategic level, two flaws in the Philippine expe-
rience are easily avoided. Joint force command-
ers today cafn expect clearer mission guidance
than General Merritt had and a better under-
standing of the strategic end-state. Political and
military elements operating together today,
while not free of friction, will be much more
closely integrated than those of Taft and General
At the operational level, one observes that
each of the elements of national power was
effectively employed for at least one of three
purposes: separating the guerrillas from the
populace, defeating the guerrillas, and gaining
the cooperation of the populace. These lessons
are comparable to other compilations of gener-
ally accepted counterinsurgency principles.51
Separation denies support to insurgents and
facilitates protecting noncombatants from coer-
cion. Cooperation is best gained by a mix of
positive and negative inducements.
Incentives without sanctions, largely the case
before December 1900, are much less effective.
Unlike General Otis, General MacArthur made
known that there were limits to American
benevolence. As the cost and risks of supporting
the insurrection increase, support will decrease.
To return to Mao's metaphor, as the water

becomes hotter, it evaporates from around the
fish. While these principles are simple and con-
stant, the appropriate tactics, techniques, and
procedures must be developed, adapted to local
conditions, constantly reassessed, and permitted
to evolve.
Civic action and benevolent treatment alone
were unable to win the Philippine campaign.
Armed only with good deeds, soldiers were
unable to either protect Filipino supporters from
retribution or deny support to the insurgents. It
was only with the addition of the chastisement
tools-fines, arrest, property destruction and
confiscation, population concentration, deporta-
tion, and scorching sections of the country-
side-that soldiers were able to separate guerril-
las from their support. The proper mix of tactics
and techniques appropriate for each local situa-
tion was determined by officers in hundreds of
garrisons throughout the archipelago.52
During the peak of the insurrection, the
United States had 74,000 soldiers deployed
there-one for every 110 Filipinos. By 1903, a
year after America's victory in the Philippines,
the number of U.S. troops garrisoning the archi-
pelago had been reduced to 15,000-a ratio of
about one soldier for every 500 residents. This
timeline and troop level transposed to Iraq
would see the U.S. garrison there reduced to
44,000 soldiers by 2008. Although this would
represent a significant reduction from current
troop levels, it is still the equivalent strength of
three Army divisions. A segment of the
American populace has been expecting its sol-
diers to return home as rapidly and casualty-free
as they did after Desert Storm. Most Americans
do not expect Iraq to remain America's largest
overseas presence for years to come.
Some lessons can be adopted almost directly:
Take care of supporters. Exploit differing
motives and competition between social, ethnic,
and political groups. Identify where to insert,
and how to hammer, wedges between insurgent
leaders and potential supporters. Control or
deny the complex terrain where the guerrillas
find sanctuary-in the Philippines it was jungle;
elsewhere it may be desert, urban, or mountain
Separating guerrillas from the general popu-

lace needs to be done, but camps are unlikely to
be acceptable in our current era. Cordoning off
neighborhoods, implementing regional pass sys-
tems, and enforcing curfews are some tech-
niques that can help accomplish the same end.
In winning the Filipino population, 600 small
garrisons were more effective than 50. Today's
soldiers will never be as isolated from support
or communications as the Philippine garrisons
were. The proper size of a garrison, whether
company or squad, must depend on the situa-
tion. But the broader the range of benefits-
medical, educational, or economic-and sanc-
tions-political, judicial, or military-over which
the local leaders have control, the better they
will be able to effectively mold the local popu-
lation to behaviors that accord with mission
No diplomat, soldier, or pundit can know
with total accuracy which tactics, techniques,
and procedures will succeed in quelling a given
insurrection. What is clear is that the odds of
success decrease the further one strays from the
basic, oft-tested principles of counterinsurgency:
separate the population from the insurgents,
give them more reasons to support the coun-
terinsurgents, and deny the insurgents safe
haven or support from any quarter.53 Having
empirically shown these lessons in the
Philippines, one might add another: empower
leaders with the freedom to experiment with
tactics, techniques, and procedures that achieve
the mission while adapting to local conditions. It
was the initiative by soldiers at different levels
that derived the principles and techniques that
won America's first victory in quelling an over-
seas insurrection.
In the past century there have been tectonic-
scale changes in technology, human rights, and
the prevailing world order. Despite this, the
strategic and operational lessons of the success-
ful Philippine counterinsurgency remain valid
and are worthy of study. Those who disparage
today's employment of the Army in peace oper-
ations and other stability and support operations
may be experiencing historical myopia.
Although more officers are able to cite the cam-
paign lessons of Douglas MacArthur, it may well
be that the successful counterinsurgency cam-

paigns of his father Arthur hold more valuable
historical lessons for operations in the coming
At the strategic level there is no simple secret
to success. Victory in a counterinsurgency
requires patience, dedication, and the willing-
ness to remain.54 The American strategic center
of gravity that Aguinaldo identified a century
ago remains accurate today.


1. Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars
and the Rise of American Power (New York: Basic
Books, 2002), 105. Boot characterizes McKinley's
statement, ignoring the fact that most Filipinos were
Catholic, as reflecting the "twin currents of Protestant
piety and American jingoism that defined the turn of
the century zeitgeist."
2. Rudyard Kipling's poem "Pick up the White Man's
Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands"
also captures the spirit of the times. Originally pub-
lished in the February 1899 edition of McClure's mag-
azine, it admonishes the United States to "Fill full the
mouth of Famine, And bid the sickness cease," for
"Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-
child." The title of Boot's book comes from a line in
the poem.
3. Brian McAllister Linn, The Philippine War,
1899-1902 (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2000),
4. Glenn A. May, A Past Recovered (Manila: New Day
Publishers, 1987), 157, quoted in Linn, 325.
5. Boot, 126, puts the figure at 80,000. Linn, 325, cites
80,000 to 100,000 and the auxiliary strength.
6. Linn, 200.
7. John Morgan Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The
United States Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973), 162-63.
8. Although the term's use is tainted by its Nazi-era
usage, this is what the camps were called. They were
temporary villages, similar in scope and function to
the reservations familiar to some of the Army's old
hands who had campaigned against the Plains
9. Stability did not mean the end of all opposition.
The Muslim Moros on the southern island of
Mindanao remained in resistance as they had during
300 years of Spanish rule, and as they continue today
under Abu Sayef.
10. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. and ed.
Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ.:
Princeton Univ. Press, 1976), 595-96.
11. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Doctrine for
Campaign Planning, Joint Publication 5-00.1
(Washington: U.S. Department of Defense, 25 January

12. The number of garrisons expanded to 639 by
September 1901 under MacArthur's successor, Major
General Adna Chaffee.
13. Linn, 187.
14. Gates, 273.
15. Oscar Theodore Barck, Jr., and Nelson Manfred
Blake, Since 1900: A Histoor of the United States in
Our Times (New York: MacMillan 1974), 86. The com-
mission's success enhanced Taft's reputation as a
sound administrator and helped him attain the White
16. Linn, 215.
17. Ibid., 213.
18. Ibid., 128.
19. Ibid., 206.
20. Boot, 127.
21. Barck and Blake, 86.
22. Linn, 213.
23. Deportation continued a practice of the Spaniards.
Aguinaldo himself had been deported following the
collapse of the 1896 revolution.
24. Linn, 128.
25. Gates, 31.
26. Linn, 203.
27. Boot, 115.
28. Linn, 258.
29. Ibid., 214.
30. Boot, 115.
31. Linn, 215.
32. Ibid., 204.
33. Ibid., 128.
34. Boot, 126.
35. Linn, 258. The period was April-May 1902.
36. Ibid., 15-16.
37. Ibid., 128-29.
38. Ibid., 275.
39. Ibid., 196.
40. Boot, 125.
41. These were in addition to military roles such as
fighting guerrillas and bandits, destroying supply
caches, gathering intelligence, and supporting the dis-
trict's garrisons.
42. The campaign in the Philippines included combat
as well as stability and support operations. While
Americans forces conducted what would be catego-
rized today as the full spectrum of operations
(offense, defense, stability and support), the stability
operations predominated.
43. From their first meeting, MacArthur had treated
Taft as an unwelcome intrusion. It was due largely to
Taft's influence in Washington that Arthur MacArthur
was recalled.
44. Linn, 323.
45. During the midst of the Philippine rebellion, the
United States, Britain, Germany, Japan, Russia,
France, Italy, and Austria acted together to relieve
their Peking legations besieged in the Boxer
46. Linn, 211-14.

47. Ibid., 221.
48. Boot, 125.
49. Ibid.
50. Ibid.
51. Robert R. Tomes, "Relearning Counterinsurgency
Warfare," Parameters, 34 (Spring 2004). Tomes identi-
fies the principles of counterinsurgency as separating
guerrillas from the civil populace to deny them assis-
tance, denying them safe havens, and preventing out-
side support.
52. Linn, 237.
53. Edward J. Filiberti, "The Roots of U.S.

Counterinsurgency Doctrine," Military Review, 68
(January 1988). Although Filiberti credits Franklin Bell
with having invented counterinsurgency doctrine, like
26 of the 30 U.S. generals to serve in the insurrection,
he had counterinsurgency experience fighting Ameri-
can Indians.
54. Gates, 285

About the Author
Timothy K. Deady, Colonel, USAR, commanded the 2d Simulations
Exercise Group in the 1st Brigade, 85th Division, at the time this article
was published in 2005.

i.*. A 'At r rr.


1 'i" tr
l %11. "MIC.
S 4 I .

,- ,o.. ,r4

i :"< -' -

I '
*,t; iA y p .., '*'(,
..- ? 4,-'., "f^4 t.. ...

.... *4 -

,, '.. .

*, dU. a t. r

.. .. ., -, .'
;., ~ ~ -.~ i N '-' ~ t 4
lop~~J '~jAL ~ &%.~;r~a
-4 Jr~AWN
Fj{' r --,~ ~ r
-' V ~I& N~x~a-4
-C.. -.1t '.~r~~2i(2z~-~. 4 ~ -16

"We Will Go Heavily'

Armed": The Marines'

Small War on Samar,


by Brian McAllister Linn

New Interpretations in Naval History:
Selected Papers from the Ninth Naval
History Symposium, 1989

The actions of Major Littleton W. T.
Waller and his battalion in the American
conquest of Samar have provoked contro-
versy for almost a century. In this essay
Professor Linn draws on Filipino sources as
well as army, navy, and Marine operational
records to integrate the Marines' experi-
ences into the context of the entire cam-
paign. Challenging those scholars who
have portrayed Waller as a hero and scape-
goat, Linn argues that his poor leadership
contributed greatly to the uneven perform-
ance of the Marine Corps on Samar.
On 28 September 1901 villagers and guer-
rillas attacked the 74 officers and men of
Company C, Ninth U.S. Infantry at the
town of Balangiga, Samar Island, in the
Philippines. Surprising the men at breakfast, the
Filipinos killed 48 soldiers, "mutilating many of
their victims with a ferocity unusual even for
guerrilla warfare."1 The "massacre," which
occurred when many believed the fighting
between U.S. military forces and Filipino nation-
alists was virtually over, shocked Americans.
Amidst public cries for vengeance, U.S. patrols,
under orders to "make a desert of Balangiga,"
soon did such a thorough job that "with the
exception of the stone walls of the church and a
few large upright poles of some of the houses,
there is today not a vestage [sic] of the town of
Balangiga left."2 Determined to crush the resist-
ance on Samar, the Army poured in troops, the
Navy sent gunboats, and a battalion of 300

Marines was dispatched under the command of
Major Littleton W. T. Waller. Some of these
Marines had served with the victims of Balangiga
in the Boxer Rebellion a year earlier. Their atti-
tude may have been best summarized by Private
Harold Kinman: "we will go heavily armed and
longing to avenge our comrades who fought side
by side with us in China."3
Although only a small part of the total U.S.
manpower on the island, the Marine battalion
soon became the most famous, or notorious, mil-
itary force in the campaign-which in turn
became one of the most famous, or notorious,
episodes of the Philippine War. Even college
freshmen may have read of Brigadier General
Jacob H. Smith's orders directing Waller to take
no prisoners, to treat every male over ten as an
enemy, to make the interior of Samar a "howling
wilderness," and to "kill and burn. The more you
kill and burn, the better you will please me."4
Equally controversial are the Marines' own
exploits. Campaigning on Samar was such a hell-
ish experience that for years afterwards, veterans
would be greeted in mess halls with the toast,
"Stand Gentlemen: He served on Samar." Yet in
an early blunder, the Marines lost ten men in one
expedition without encountering a single enemy
guerrilla. In another incident, Waller had eleven
Filipino guides summarily executed, an action
that President Theodore Roosevelt believed "sul-
lied the American name" and led to Waller's
court-martial for murder.5 Thus, both because it
proved so controversial and because it represent-
ed the Marines' first encounter with twentieth-
century guerrilla warfare, the Samar campaign
serves as an excellent starting point for a discus-
sion of the small wars heritage of the U.S. Marine
Charles E. Callwell, the contemporary British
expert in irregular warfare, noted that in small
wars, climate and terrain were often greater
obstacles than the enemy forces. His observation
is particularly true of Samar, where, as one satur-
nine Marine noted, there was no need for the
orders to turn the interior into a "howling wilder-
ness" because "nature had done it for us."6 In
the local dialect, the name "Samar" means
"wounded" or "divided"-an apt description for
an island whose 5,200 square miles are replete

with rugged mountains, jungles, tortuous rivers,
razor-sharp grasses, swamps, and parasites.
Because the mountains confined most of its pop-
ulation to a narrow coastal region, for most of its
colonial history Samar was "an island of dis-
persed settlements only loosely bound together
by a common religion, a lightly felt administra-
tive structure, and a few ties between pueblos."7
In the towns and barrios, authority was wielded
by a few priests, merchants, landowners, and
municipal officials; and in the mountains, scat-
tered groups practiced primitive slash-and-burn
agriculture. The Samarenos exported abaca
(Manila hemp) and coconuts from Calbayog,
Catbalogan, and other ports; but they were
unable to grow sufficient rice to meet their needs
and suffered periodic food shortages. Although
contemporary American officers described the
population of the island as "savages" with a long
and violent history of resistance to any authority,
the Spanish praised the natives' docile accept-
ance of foreign rule.
Samar was untouched by the fighting between
the Filipino 'ationalists and the Spanish in 1896;
but with the declaration of Philippine independ-
ence by Emilio Aguinaldo on 12 June 1898, the
Filipino revolutionaries, based predominantly on
the island of Luzon, moved to secure the rest of
the archipelago. On 31 December 1898, a month
before the outbreak of the Philippine War
between Filipino forces and the Americans,
Brigadier General Vicente Lukban (or Lucban)
arrived and with some 100 soldiers formally
placed Samar under Aguinaldo's Philippine
Republic. Although he demonstrated commend-
able energy, Lukban was greatly hampered in his
efforts to mobilize the Samarenos by the fact that
he was an outsider. Moreover, a U.S. naval block-
ade prevented him from obtaining reinforce-
ments or sending the money and supplies he col-
lected to Aguinaldo. The blockade compounded
Samar's precarious food situation: "Famine
appeared as early as 1899 and Lukban wrote in
1900 that his troops were close to mutiny
because of it.'"8
The American infantrymen who landed on the
island on 27 January 1900 had little idea of either
the precariousness of the insurgents' situation or
the trouble that Samar was later to give them.

Their mission was to secure the island's hemp
ports and prevent a cordage crisis in the United
States, a task they accomplished by brushing
aside Lukban's forces and garrisoning a few
towns. The soldiers' rapid seizure of the ports
and the apparent collapse of the revolutionaries
convinced the army high command that Samar
was secured. With more important islands to
pacify, army leaders quickly decided Samar was
of minimal value. For the next eighteen months
after their arrival, the isolated companies sta-
tioned on the island would cling precariously to
little more than a few ports and river towns.
The weak occupation force allowed the
Filipino revolutionaries, termed insurrectos by
the Americans, to recover and counterattack.
From the beginning, the insurrectos attempted to
confine the soldiers to the Catbalogan-Calbayog
area while mobilizing the inhabitants against the
invaders. In some places the revolutionaries
depopulated entire areas, setting fire to villages
and barrios and driving civilians into the moun-
tains. They informed the Samarenos that the U.S.
Army came for the purpose of raping, pillaging,
and "annihilating us later as they have the
Indians of America."9 To support their military
forces, the guerrillas confiscated crops and
engaged in extensive smuggling, seeking both to
continue the hemp trade and to bring in rice.
Filipinos who collaborated with the soldiers or
lived in the towns risked kidnapping or assassi-
nation, often in the most grisly manner. One U.S.
officer complained, "The Insurgents have been
guilty of all kinds of cruelty to those persons
friendly to us, such as burying them alive, cutting
off parts of the body, killing them, etc."10
Although the guerrillas lacked modern
weapons, they showed remarkable tactical inge-
nuity and ability. They made cannons out of
bamboo wrapped with hemp, gunpowder from
community niter pits, and cartridges from brass
fittings soldered with silver taken from churches.
Their primitive firearms made the guerrillas more
than able both to harass the soldiers and to force
compliance from civilians. Against American
patrols, they relied on an ingenious variety of
booby traps: covered holes filled with poisoned
bamboo, spring-loaded spears set off by careful-
ly hidden trip wires, and heavy timbers or bas-

kets of rocks hung over trails and rivers. One sol-
dier who painstakingly removed dozens of
obstacles from a trail returned in two weeks to
find dozens more in place, "and such traps one
could not imagine could be made and set so
cunningly."11 The ubiquitous traps, supplement-
ed by an extensive system of pickets and vigi-
lantes who signaled the approach of an
American patrol through bells, bamboo and
carabao horns, or conch shells, effectively pre-
cluded surprise. Occasionally the insurrectos
would go on the offensive. From carefully con-
cealed trenches, bamboo cannons or rifles would
fire on American patrols struggling along narrow
trails or river beds. This sniping might be fol-
lowed by a sudden "bolo rush" of machete-
wielding guerrillas pouring out of the thick grass
or jungle to overwhelm detachments.12
It was not until May 1901 that the Army began
to give Samar more than a cursory interest, and
then only because the end of military rule on
neighboring Leyte Island made the continued
turmoil on Samar intolerable. With much of the
Philippines pacified, the Army was able to rein-
force Brigadier General Robert P. Hughes on
Samar and by September he had 23 companies
of infantry stationed in some 38 towns located
throughout the northern and central parts of the
island. Hughes established two bases deep in the
interior to allow U.S. troops to operate inland,
and he ordered patrols to converge at Lukban's
headquarters on the Gandara River, in the
process crossing the island and sweeping the
countryside. He expanded the Army's area of
operations, stationing garrisons in heretofore
ignored southern towns such as Basey and
Balangiga. Through the laborious process of con-
structing roads, building supply camps, securing
boats and porters, and constant patrolling, the
Americans brought the war to the interior of the
Frustrated because the guerrillas rarely stood
and fought, Hughes became convinced that the
resistance would continue as long as the enemy
could secure sufficient food. He determined to
cut off smuggling and to destroy the guerrilla
logistical base in order to give his soldiers "a fair
opportunity to kill off the bands of utter savages
who have hibernated in the brush."13 He ordered


the Navy to step up its blockade and closed all
ports in Samar, authorizing Army and naval offi-
cers to seize all boats not deemed necessary for
fishing and to arrest anyone found carrying food
without a pass. To increase the pressure further,
he ordered U.S. expeditions in the interior and
along the coast to destroy crops, houses, and
fields. Although Hughes did not formally imple-
ment a policy of concentrating the population
into protected zones or camps, it was common
for his soldiers to deport all Filipino civilians
found in the interior to the coast. The result was
that the towns, often already burned by the
insurrectos, soon filled up with destitute
Filipinos with no access to food. Within two
months after Hughes's policies took effect,
hunger was widespread, and by September the
situation was so critical that he had to authorize
post commanders to purchase rice for the
refugees. 14
At the town of Balangiga, the American poli-
cies provoked a violent response. Despite his
alleged sympathy for the Filipinos, the post com-
mander, Captain Thomas Connell, destroyed
much of the town's livestock, fishing supplies,
and crops. In addition, he confined 70 towns-
people in two tents designed for 16 men each,
forcing them to work all day in the sun and
refusing to pay them or give them adequate
food. His men also behaved poorly, taking food
without payment and probably committing at
least one rape. Such abuses, coupled with weak
security measures, provoked a retaliatory attack
by townspeople and local guerrilla forces who
slaughtered most of the garrison on 28
September. 15
The Balangiga "massacre" provoked an equal-
ly enraged American response. In what was
undoubtedly one of the worst decisions of the
war, Major General Adna R. Chaffee, the com-
manding officer of the Army in the Philippines,
selected Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith to take
tactical command of the pacification of Samar. A
product of the Army's seniority system, Smith
owed his general's stars to his longevity, his
physical bravery, and the mistaken belief that he
planned to retire. Having spent most of his life
commanding little more than a company, he was
bewildered by the complexity of handling the

4,000 soldiers, Marines, and native scouts in his
6th Separate Brigade. To compound his prob-
lems, Smith displayed symptoms of mental insta-
bility and was subject to outbursts in which he
urged the most violent and irresponsible
Unfortunately, among Smith's subordinates
was an officer who himself was prone to rash
and violent action: Major Littleton W. T. Waller,
commander of the Marine battalion. At first
glance Waller would seem to have made an ideal
commander. He was a 22-year veteran whose
combat exploits in Egypt, Cuba, and China had
shown that he possessed several characteristics
vital to a counterinsurgency fighter: he had
tremendous powers of endurance and was per-
sonally brave, aggressive, and charismatic. These
qualities would later make him a legendary com-
bat leader in the Marines' small wars in Latin
America. Nevertheless, Waller consistently relied
on physical courage and endurance to make up
for deficiencies in planning and judgment. In
China, for example, he had engaged a vastly
superior enemy force and had been driven back,
losing an artillery piece and a machine gun, suf-
fering eleven casualties, and leaving his dead
behind. Prone to both braggadocio and self-pity,
he was convinced that his services in the Boxer
Rebellion had not been properly recognized.
Moreover, he arrived in Samar under a personal
cloud, having recently gone on an alcoholic
binge that culminated in a 10-day suspension
from 'duty. This disciplinary action does not
appear to have cured him: one Marine later
remembered that on operations in the field,
Waller "had a bottle of liquor for his own use,
and when it gave out he was in bad shape."17
His drinking may explain his boastfulness and
irritability, his willingness to blame his superiors,
and his inability to accept the consequences of
his actions.
It is not surprising that the Marines' organiza-
tional status within the 6th Separate Brigade is
still the subject of much misunderstanding, given
the confusion engendered by Smith's instability
and Waller's penchant for acting rashly. Assigned
to the two southern towns of Basey and
Balangiga, the Marines fell under both Army and
Navy authority. Not until after the campaign did

the U.S. Army's judge advocate general rule that
the Marines on Samar were not detached from
the Navy but only engaged in a "cooperative"
venture with the Army.18 Equally confused was
Waller's area of responsibility. From 27 October
1902 on, he apparently believed he was in
charge of an independent command he referred
to as "Subdistrict South Samar," consisting of all
territory south of a line from Basey on the west
coast to Hernani on the east coast, an area total-
ing some 600 square miles and including two
Army posts. A careful reading of the extensive
U.S. Army operational correspondence concern-
ing Waller makes it clear, however, that he com-
manded the Marines at Basey and Balangiga
alone and that his Army superiors never consid-
ered him more than the "Commanding Officer,
Basey." The actual extent of Waller's authority
would later become a major issue, but at the
time, nearly every army garrison and navy gun-
boat suffered from equally tangled command
The organizational vagueness surrounding
Waller's command was compounded by his
operational orders. Upon the arrival of the
Marines at Balangiga and Basey, Smith ordered
Waller to "kill and burn," take no prisoners, and
regard every male over 10 as a combatant. In
spite of these grim directives, Waller's own
orders to the Marine battalion on 23 October
conformed to Army policies already current on
Samar. In common with American military efforts
since June 1901, Waller focused on denying food
to the guerrillas and ordered his Marines to con-
fiscate all rice, allowing families only a small
daily ration on which to survive. In an effort to
break up the guerrillas' extensive smuggling
organization in the south of the island, he
ordered all hemp confiscated and all boats regis-
tered and painted red. Waller attempted to
organize the population into similarly identifiable
groups by allowing a short grace period for male
civilians to come into the towns and register or
be treated henceforth as hostile. His orders
emphasized that the Samarenos were "treacher-
ous, brave, and savage. No trust, no confidence
can be placed in them." Therefore, civilians were
required to perform all manual labor and Filipino
guides were to walk at the head of military

columns with long poles and probe for pits and
traps. The area around Balangiga, garrisoned by
some 159 Marines under Captain David D.
Porter, was to be "cleared of the treacherous
enemy and the expeditions, in a way, are to be
punitive." Finally, Waller stressed that the
Marines were to "avenge our late comrades in
North China" and "must do our part of the work,
and with the sure knowledge that we are not to
expect quarter."20 There were also disturbing
indications that Smith's illegal orders were
passed on unchanged to the men. One Marine
wrote home that he and his comrades were "hik-
ing all the time killing all we come across," and
another veteran remembered that "we were to
shoot on sight anyone over 12 years old, armed
or not, to burn everything and to make the
Island of Samar a howling wilderness."21 Captain
Porter later explained that although Smith had
meant that the Marines were only to "kill and
burn" insurrectos, it was "understood that every-
body in Samar was an insurrecto, except those
who had come in and taken the oath of alle-
Under these guidelines, Waller pursued the
objectives of destroying insurrecto supplies,
bringing the guerrillas to battle, and establishing
a defensive cordon. His men completed the
destruction of the area around Balangiga and
extended the devastation-between 31 October
and 10 November the Marines burned 255 hous-
es and destroyed one ton of hemp, one-half ton
of rice, 13 carabao, and thirty boats while killing
39 men and capturing 18. Waller also learned
from a Filipino who had escaped from the insur-
rectos that the insurgents had established a base
about fifteen miles up the Sojoton River. The first
attempt up the river on 6 November resulted in
the death of two Marines and the loss of fifteen
rifles. A second expedition was more successful.
After 10 days of struggling through the jungles,
the Marines launched an assault on 17 November
that killed 30 guerrillas and drove the rest from
their entrenchments. As congratulations poured
in, Waller boasted that the "operations in the
Sojoton were the most important of the whole
campaign as far as their effect on the insurgents
were concerned.'"23
This apparent success on the Sojoton River

may have led Waller to overlook some of the
campaign's hard lessons. He underestimated the
crucial role the Navy had played in supplying
and transporting his expedition. Once separated
from their waterborne logistical lifeline, his
Marines could neither carry enough food nor live
off the country. Despite their victory, they had to
withdraw from the Sojoton immediately, and
within a month, the area was again a guerrilla
stronghold. Waller could take pride in the fact
that his men "can and will go where mortal men
can go," but he apparently disregarded the
human cost inflicted on them.24 He seems to
have drawn no lesson from the fact that after its
10-day ordeal, his battalion was immobilized for
almost a week.
Convinced that the Sojoton Valley was
cleared, Waller launched operations into the inte-
rior to destroy other reputed guerrilla strong-
holds. He resolved the persistent problem of
supply by ignoring it; in one telegram he arbitrar-
ily decided that six days' rations could sustain his
men for nine days. Unfamiliar with all of the
deleterious effects of service in the Philippines
and ignoring the lessons of the Sojoton cam-
paign, he drove both himself and his men
unmercifully. The Marines slogged through
Samar's swamps and muddy trails, climbed the
razor-backed mountains, and cut their way
through jungles and congon grass. Constant
rains, inadequate maps, and poor communica-
tions dogged them, and patrols often wandered
lost. One Marine complained that "sometimes we
do not have any thing to eat for 48 hours and
never more than 2 meals per day. Our feet are
sore, our shoes worn out and our clothes torn. It
rains [and] half of the time we sleep on the
ground with nothing but a rubber poncho to
cover us."25
In December, asserting that Smith had
requested him to find a route for a telegraph line,
Waller decided to march from the east coast to
Basey, "belting the southern end of Samar.'"26
Although the planned march covered only some
30 miles in a direct line, an earlier Army expedi-
tion had already determined that no route exist-
ed in the region that Waller intended to cross.
Not only would the Marines be marching at the
height of the monsoon season, but most of their

journey would be over narrow, jungle-covered
valleys, necessitating the constant crossing of
both mountains and rivers. Between climbing the
steep hills, cutting a path through the vegetation,
and fording the swollen and treacherous streams,
the Marines would have to display epic stamina
simply to cover a few miles on the map. The
local army officers, far more experienced with
the treacherous interior, urged Waller not to
undertake the operation without establishing a
secure supply line. Another officer who recently
had returned from the very area Waller planned
to explore warned the Marine commander imme-
diately before he departed "of the hardships of
mountain climbing, even when he had a supply
camp and shelters for his men.'"27
The ensuing march of six officers, 50 Marines,
two Filipino scouts, and 33 native porters from
Lanang to Basey between 28 December 1901 and
19 January 1902 has been described by Allan R.
Millett as "a monument to human endurance and
poor planning."28 The trail quickly disappeared,
and the expedition slowed to a crawl as each
foot of the way had to be cut through the sod-
den and steaming jungle. As Waller's men
crossed and recrossed rivers and inched up hills
so sheer they were almost perpendicular, their
shoes and clothes became little more than torn
and rotting rags. The constant immersion, para-
sites, razor-sharp tropical grasses, and piercing
rocks literally peeled their skin off in layers.
Although the survivors' recollections of the
march are vague and contradictory, it is clear that
after only five days of marching, supplies ran
dangerously low and the men were exhausted.
On about 2 January, Waller and his officers
decided to abandon their objective and return to
the east coast along the Suribao River. The
Marines cut down trees and made rafts, but the
water-logged timbers sank immediately. Making
a controversial decision, Waller took two officers
and 13 of his strongest men and set out in an
attempt to blaze a trail to the Sojoton Valley. By
6 January they managed to cut their way through
to a Marine base camp. In the meantime, the rest
of the expedition disintegrated. Captain Porter,
receiving no word from Waller, hacked his way
back to. Lanang with seven Marines and six
Filipinos. The remaining Marines and Filipino

porters were left on the trail under the command
of Lieutenant Alexander Williams. Starving and
suffering from prolonged exposure, Williams and
several of his men became convinced that the
porters not only had access to a large supply of
food, but also that they were plotting against the
Marines. The lieutenant later claimed that he was
attacked by three of the porters, though his
account of the event was somewhat confused.
An Army relief force, battling heavy floods,
reached Williams's men on 18 January, but by
that time 10 Marines had either died or disap-
peared and an eleventh was to die shortly after-
wards. Starving, barefoot, and their clothes in
rags, the Marines who survived were literally
helpless, and their rifles and ammunition had to
be carried by the Filipino porters. Some of the
Marines were even crazed by their exertions.
Although the expedition cost him over 20 per-
cent of his command, Waller admitted: "As a mil-
itary movement it was of no other value than to
show that the mountains are not impenetrable to
One result of Waller's ill-considered march
was the virtual collapse of his battalion as an
effective combat force. After they returned to
their familiar quarters at Basey and Balangiga,
the Marines were incapable of further sustained
operations. Instead of the large and protracted
expeditions they had launched in the fall, the
Marines now sent between 20 and 40 men out
on "hikes" that seldom moved more than a day
from camp. Marine patrols continued to destroy
food and shelter and occasionally skirmished
with guerrillas, but the real fighting of the cam-
paign occurred elsewhere. Southern Samar
returned to the backwater status it had enjoyed
before Balangiga, and Waller's battalion may
have been content to let the war be won else-
where. Certainly neither Waller nor his men
made any protest when the shattered battalion
was withdrawn from Samar and returned to
Cavite on 29 February.30
A second, more serious result of the march
was the execution of 12 Filipinos without bene-
fit of trial or even the rudiments of an impartial
investigation. The first killing occurred on 19
January; the victim was a Filipino whom the
mayor, or president, of Basey denounced as a

spy. Because Waller was running a temperature
of as high as 105 degrees, the camp surgeon
judged him incompetent to command. As a
result, authority in Basey fell to Lieutenant John
H. A. Day. Through the use of "a real third
degree," or torture, Day secured a confession,
the specifics of which he later had trouble
remembering. Acting "on the spur of the
moment," he decided that the Filipino's confes-
sion warranted his immediate execution.
Although Waller denied authorizing a summary
execution, in a few minutes Day organized a fir-
ing squad, personally shot the suspect, and left
his body in the street as a warning. Court-mar-
tialed for murder, Day was acquitted on the
grounds that he was obeying Waller's orders.31
The following day saw an even bloodier inci-
dent. Williams and many of the survivors were in
the hospital on Leyte Island; and no one at
Waller's headquarters at Basey appears to have
been certain of the magnitude of the disaster that
had befallen their comrades. Some believed that
not 10 but 20 Marines had died, and nearly
everyone accepted the rumor that the porters
had acted treacherously. Although Basey was
connected by telephone with brigade headquar-
ters on Leyte, Waller neither requested an inves-
tigation nor brought charges against the suspects.
Instead, hovering between delirium and lucidity,
he ordered that the surviving porters be brought
over from Leyte and executed. He then apparent-
ly collapsed. When these men arrived, it fell to
Private George Davis to pick out those who had
been guilty of specific crimes. Davis identified
three porters whom he recalled had hidden pota-
toes, stolen salt, failed to gather wood, and dis-
obeyed orders. He then selected another seven
men on the grounds that, as he later claimed,
"they were all thieves, sir, that I know of; and
they were all worth hanging, if I had anything to
do with it."32 Solely on the basis of this reason-
ing, 10 civilians were promptly shot by Day's fir-
ing squad. At Waller's insistence, a final victim
was executed later that afternoon-providing
through his grim arithmetic a total of 11 Filipino
victims in exchange for the 11 men he had lost
on the march.
In a report written three months after the inci-
dent, Waller gave a variety of reasons for the

executions: the hostility of the townspeople of
Basey, an inquiry with his officers, "reports of
the attempted murder of the men and other
treachery by the natives," his own weakened
physical condition, as well as his power of life
and death as a district commander. He conclud-
ed: "It seemed, to the best of my judgment, the
thing to do at that time. I have not had reason to
change my mind."33 Even after conceding him an
unusual measure of moral obtuseness, it is hard
to follow his reasoning. Clearly, he engaged in
no procedure that either a civil or military court
would recognize as an inquiry or investigation.
Neither then nor since has any evidence
emerged to prove that his victims were guilty of
"attempted treachery" or any other action that
warranted the death penalty under the laws of
war. General Chaffee, who believed that Waller's
actions were those of a man suffering from
"mental anguish," drew attention to the fact that
"no overt acts were committed by the cagadores
[porters]; on the contrary, those sent to their
death continued to the last to carry the arms and
ammunition after they [the Marines] were no
longer able to bear them, and to render in their
impassive way, such service as deepens the con-
viction that without their assistance many of the
Marines who now survive would also have per-
ished." Noting that the laws of war only justified
summary executions in "certain urgent cases,"
Chaffee pointedly commented that after the
march was over, "there was no overwhelming
necessity, no impending danger, no imperative
interest and, on the part of the executed natives,
no overt acts to justify the summary course pur-
sued."34 Chaffee drew attention to the fact that in
executing the porters, Waller had assumed pow-
ers that both the "military laws of the United
States and the customs of the service, confer only
upon a commanding general in time of war and
on the field on military operations." What made
Waller's crime even more heinous was that he
"was in telephonic communication with his
Brigade Commander, but deliberately chose not
to consult him regarding his contemplated
action."35 Concluding that Waller's acquittal was
"a miscarriage of justice," the general chastised
the major's illegal actions and publicly con-
demned the killings as "one of the most regret-

table incidents in the annals of the military serv-
ice of the United States."36
The subsequent court-martial of Waller for
murder is almost as controversial today as it was
90 years ago. Taking place against the back-
ground of the last death throes of the Philippine
War, the trials seem to embody the brutality,
ambiguity, and frustration of the Marines' first
Asian guerrilla conflict. Waller's revelation that he
had been ordered by General Smith to make the
interior of Samar a "howling wilderness" and to
regard every male Samareno over 10 as a com-
batant provoked national outrage. American
opponents of Philippine annexation, who had
suffered a crushing defeat in the presidential
election of 1900, now rallied behind the issue of
atrocities to attack U.S. military policy in the
Philippines.37 Waller's acquittal did little to
resolve the controversy, for both the military
authorities who examined the trial transcript and
the commander in chief himself condemned
Waller's actions as illegal and immoral. For years
afterward, Waller was known as the "Butcher of
Samar," and many attributed his being passed
over for commandant to the notoriety he gained
on the island.
Waller's supporters have since claimed that he
was a scapegoat, a victim of politics, a Marine
forced to stand trial for crimes that the U.S. Army
committed with impunity in the Philippines.
Joseph Schott entitled one of the chapters in The
Ordeal of Samar "The Scapegoat"; Paul Melshen
cites Waller's "high moral courage"; Stuart Miller
praises him as an "honorable warrior" and a "sac-
rificial victim"; and Stanley Karnow terms Waller
"a scrupulous professional" and a "scapegoat."38
The charge that Waller was a victim of interser-
vice rivalry is difficult to sustain. His conduct
cannot be defended on the grounds that he was
only following orders. In the first place, Waller
claimed that as a Marine, he did not fall under
U.S. Army authority. Moreover, he clearly under-
stood that Smith's instructions to take no prison-
ers and regard all males over 10 as enemies were
illegal, for by Waller's own testimony he immedi-
ately told Captain Porter that despite Smith's
instructions, the Marines had not come to make
war on women and children.39 The excuse that
Waller did nothing that the U.S. Army had not

been doing for years is not only morally bank-
rupt but factually incorrect. Although the Army's
operational records give ample evidence that
throughout the Philippine War, far too many
Filipinos were indiscriminately fired on or shot
"attempting to escape," the premeditated execu-
tion of prisoners was neither a common nor an
accepted practice among American soldiers in
the archipelago. Even on Samar, where both a
thirst for vengeance and a lack of supervision led
to war crimes and unnecessary cruelty, soldiers
were expected to follow the laws of war. Smith,
who openly advocated illegal policies, was
relieved, court-martialed, found guilty, and
immediately retired in disgrace. Army officers on
Samar suspected of atrocities were investigated,
courtmartialed, and, as in the case of Waller,
either acquitted or given mild reprimands. Given
the nature of their offenses and the lightness of
their punishments, it is hard to view any of these
men, soldiers or Marines, as scapegoats.40
A third result of the Marines' march and the
tragic events that followed was that Waller's
court-martial and the charges of American brutal-
ity overshadowed Lukban's capture in February
and the surrender of the last prominent guerrilla
leader on 28 April. Despite Smith's attempts to
turn his men into mindless butchers, the victory
was due to careful planning, detailed organiza-
tion, and persistence. In order to combat the
guerrillas in Samar's rugged interior, the army
constructed a string of supply dumps from which
long-ranging columns could sweep the country-
side. Through a combination of large expeditions
and hundreds of small patrols that operated from
towns and field camps, the soldiers demonstrat-
ed to the population that the Americans intend-
ed to stay. By recruiting Filipino volunteers,
promising local autonomy, and offering gener-
ous surrender terms, the Army began providing
attractive alternatives to resistance. These meth-
ods, along with the destruction of most of the
island's foodstuffs, eventually convinced all but
the most intransigent rebels to accept American
The brutality and excesses that characterized
the conduct of soldiers and Marines on Samar
represented a radical departure from the pacifi-
cation methods employed elsewhere in the

Philippines. Too often lessons that had been
painfully learned in the previous three years of
warfare were disregarded, and only the most
primitive elements were retained. Barring the
first few months of American occupation, there
was little attempt to found schools, build roads,
or win over the population-methods that
proved effective in other areas where the topog-
raphy was only a little less daunting and the
guerrillas better organized. Nor did the
Americans on Samar later take advantage of their
vastly expanded intelligence capabilities or seek
to exploit the deep and bitter divisions among
various sections and classes in Samareno society.
With some exceptions, pacification methods
remained crude and undeveloped. In part, this
was the result of Samar's isolation and topogra-
phy, which cannot be overemphasized. Yet it
should not be forgotten that Samar's topography
was equally harsh to the guerrillas, who, despite
having little more experience of the interior than
the Americans and being led by a "foreigner"
from another island and culture, learned to con-
trol an unruly populace and to fight effectively
with small units and with limited supplies. The
Marines, of course, fresh from China, could hard-
ly be aware of this mass of tested lore; and in fol-
lowing their Army superiors down the path of
directionless retaliation, they wrote one of the
most painful chapters in the history of the
In assessing the Marines' performance in their
first modern small war, it is essential to recognize
that in the early 20th century, before most
Marines had any experience with expeditionary
warfare and interventions and before the emer-
gence of a specific doctrine for fighting "small
wars," the character of the commanding officer
was all important. Certainly the physical stamina
and rugged endurance that the Marines dis-
played on their disastrous attempt to march
across the island may be sufficient justification
for the old U.S. Marine Corps toast, "Stand
Gentlemen. He served on Samar." Yet this glori-
fication of suffering and tenacity should not
obscure the fact that they did not display much
expertise in their first modern guerrilla war.
Inexperienced and, in the case of Waller, unwill-
ing to learn, the Marines' tactics were as physi-

cally devastating to themselves as they were
punishing to their opponents.
Whether this ambiguous performance led to
institutional growth or lessons learned is beyond
the scope of this work. The Marine Corps took
no action against Waller, and there is no indica-
tion that he displayed any remorse for his
actions. He went on to become the mentor of a
generation of counterinsurgency experts who
emerged within the corps to fight the small wars
of the Caribbean. Perhaps much of Waller's phys-
ical courage and endurance, his charismatic lead-
ership, and his love of combat found their way
into the Marines' expeditionary forces. Yet it is
important to note that his junior officers rejected
Waller's headlong individual aggressiveness,
choosing instead to discuss, disseminate, and
eventually codify their experiences in the Small
Wars Manual of the Marine Corps.

Research for this article was made possible
through a U.S. Marine Corps Historical
Center Research Fellowship and a research
grant from Old Dominion University. The
author wishes to thank V. Keith Fleming,
Jack Shulimson, Patricia Morgan, and the
rest of the staff of the U.S. Marine Corps
Historical Center for their professionalism,
their willingness to discuss Marine Corps
history, and their many helpful suggestions
of sources to consult. He would also like to
thank Daniel P. Greene and James R. Linn
for their comments on drafts. The views
eApressed in this paper are the author's own
and should not be taken to represent those
of the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center.


1. Richard E. Welch, Jr., Response to Imperialism: The
United States and the Philippine-American War,
1899-1902 (Chapel Hill, 1979), 41. For the Balangiga
"Massacre," see Eugenio Dazay Salazar, "Some
Documents on the Philippine-American War in Samar,"
Leyte-SamarStudies 17 (1983): 165-87; Fred R. Brown,
History of the Ninth U.S. Infantry, 1799-1909
(Chicago, 1909), 578-96; James 0. Taylor, The
Massacre of Balangiga (Joplin, Mo., 1931); Brig.
General Robert P. Hughes to Adjutant General, 30
November 1901, Records of U.S. Army Overseas

Operations and Commands, 1898-1942, Record Group
395, 2483, Box 39, no. 7825, National Archives,
Washington, D.C. (hereafter cited as RG 395, NA);
Edward C. Bumpus, In Memoriam (Norwood, Mass.,
1902);' Joseph Schott, The Ordeal of Samar
(Indianapolis, 1964), 35-55.
2. Quote "make a desert" from Hughes to Colonel
Issac D. DeRussy, 29 September 1901, RG 395, 2551,
NA. Quote "with the exception" from Captain R. M.
Blackford to Adjutant General, 8 October 1901, RG
395, 2571, Box 1, no. 164, NA. Captain Edwin V.
Bookmiller to Adjutant General, 1 October 1901,
Annual Reports of the War Department, 1902,
1:9:625-27; DeRussy to Adjutant General, 5 October
1901, RG 395, 2552, NA. For the reaction to Balangiga,
see Major General Adna R. Chaffee to Major General
Henry C. Corbin, 25 October 1901, Henry C. Corbin
Papers, Box 1, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.;
Testimony of William H. Taft, Senate Committee on
the Philippines, Affairs in the Philippine Islands, 57th
Cong., 1st Sess., 1902, Sen. Doc. 331, 363-64; John
Morgan Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The United
States Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902 (Westport,
Ct., 1973), 248-51.
3. Harold Kinman to Sister, 18 October 1901, Harold
Kinman Papers;' U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center,
Washington, D.C. (hereafter cited as USMCHC). Cf.
Kinmans sentiment with Major Littleton W. T. Waller's
23 October 1901 orders to his command, located in
typescript copies of much of the Marines' official cor-
respondence during the Samar campaign, Waller File,
USMCHC (hereafter referred to as Waller Report).
4. Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate
General, Record Group 153, General Courts-Martial
[G.C.M.] 30739, Brig. General Jacob H. Smith, National
Records Center, Suitland, Md.; Richard N. Current, T.
Harry Williams, Frank Friedel, Alan Brinkley.
American History-A Surrey, 7th ed. (New York,
1987), vol. 2, Since 1865, 592.
5. General Orders 80, Headquarters of the Army, 16
July 1902, Records of the Bureau of Insular Affairs,
Record Group 350, File 3490-27, National Archives,
Washington, D.C.
6. John H. Clifford, History of the Pioneer Marine
Battalion at Guam, L.I. and the Campaign in Samar,
P.I 1901 (Portsmouth, N.H., 1914), 36; Charles E.
Callwell, Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice, 3d
ed. (London, 1906), 44.
7. Bruce Cruikshank, Samar: 1768-1898 (Manila,
1985), 106. For Samar's topography, see Anon. to
Adjutant, 2d Battalion, April 1900, Records of the
Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, 117, 43d
Inf., U.S.V., Co. "G," no. 8, National Archives,

Washington, D.C. (hereafter cited as RG 94, NA);
Captain Murray Baldwin to Adjutant General, Sixth
Separate Brigade [6SB], 21 November 1901, RG 395,
3750, Book 1, no. 5, NA; Captain E. R. Tilton to
Commanding Officer, 1st District, February 1900,
Henry T. Allen Papers, Box 32, Library of Congress,
Washington. D.C.; John R. M. Taylor, The Philippine
Insurrection against the United States, 1899-1903, gal-
ley proof (Washington, 1903), 81 HS.
8. E. M. Holt, "Resistance on Samar: General Vicente
Lukban and the Revolutionary War, 1899-1902,"
Kabar Seberang Sulating Maphilindo 10 (December
1982): 1-14; Brig. General Vicente Lukban to Antonio
Luna, 8 July 1899, in Taylor, Philippine Insurrection,
Exhibit 1321, 58-59 HK.
9. Lukban to Local Residents of the Province of Samar,
14 February 1900, Charles G. Clifton File, 43d Inf.,
U.S.V. Box, U.S. Army Military History Institute
(USAMHI), Carlisle, Pa.; Testimony of Lieutenant G. A.
Shields, RG 153, G.C.M. 30739, NA; Lukban to presi-
dente of Catubig, 15 September 1900, Philippine
Insurgent Records, Select Document 502.8, National
Archives Microfilms, Microcopy 254 (hereafter cited as
PIR SD); "Copy of Lukban's Speech on his Birthday,"
1 February 1901, PIR SD 824.1; Colonel Arthur Murray
to Adjutant General, 4 June 1900, RG 94, 117, 43d Inf.,
Report No. 6, na.
10. Major John C. Gilmore to Adjutant General, 30
June 1900, RG 94, 117, 43d Inf., 2d Battalion, NA.
11. Charles G. Clifton Diary, 10 January 1902 entry,
43d Inf., U.S.V, USAMHI; Major R. A. Brown,
"Inspection of the Post and Troops at Laguan, Samar,"
31 March 1901, RG 395, 2483, Box 31, NA; Captain
William M. Swaine to Adjutant, 5 August 1901, RG 395,
3450, Box 1, no. 478, NA; Clifford, Pioneer Marine
Battalion, 28-29; Brown, Ninth Infantry, 563; Taylor,
Philippine Insurrection, 82-83 HS; Lukban to Local
Chief of Cabalian, 3 March 1899, PIR SD 928.8; Major
Narisco Abuke to Anon., 7 October 1900, PIR SD
846,1; Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Rafael to
Lieutenant Jorge Langarra, 16 July 1901, PIR SD 808.3;
Hughes to Chief of Staff and Adjutant General, 3 June
1901, RG 395, 2550, Box 1, NA.
12. "Statement of Private Luther Jessup," in Major John
J. O'Connell to Department Commander, 30 June 1901,
RG 395, 2483, Box 36, NA; Captain John S. Fair to
Gilmore, 29 March 1900, RG 94, 117, 43d Inf., Co. "E,"
no. 38, NA; Gilmore to Adjutant General, 18 May 1900,
RG 94, 117, 43d Inf., 2d Battalion, NA; Brown, Ninth
Infantry, 573, 594-95.
13. Hughes to Smith, 15 October 1901, RG 395, 2483,
Box 49, NA; Hughes Testimony, Senate, Affairs, 553.
14. Hughes to Chief of Staff and Adjutant General, 14

May 1901, RG 395, 2483, Box 28, NA; Captain A. B.
Buffington to Captain Leslie F. Cornish, 14 June 1901,
RG 395, 3447, no. 90, NA; Hughes to Adjutant General,
10 September 1901, RG 395, 2550, Box 1, NA.
15. Hughes to Adjutant General, 30 November 1901,
RG 395, 2483, Box 39, no. 7825, NA; Schott, Ordeal of
Samar, 16-17; Holt, "Resistance on Samar," 9;
Interrogation of Joaquin Cabanes, 1 January 1902, RG
395, 2571, Box 3, no. 360, NA; Salazar, "Philippine-
American War," 165-87; Richard Arens, "The Early
Pulahan Movement in Samar," Leyte-Samar Studies 11
(1977): 59-66; Testimony of William Gibbs, Senate,
Affairs, 2284-2310.
16. Chaffee to Hughes, 30 September 1901, RG 94,
AGO 406865, NA; Chaffee to Adjutant General, 8
October 1901, Senate, Affairs, 1599; Chaffee to Corbin,
28 November and 9 December 1901, Corbin Papers,
Box 1; Manila American (7 January 1902); Lieutenant
W. R. Shoemaker to Senior Squadron Commander, 5
November 1901, Naval Records Collection of the
Office of Naval Records and Library, Record Group 45,
Area File 10, National Archives, Washington, D.C. For
Smith's mental instability, see Captain William M.
Swaine Testimony, RG 153, G.C.M. 30739, Brig.
General Jacob H. Smith, NA; Allen to Taft, 7 February
1902, Allen Papers, Box 7; Luke Wright to Taft, 13
January 1902, William H. Taft Papers, Ser. 3, Library of
Congress, Washington, D.C.; Chaffee to Corbin, 5 May
1902, Corbin Papers; David L. Fritz, "Before the
'Howling Wilderness': The Military Career of Jacob
Kurd Smith, 1862-1902," Military Affairs 43 (1979):
17. Harry C. Adriance, "Diary of the Life of a Soldier in
the Philippine Islands During the Spanish-American
War by a Sergeant in the U.S.M.C.," photocopy in the
USMCHC. For other evidence of Waller's alcoholism,
see entries of 15 November 1900 and 14-16 February
1901, Henry Clay Cochrane Diary, USMCHC; Ben H.
Fuller Papers, Box 1, Folder 9, USMCHC; "Record of
Waller, Littleton Waller Tazewell," USMCHC. For the
incident in China, see Waller to Second in Command,
U.S. Naval Force, China, 22 June 1900, and Waller to
Brig. General Commandant, 28 June 1900, Annual
Report of the Brigadier-General Commandant of the
United States Marine Corps to the Secretary of the Naty,
62-66. For the Marines' deployment, see Brig. General
Robert Hall to Hughes, 19 October 1901, RG 153,
G.C.M. 30313, Major Littleton W. T. Waller, NA; Hughes
to Chaffee, 21 and 25 October 1901, Corbin Papers;
Manila American (20 October 1901); Rear Adm.
Frederick Rodgers to Commander in Chief, Asiatic
Squadron, 5 November 1901, RG 45, Area File 10, NA.
18. Brig. General George Davis to Secretary of War, 27

June 1902, RG 153, G.C.M. 30313, NA.
19. Waller Report, 8-10. Waller's defenders have per-
petuated the confusion over his authority by claiming
he was in charge of all of southern Samar or even the
entire island. Paul Melshen, "He Served on Samar,"
Proceedings 105 (1979): 45; Stanley Karnow, In Our
Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (New York,
1989), 191.
20. Headquarters, Marine Battalion, Samar, 23 October
1901, Waller Report, 6-7.
21. Quote "hiking all the time" from Harold Kinman to
Sister, 23 December 1901, Kinman Papers; quote "we
were to shoot" from Modesto Bee, 31 May 1965.
22. "Testimony of Captain David D. Porter, RG 153,
G.C.M. 30313, NA. Waller to Smith, 31 October 1901,
Waller Report, 10-12; Porter to Waller, 2 November
1901, Waller Report, 15-16; Waller to Anon., 10
November 1900, Waller Report, 21.
23. "Waller to Anon., 10 November 1900, Waller
Report, 25. See also ibid., 23-31; Waller to Adjutant
General, 6 November 1901, RG 395, 2571, Box 1, no.
129, NA; Kinman to Sister, 23 November 1901, Kinman
24. Waller to Adjutant General, 6SB, 19 November
1901, Waller Report, 26. Clifford, Pioneer Marine
Battalion, 34; RG 153, G.C.M. 10196, Lieutenant John
H. A. Day, NA.
25. Kinman to Sister, 23 December 1901, Kinman
Papers; Waller to Adjutant General, 6SB, 30 November
1901, RG 395, 3451, Box 1, NA; Waller to Adjutant
General, 6SB, 6, 18, and 20 December 1901, Waller
Report, 43-48; Waller to Rodgers, 17 December 1901,
RG 45, Area File 10, NA.
26. Waller to Smith, 19 November 1901, RG 395, 3451,
Box 1, NA. For the confusion over Waller's mission,
see Waller to Smith, 31 October 1901, and Judge
Advocate's Summary, RG 153, G.C.M. 30313, NA;
Waller Report, 42; Schott, Ordeal of Samar, 104-106;
Smith to Chief Signal Officer, 2 November 1901, RG
395, 3451, Box 1, NA; Adjutant General, 6SB, to
Adjutant General, Division of Philippines, 1 December
1901, RG 395, 2571. Box 1, no. 1188, NA; Smith to the
adjutant general, 11 December 1901, RG 395, 2573,
Box 1, no. 166, NA.
27. Waller to Adjutant General, 6SB, 25 January 1901,
Waller Report, 49. For the Army's 1901 expedition, see
War Department, 1902, 1:9:601; Brown, Ninth Infantry,
561. It should be noted that judged by the campaign
conditions on Samar, Waller's march was neither over
particularly difficult terrain nor of more than moderate
28. Allan R. Millett, Semper Fidelis: The History of the
U.S. Marine Corps (New York, 1980), 154.

29. Waller to Adjutant General, 6SB, 25 January 1902,
Waller Report, 58. See also Commander William Swift
to Smith, 20 December 1901, RG 395, 2574, Box 1, NA;
Lieutenant Kenneth P. Williams to C.O., Lanang, 19
January 1902, War Department, 1902,1:9:446; Porter to
Waller, 8 February 1902, Waller Report, 60-64;
Lieutenant A. S. Williams to Waller, 18 February 1902,
Waller Report, 64-68; Schott, Ordeal of Samar, chap.
30. Waller Report, 68-88; Lieutenant Commander J. M.
Helms to Swift, 6 January 1902, RG 395, 2571, Box 2,
no. 43, NA; Waller to Adjutant General, 8, 9, 18, and
20 February 1902, RG 395, 2573, Box 1, NA; 1902
entry, 1902, Charles G. Clifton Diary; Clifford, Pioneer
Marine Battalion.
31. Quotations from Testimony of Lieutenant John H.
A. Day, RG 153, G.C.M. 10196, NA. The identity of the
victim was unknown at the time of the killing, but it
was later alleged that he was an insurrecto leader
named Captain Victor.
32. Testimony of Pvt. George Davis, RG 153, G.C.M.
30313, NA. Despite voluminous correspondence and
records, the events of 19-20 January 1902 are still
unclear and the evidence is inconclusive as to how
many Filipinos were executed on 20 January. The
above is based 'bn the correspondence in the Waller
Reports; RG 153, G.C.M. 30313 and G.C.M. 10196, NA;
and General Orders 93, Headquarters, Division of the
Philippines, 7 May 1902, RG 395, 2070, NA. For the
confusion over the number of U.S. Marine deaths, see
RG 153, G.C.M. 10196, NA; and Schott, Ordeal of
Samar, 139, 142.
33. Waller Report, 76-77.
34. General Orders 93, Headquarters, Division of the
Philippines, 7 May 1902, RG 395, 2070, NA.
35. For Waller's incapacity for command, see
Testimony of Dr. George A. Ling, RG 153, G.C.M.
10196, NA.
36. General Orders 93, Headquarters, Division of the
Philippines, 7 May 1902, RG 395, 2070, NA. For the
judge advocate's ruling that Waller's acts were illegal
and contrary to the laws of war, see Brig. General
George Davis to Secretary of War, 27 June 1902, RG
153, G.C.M. 30313, NA.
37. Millett, Semper Fidelis, 154; Gates, Schoolbooks
and Krags, 256; Welch, Response to Imperialism,
38. Schott, The Ordeal of Samar, chap. 9; Melshen, "He
Served on Samar," 45; Stuart C. Miller, Benevolent
Assimilation: The American Conquest of the
Philippines, 1899-1903 (New Haven, 1982), 227;
Karnow, In Our Image, 193.
39. RG 153, G.C.M. 30313, NA.

40. Major Charles H. Watts to Adjutant General, 1 April pacification on Luzon, see Brian McAllister Linn,- The
1902, RG 94, AGO 482616, NA; RG 153, G.C.M. 30756, U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine
Lieutenant Julien E. Gaujot, NA; RG 153, G.C.M. 34401, War, 1899-1902 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1989).
Major Edwin F. Glenn, NA; RG 153, G.C.M. 30757, About the Author
Lieutenant Norman E. Cook, NA. About the Author
Lieutenant Norman E. Cook, NA. Brian McAllister Linn is professor of history at Texas A&M University. His
41. An excellent discussion that demonstrates that the books include The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Phiippine
Samar campaign was an anomaly in Army pacification War, 1899-1902 (1989), Guardians of Empire: The '. ir,..., .,,..,
in the Philippine War can be found in Gates, Pacific, 1902-1940 (1997), The Philippine War, 1899-1902 (2000),
Schoolbooks and Krags, chap. 9. For a study of Army and The Echo of Battle: The Army's Way of War (2007).


( -Se

4 4

.15i J~ler



Airpower and

Restraint in Small

Wars: Marine Corps

Aviation in the

Second Nicaraguan

Campaign, 1927-33

by Wray R. Johnson

Aerospace PowerJournal, Fall 2001

Air control, as exhibited by tlie Royal Air
Force during the British occupation of Iraq,
is often cited as the consummate example
of the successful and effective use of air-
power. However, the U.S. military need
look no further than its own Marine Corps
for an equally compelling example. As Dr.
Johnson argues, unlike their European
counterparts, Marine air leaders understood
the need for restraint in using airpower for
air control in Nicaragua during the first half
of the 20th century.

IT IS ONE of the peculiarities of airpower his-
tory that proponents have often claimed air-
power to be a more humane instrument of
war, whereas many critics have claimed that
bombs dropped from the air are somehow more
immoral than an artillery barrage or economic
sanctions-even if the latter results in a greater
number of civilian deaths.1 Yet, it is rare to find
historical examples of airmen accused of war
crimes, much less tried for the same. This has
created a paradox of sorts. For example, follow-
ing revelations that U.S. troops deliberately fired
upon civilian refugees at No Gun Ri during the
Korean War, James Webb, a Marine Corps com-
bat veteran and former secretary of the Navy,
wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "Perhaps the
greatest anomaly of recent times is that death

delivered by a bomb earns one an air medal,
while when it comes at the end of a gun it earns
one a trip to jail."2 If we were to take this line of
reasoning to its logical extreme, the tragedy at
My Lai would have been regarded differently in
history had a pair of F-4 fighter-bombers
napalmed the village. Of course, the distinction
appears to be that Lieutenant William Calley and
his soldiers killed Vietnamese women and chil-
dren face to face whereas the F-4 pilots would
have been, to use popular jargon, simply "servic-
ing a target."
According to Colonel Phil Meilinger, former
dean of the School of Advanced Airpower
Studies at Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB), Ala-
bama, "Whether women and children are blown
to bits by artillery, starved to death as a result of
blockade, or killed in a bombing attack is a dis-
tinction the victims would not trouble themselves
to make."3 But airpower theorists and airmen
themselves have over the years invariably point-
ed to the distinct psychological impact of air-
power as being potentially far greater than the
actual physical destruction wrought. If that is
true, then civilians do in fact make a distinction
between death by artillery fire and death by
bombs. Giulio Douhet certainly believed in the
efficacy of aerial terror to weaken, if not wholly
undermine, the will of civilian populations, and
as recently as 1997, the director of Defence
Studies at the Royal Air Force Staff College
averred that "airpower when used properly can
be a devastatingly effective psychological
A basic premise of classical airpower theory,
then, has always been that people targeted from
the air-whether combatants or noncombat-
ants-react with much greater fear to aerial bom-
bardment than to surface attack.5 Apparently,
this is equally true among guerrillas and other
irregulars. In his book Viet Cong Memoir, Truong
Nhu Tang described B-52 strikes as "undiluted
psychological terror." Despite having been hunt-
ed by South Vietnamese and American ground
forces and having endured all of the privations
and hardships associated with the life of a guer-
rilla, Truong Tang noted that "nothing the guer-
rillas had to endure compared with the stark ter-
rorization of the B-52 bombardments."6 Thus,

since the advent of the airplane, airpower enthu-
siasts have noted the psychological dimension of
airpower and sought to exploit it. In that light,
the use of the airplane by Great Britain to police
its empire in the early part of the 20th century
serves as a case in point.
As Dr. Jim Corum has noted in his article "The
Myth of Air Control," the British long relied upon
terror in the form of punitive expeditions to
bring rebellious native populations to heel.7
Indeed, Colonel C. E. Callwell, in his seminal
work Small Wars, first published in 1896, consid-
ered what we today would think of as wanton
acts of destruction perpetrated against civilians to
be a sound military principle:
It is so often the case that the power
which undertakes a small war desires to
acquire the friendship of the people which
its armies are chastising, that the system of
what is called "military execution" is ill-
adapted to the end in view. The most satis-
factory way of bringing such foes to reason
is by the rifle and the sword, for they
understand this mode of warfare and
respect it. Sometimes, however, the circum-
stances do not admit of it, and then their
villages must be demolished and granaries
Although Colonel Callwell acknowledged "a
limit to the amount of license in destruction" in
small wars, he nevertheless acceded to a certain
expediency in such "havoc" and noted that,
despite the fact that burning crops and killing
civilians was something "the laws of regular war-
fare do not sanction," it was oftentimes a neces-
sary, albeit unfortunate, characteristic of small
The Royal Air Force (RAF) advanced air con-
trol as a substitute for the traditional punitive
expedition on the ground. In short, such expedi-
tions by air were relatively cheap, could inflict
serious casualties upon recalcitrant natives with-
out exposing English soldiers to any harm, and
capitalized on the fact that primitive people were
quite often terrified by airplanes. Thus, when
combined with surface operations conducted by
native levies or other non-English imperial
troops, these operations were quite successful,

and the RAF exploited the results to its own
political ends. But in keeping with the nature of
punitive expeditions in general, these aerial
operations also tended to be quite brutal. For
example, at the time, Wing Commander J. A.
Chamier of the RAF insisted that airplanes were
to be used relentlessly, carrying out attacks "on
houses, inhabitants, crops, and cattle."10
Although repugnant to modern sensibilities, such
an attitude was wholly in keeping with an impe-
rial policy intended to crush native resistance to
British authority as quickly and effectively as
possible. Moreover, Great Britain was not alone
in this matter, as the French displayed an equal
disregard for the lives and property of native
French imperial policy was similar to that of
the British, and the French use of airpower to
police their own colonial possessions was no
less brutal-perhaps greater. The French air
force played a significant role in the colonial
fighting in Morocco and Tunisia prior to, during,
and after World War I. Aerial bombardment of
civilians by the air force in policing the French
Empire was the norm. In fact, at Nalhout,
Tunisia, in the fall of 1916, the French used
chemical weapons against civilian targets, includ-
ing mosques. Apparently, the French made no
distinction between combatants and noncombat-
ants in punitive operations; therefore, the use of
gas was not regarded as particularly unethical or
immoral-or even counterproductive. French
use of aircraft in colonial warfare increased dur-
ing the 1920s, with 21 squadrons operating in
Morocco alone. According to Dr. Bill Dean, a
professor on the faculty at Air Command and
Staff College at Maxwell AFB, "As had been the
case a decade before, the French had no qualms
about bombing villages that were strictly civilian
targets."11 They even used American mercenary
aviators at one point.12
Ironically, the British public was not especial-
ly outraged by their own soldiers or other sol-
diers in the employ of the empire torching vil-
lages in Iraq or Yemen, but they were moved to
protest the use of airplanes for the same pur-
pose. Early RAF reports on air-control operations
stressed effectiveness and lethality, but later
statements emphasized the use of airplanes in a

more humane and less lethal manner. The' prox-
imate cause of this shift in emphasis was the ris-
ing chorus of protest in the British press and in
Parliament. It would appear, however, that no
such compunction developed about matters on
the ground because punitive expeditions contin-
ued as before, and British troops repeatedly
shelled villages without warning. But the
restraint claimed by the RAF was probably most-
ly fiction, especially in the more isolated out-
posts of the British Empire. Contrast this state of
affairs with the operations of United States
Marine Corps aviation elements in Nicaragua
during roughly the same time frame.
In Quijote on a Burro, a privately published
classic on American intervention in Nicaragua
between 1912 and 1934, Lejeune Cummins wrote
in 1958 that "perhaps the only subject regarding
the American intervention upon which all
authorities are able to agree is the efficacy with
which the Marines employed the air power at
their disposal."'13 Indeed, Secretary of the Navy
Curtis Wilbur reported in 1929 that Marine Corps
aviation was "of inestimable value" in
Nicaragua.14 Cummins was thus moved to
observe that "it is probably not an exaggeration
to say that the marine occupation could not
have been accomplished" without Marine Corps
Beginning in 1919, the Marine Corps had
employed airplanes against the cacos in Haiti
and "bandits" in the Dominican Republic, but the
accompanying air units were added to these
expeditions mostly as an afterthought and, there-
fore, generally operated without a clear idea of
their role in each undertaking.16 Six Curtiss JN-
4B "Jennies" of the 1st Air Squadron, command-
ed by Captain Walter McCaughtry, deployed in
February 1919 to San Pedro de Macoris, the
Dominican Republic, while another six Jennies
and six Curtiss HS-2L flying boats of the 4th
Squadron under Captain Harvey Mims began
operations at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 31
March.17 Although some of these aircraft took
part in active combat operations--experimenting
with improvised bombing tactics against the
indigenous irregular forces-it was not until
improved radios became available in 1921 that
air-to-ground cooperation proved at all practica-

ble. Consequently, in both the Dominican
Republic and Haiti, Marine Corps aviation
proved its worth mostly in combat-support oper-
ations such as scouting, communications, map-
ping, transportation, and medical assistance.
Nevertheless, as one Marine Corps aviator con-
cluded afterwards, "We were there and they used
us, and they used us to their advantage, and con-
sequently we became a useful and integral part
of the Marine Corps."18 In fact, not unlike the
British and the French, the Corps became
increasingly aware of the facility of close air-
ground counterguerrilla operations. And in
Nicaragua, the Marine Corps began to perfect
these techniques in a manner that ultimately laid
the foundation for the highly effective system of
close air support still in use by that service today.
United States interests in Nicaragua did not
arise suddenly with the emergence of the revolu-
tionary disturbances of the 1920s; this small
country had been of strategic importance to the
U.S. government since the war with Mexico,
when, along with the Isthmus of Panama,
Nicaragua became vital to transcontinental com-
munications. Suffice it to say that as a result of
the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine,
the United States took on the role of hemispher-
ic gendarme in order to protect American com-
mercial interests throughout Latin America.
President William Howard Taft subsequently
made "dollar diplomacy" the paramount strategic
consideration in Latin America, and when
American capital investment was threatened in
Nicaragua in 1926, the United States sent in the
In February 1927, Marine Observation
Squadron 1, commanded by Major Ross "Rusty"
Rowell, landed at Corinto, Nicaragua, with eight
officers, 81 enlisted men, and six de Havilland
DH-4B aircraft. In May, Marine Observation
Squadron 4, with seven officers, 78 enlisted
Marines, and six Boeing 02B-ls (a metal-fuse-
laged derivative of the venerable DH-4B) also
arrived and were placed under Major Rowell's
command. Combined, the two units were desig-
nated Aircraft Squadrons, 2d Brigade.20 Major
Rowell, an experienced pilot who had received
instruction in dive-bombing during exercises
conducted by U.S. Army fliers at Kelly Field in

San Antonio, Texas, was quick to appreciate the
value of dive-bombing: "[It] seemed to me that it
would be an excellent form of tactics for use in
guerrilla warfare."21 Thus, when he took com-
mand of the 1st Squadron in San Diego in 1924,
Rowell had U.S. Army A-3 bomb racks installed
on the squadron's DH-4Bs and set about training
his pilots in the technique.
Dive-bombing-more accurately, what we
would today describe as glide bombing-had
earlier been employed in Haiti. During the inter-
vention there in 1919, Lieutenant Lawson
Sanderson of the 4th Squadron realized that the
usual practice of horizontal release of bombs by
the rear observer was inaccurate, to say the least.
By trial and error, Lieutenant Sanderson settled
upon the technique of dropping the nose of his
aircraft in what was then considered a steep dive
of 45 degrees. Flying directly at the target,
Sanderson then released the bomb himself at an
altitude of roughly 250 feet. The tactic proved
considerably more accurate than horizontal
bombing, and the other pilots in the squadron
soon abandoned the old method in favor of the
new one. Such accuracy would prove its worth
to the Marine Corps in Nicaragua.22
Although much has been written about
Marine Corps aviation in Nicaragua during what
officially became known as the Second
Nicaraguan Campaign, none of it is considered
definitive. General Vernon McGee, a Marine
Corps aviator, wrote one of the better essays on
the topic in 1965. A veteran of the Second
Nicaraguan Campaign, General McGee helped
author his service's Small Wars Manual, perhaps
the finest doctrine ever written regarding coun-
terrevolutionary warfare. The general was con-
vinced that concepts learned in Nicaragua were
applicable to the ongoing counterinsurgency
effort in Vietnam. His essay emphasized the tech-
nological aspect-specifically, the characteristics
of airplanes useful in a counterguerrilla cam-
paign-but his larger idea of looking to the
Nicaraguan experience as a model for airpower
in small wars bears consideration, particularly in
contrast to the British air-control example.
Perhaps there is no better starting point than
to examine what Major Rowell had to say regard-
ing the lessons of Nicaragua. In an article pub-

lished in the Marine Corps Gazette in September
1929, he acknowledged the examples set by the
British and French (as well as the Italians and
Spanish) with respect to the use of aircraft in
"bush, or guerrilla warfare" but went on to assert
that "no broader experience has been gained, or
greater success achieved through the employ-
ment of aircraft in minor warfare, than that which
attended the operations of [the] Marines during
the Nicaraguan campaign of 1927 and 1928."23
Major Rowell spent the bulk of his article detail-
ing organization, tactics, and so forth, but, partic-
ularly, his remarks regarding the unique charac-
ter of the conflict warrant our attention in the
context of airpower and restraint.
The Marine Corps had been dispatched to
Nicaragua to aid the Conservative government of
Adolfo Diaz and to protect Americans and their
property from Liberal opposition forces led by
Dr. Juan Sacasa. The Liberal army had disinte-
grated as a unified force but was replaced by
small bands of guerrillas, the most prominent of
which was led by Augusto C. Sandino. Although
in rebellion against the government, Sandino
also set about to rid the country of the American
presence that had dominated it since the Taft
administration. Waging a ruthless guerrilla war,
Sandino presented the Marine Corps with an
unprecedented challenge. Whereas in earlier
conflicts in Central America and the Caribbean,
the Corps had faced nominally guerrilla forma-
tions ranging from organized criminals to politi-
cized, disgruntled elements of society, in
Nicaragua it faced a different kind of guerrilla
opponent-one schooled and educated by
Mexican Marxists and enjoying international sup-
port. The Marine Corps, therefore, was among
the first regular forces in the 20th century to face
the "revolutionary guerrilla." Whereas in Haiti
and the Dominican Republic the Corps func-
tioned as an occupation force, invoking martial
law and having a free hand in the conduct of
military operations in the field, in Nicaragua it
supported the extant government and was thus
constrained by political limitations that its prede-
cessors in the Caribbean as well as British and
French counterparts would have regarded as
Major Rowell in particular was sensitive to the

limitations imposed on his operations, not the
least of which was the impact of public opinion
back home in the United States: "Public opinion,
always to be respected, is sensitive to bloodshed
and the newspapers are prone to publish rumors
of scandals or abuses. The practical effects .
. are numerous. For example: we may not
bomb towns because it would not be consistent
with a policy advocated at some international
convention. The safety of noncombatants
becomes a matter of prime importance."24
It is important to note that Major Rowell's
comments were offered in the context of a com-
plaint: "We are required to conform to all of the
rules of civilized warfare, while the enemy will
torture prisoners, murder the wounded and muti-
late the dead." Nevertheless, Major Rowell was
bound by the restraints imposed upon him and
at least grudgingly conceded to their political
necessity. In a subsequent essay, he recounted
how, in the earliest stages of the Marine Corps
intervention, "the American mission was to stop
the war-not to become involved in it.'"25 This
necessarily led to certain operational constraints.
Major Rowell, therefore, "appealed to all pilots to
avoid hostilities and to return fire only when
necessary to save their own lives."26
But neutrality soon gave way to active combat
operations as Sandino deliberately attacked
Marine Corps patrols and garrisons as well as
other Americans and their property. As the
American role in Nicaragua became wider and
deeper, operational constraints on the Corps
were loosened but never approximated the free-
dom its aviators enjoyed in the Caribbean-and
certainly bore no similarity to the freedom of
European air arms in their air-policing roles. For
example, despite the fact that Major Rowell and
other Marine Corps authors argued for the use of
nonlethal chemicals such as tear gas (in contrast
to the French use of lethal chemicals), U.S. poli-
cy forbade such usage.27
It became clear to diplomats and Marine
Corps commanders in Nicaragua that direct and
even indirect infliction of casualties on the civil-
ian population was not only contrary to policy,
but also carried negative value. Whereas British
and French aviators routinely bombed villages
and strafed collections of suspicious men-as

well as women, children, and animals-the
Corps clearly understood that this was counter-
productive and modified its tactics. Major Rowell,
therefore, encouraged the service's pilots to use
their best judgment when attempting to tell guer-
rillas from civilians on the ground: "It is some-
times rather difficult to distinguish between the
hostile groups and the noncombatants. No fixed
rules can be laid down in such cases. The avia-
tors must have an intimate knowledge of the
characteristics of and habits of each group .
[However,] pilots will always bear in mind that
innocent people will sometimes flee upon the
approach of airplanes."28 Contrast this statement
with that of an RAF pilot who stated that nine
unidentifiable people in a group constituted an
illegal assembly, so he dropped bombs on
All of the above is not to say that innocent
civilians did not die in Nicaragua as a result of air
action. In his classic account of the Marine Corps
fight with Sandino, Neill Macaulay described the
service's tactics as "aerial terrorism."30 Citing a
particular mission led by Major Rowell, Macaulay
noted that after observing several horses around
a large house, Rowell and the pilot of another
aircraft dropped bombs on the house and in the
yard. Unknown persons were seen darting from
the house into a nearby grove. Major Rowell
strafed the grove but apparently to no effect.
Macaulay, however, fails to mention the indica-
tors that the Marine Corps recognized as pointing
to probable guerrilla activity and the often
extraordinary lengths to which its aviators would
go to ensure that suspicious persons were
indeed guerrillas.
Major Rowell instructed his pilots to fly no
higher than 2,000 feet and generally 1,500 feet or
lower-well within small-arms range-in order
to distinguish between men and women, horses
and cattle, and so forth.31 He also stressed that
pilots and their observers should become expert
in the "organization, equipment, and habits of
the enemy" through careful study. "Basically," he
wrote, "reconnaissance consists of distinguishing
between the normal and the abnormal."32 When
something on the ground seemed out of the
ordinary, Marine pilots would swoop down to
investigate. Towns that appeared to be aban-

doned were especially regarded as suspicious: "If
the enemy is hiding there, some member of the
party will probably decide to find a better place
and make a dash for it. This may be induced by
the patrol making a feint to attack. Under some
circumstances, it will be possible to develop the
situation by use of a few bursts from the front or
rear guns. Occasionally a bomb may be expend-
ed for the same purpose."33
Several points of this statement are notewor-
thy. Major Rowell insisted that his pilots be able
to distinguish between guerrillas and civilians in
order to avoid harming the latter. In circum-
stances in which all indications pointed to guer-
rilla activity, attempts to flush them out were
graduated (feint, then use guns, then maybe a
bomb or two) and employed when civilians
were unlikely to be in the way.34 If the town
were abandoned by the civilian populace, the
expenditure of bombs was certainly less prob-
lematic than if the area were bustling with activ-
ity. Such restraint certainly appears to refute any
accusation of aerial terrorism and seems almost
magnaninimous compared to the British propensi-
ty to bomb any suspicious activity.
As alluded to earlier, the Marine Corps went to
improbable lengths to determine the nature of
suspicious activity in order to avoid unnecessary
civilian casualties. In his annual report dated 20
June 1928, Major Rowell recounted how Marine
aircraft would approach suspicious locales "from
behind hills or mountains, the planes gliding in
with throttled engines," whereupon the pilots
would fly low enough to the ground that the
observer in the rear of the aircraft could "look
into windows and doors." As a counter to this
extraordinary tactic, the guerrillas often included
women and children among their parties, "secure
in the knowledge that the women [would] not be
attacked."35 This is not surprising, given that
Major Rowell and his pilots were often (although
not always) under standing orders not to attack
towns and villages at all, even if the presence of
guerrillas was indisputable. In February 1928, for
example, Rowell discovered Sandino and his
main column in the town of Rafael del Norte. His
fully armed patrol flew within a few feet of the
building in which Sandino was being inter-
viewed by an American journalist, at a level

"where the pilots and observers looked into the
muzzles of the enemy rifles." But Major Rowell
did not attack. He later wrote that "this rare
opportunity was passed by because it was the
policy of the Commanding General to avoid the
possibility of injury to the lives and property of
innocent persons by refraining from attacks on
towns. "36
Unquestionably, Sandino and his guerrillas
respected and feared the Marine Corps lanz-
abombas, as they were called by the Sandi-
nistas.37 Not only were Marine aircraft useful and
lethal weapons in counterguerrilla warfare, but
also they facilitated the political process crucial
to counterrevolutionary warfare. To that end,
these aircraft supported the national elections in
1928 at the height of the guerrilla war, especial-
ly in remote areas of the country:
It was necessary to ferry by plane most
of the American personnel to outlying dis-
tricts, to supply them there, to maintain
communication with them, to patrol the
towns and mesas on registration and elec-
tion days, and, finally, to bring to Managua
the ballots. In order to accomplish this
work, flying time generally reached its
peak during the weeks immediately before
and after the election periods. [In 1928]
on election day 237 cantons were visited by
As the war wound down, leading to eventual
withdrawal of the Marine Corps in 1933, aviation
continued to play a significant role in the politi-
cal process. Because of an earlier agreement
with the government and the insurgents, the
United States agreed to oversee national elec-
tions again in 1932. The assistance provided by
Marine aviators was invaluable, constituting the
most extensive use of aviation in a political-sup-
port role during the intervention in Nicaragua.39
With the close of this chapter in Marine Corps
history, much of what the corps had learned in
Nicaragua was synthesized and eventually codi-
fied in the Small Wars Manual, first published in
1935 and revised in 1940.40 As noted earlier,
General McGee and other Marine Corps aviators
participated in this effort, and an entire chapter
of the manual was devoted to aviation.41

Although the chapter was limited mostly to the
composition of the aviation element, organiza-
tion, types of missions, and so forth, the Small
Wars Manual as a whole represented a major
departure in the history of American military
doctrine for small wars.
The 1935 edition was written by Major Harold
Utley, who had commanded Marines in Eastern
Nicaragua, as well as other Marines experienced
in small wars. The work was informed by the
research of U.S. Army officers and foreign
experts in colonial warfare-including Colonel
Callwell of the British army.42 The 1940 edition
was an encyclopedic work with over 400 pages
of text comprising detailed treatments regarding
organization, tactics, intelligence, propaganda,
and a host of other topics, including the care and
feeding of pack animals. But its treatment of rev-
olutionary guerrilla warfare was groundbreaking
and remarkably prescient regarding the nature of
emerging revolutionary warfare: "After a study
has been made of the people who will oppose
the intervention, the strategical plan is evolved. .
. Strategy should attempt to gain psychological
ascendancy over the outlaw or insurgent element
prior to hostilities. [The] political mission dic-
tates the military strategy of small wars."43 This
statement is quite remarkable in that this was the
first time that U.S. military doctrine placed the
political mission ahead of military requirements.
It also illustrates the extent to which the Marine
Corps recognized the "new" guerrilla threat,
including the realization that "the motive in small
wars is not material destruction; [it] is usually a
project dealing with the social, economic, and
political development of the people."44
The authors of the Small Wars Manual gave
special consideration to the underlying socioeco-
nomic and political grievances that gave rise to
insurgency and thus defined the theory of victo-
ry in such situations as relying upon an accurate
assessment of the root causes of internal rebel-
lion. For example, "the application of purely mil-
itary measures may not, by itself restore peace
and orderly government because the fundamen-
tal causes of the condition of unrest may be eco-
nomic, political, or social." Consequently, "the
solution of such problems being basically a polit-
ical adjustment, the military measures to be

applied must be of secondary importance and
should be applied only to such an extent as to
permit the continuation of peaceful corrective
measures."45 Given the primacy of the nonmili-
tary dimension, it is not surprising that the
Marine Corps would acquiesce to the need for
restraint-including the application of airpower.
If the operational objective is to detach popular
support from the guerrillas and reattach it to the
central government, deliberately bombing civil-
ians from the air is counterproductive.
In contrast to the service's recognition of the
political dimension of small wars, the British,
French, and other European powers of the same
period continued to regard small wars as exclu-
sively a military problem. Indigenous peoples
were regarded as "inferior races" who under-
stood only the sword and fire.46 Resistance was
to be smashed. European officers failed to dis-
cern and appreciate the manner in which ideolo-
gies borne out of Marxism, nationalism, Islam,
and so forth, served to focus discontent and
unify native peoples in a social, political, and
military organization capable of resisting the reg-
ular armies of Europe. One must remember that
the period encompassing the Marine Corps expe-
rience in Nicaragua (1910-33) and the British air-
control experience between the world wars gave
rise to such revolutionary figures as Mao Zedong,
Ho Chi Minh, and Emiliano Zapata, among oth-
ers. The Corps appears to have understood the
emergent political nature of small wars in the
20th century, including the need for restraint in
the application of airpower, better than their
European counterparts.
But as Dr. Corum pointed out in his article,
the United States Air Force retains a certain fas-
cination with the British concept of air control. It
goes without saying that Air Force officers pay
less attention to the airpower experience of the
Marine Corps in Nicaragua in the 1920s. This is
unfortunate because in the context of the emerg-
ing challenge of small wars in the 21st century,
the model provided by the Corps in the Second
Nicaraguan Campaign is probably more appro-
priate. One must wonder, then, why the British
concept is often stressed in the U.S. Air Force
and the Marine experience is largely ignored.
One answer, perhaps the best one, is that

Marine Corps aviation in Nicaragua does not
serve the interests of autonomous operations and
institutional independence held sacrosanct by
the U.S. Air Force. The RAF was one of the first
major air forces to attain institutional independ-
ence, and air control served to solidify that inde-
pendence as well as advance the timeless idea of
achieving victory through airpower alone. Using
the British example appears to validate theoreti-
cal and doctrinal propositions that the U.S. Air
Force has long held dear. Marine Corps aviation,
on the other hand, has always been subordinate,
and the Nicaragua experience in fact laid the
foundation for this relationship between the air
element and the ground commander. As General
McGee wrote, "Undeterred by any necessity for
counterair operations, and untempted by any
'wild blue yonder' schemes of semi-independent
strategical forays, the Marines buckled down to
their primary mission of supporting Marine
ground forces."47 The fact of the matter, howev-
er, is that airpower in a counterinsurgency envi-
ronment is probably best suited to a supporting
role, but this flies in the face of the airman's con-
viction that airpower is decisive.
Ironically, during the post-World War II coun-
terinsurgency era, the RAF generally found itself
subordinate to a ground-force commander-a
fact often overlooked by people who promote
the idea of air control. For example, during the
10-year war against communist Dhofari guerrillas
in Oman, the air element "defied a time-hon-
oured Royal Air Force principle in that it came
under the command of [an] Army brigadier." But
as the British commander of the Dhofar Brigade
pointed out, "all its work was in close support of
the Army and few disapproved of the
Compare this disposition with that of the
Marine air element in Nicaragua. Based upon
that experience, Major Rowell recommended the

The senior air officer should have the
same dual staff and command status that is
given the artillery commander in the
infantry division. In other words, the senior
air .officer should actively command the air
organization and at the same time serve as

the advisor to the [overall] commander on
air matters. The air squadrons will oper-
ate in support of ground organizations and
also independently. In certain special situa-
tions, planes may be attached temporarily
to ground units. As a general rule this prac-
tice should be discouraged. Better support
can be given in most cases if the control is
The similarity between this ordering of control
and authority to the relationship between the
joint force air component commander and the
joint force commander today is so obvious as to
require no further elaboration. In short, Major
Rowell was advocating a structure not unlike
what stands as current joint doctrine.50
Nevertheless, the RAF concept of air control is
generally held up as a model for "air constabu-
lary" missions, and the Marine Corps example in
Nicaragua is ignored.51
In closing, Air Force officers over the years
have advanced various schemes by seeking to
capitalize on the British air-control example, but
much of the analysis regarding air control tend-
ed to ignore certain inconvenient facts-such as
the presence of British ground forces and the
apparent brutality of punitive expeditions con-
ducted by British airmen. One must also note
that these latter-day American studies tended to
eschew any analysis of the political dimension-
something also ignored by the British during the
heyday of air control and something the U.S. mil-
itary has struggled with since the end of World
War II. A primary weakness of C. E. Callwell's
book as a useful guide for today has always been
its emphasis on military operational solutions to
political and social problems. In that sense, the
Marine Corps Small Wars Manual is better doc-
trine. By the same token, the Marine airpower
experience in Nicaragua is a better model for air-
power in small wars.


1. For an excellent discussion of ethics, morality, and
aerial bombardment, see Louis Manzo, "Morality in
War Fighting and Strategic Bombing in World War
Two," Air Power History, Fall 1992, 35-50. For a con-
trasting view, see Phillip Meilinger, "Winged Defense:

Airwar, the Law and Morality," Armed'Forces and
Society, Fall 1993, 103-23. Another excellent discus-
sion of the law of war and airpower can be found in
W. Parks, "Air War and the Law at War," Air Force Law
Review 32, no. 1 (1990): 1-55.
2. James Webb, "Making Sense of No Gun Ri," Wall
Street Journal, 6 October 1999.
3. Col Phillip S. Meilinger, letter to the editor, Air
Power History, Winter 1992, 58.
4. Group Captain Andrew P. N. Lambert, "Shattering
Impact: The Psychology of Air Attack," in Air Power
Confronts an Unstable World, ed. Richard Hallion
(London: Brassey's, 1997), 105.
5. In fact Group Captain Lambert asserts, "The evi-
dence suggests that the psychological responses of a
civilian population to bombing mirror almost exactly
the reactions of soldiers to enemy fire." Ibid., 94.
6. Truong Nhu Tang, Viet Cong Memoir: An Inside
Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath, with
David Chanoff and Doan Van Toni (New York: Vintage
Books, April 1986), 167. The B-52 was equally feared
by Iraqi soldiers during the Gulf War. Consequently,
one of the most successful psychological-operations
(PSYOP) leaflets of the war displayed a photo of a B-
52 unloading its deadly cargo, accompanied by text
warning of continued B-52 strikes. Regrettably, many
observers concluded that the "B-52 leaflet" was a uni-
versally applicable leaflet in PSYOP, forgetting that,
although the Vietcong were terrified by B-52 strikes,
they rarely surrendered as a result.
7. Dr. James S. Corum, "The Myth of Air Control:
Reassessing the History," Aerospace Power Journal 14,
no. 4 (Winter 2000): 61-77.
8. Col C. E. Callwell, Small Wars: Their Principles and
Practice, 3d ed. (London: Printed for Her Majesty's
Stationery Office by Harrison and Sons, 1906), 41.
9. Ibid., 41-42.
10. Wing Comdr J. A. Chamier, "The Use of Air Power
for Replacing Military Garrisons," Journal of the Royal
United Services Institute, February-November 1921,
11. William Dean, "The Colonial Armies of the French
Third Republic: Overseas Formation and Continental
Deployment, 1871-1920" (PhD diss., University of
Chicago, 1999), 315-24.
12. The Escadrille Cheriflenne flew 470 missions-
often attacking towns that had already submitted to
French authority-before being disbanded. Ibid., 324.
13. Lejeune Cummins, Quijote on a Burro: Sandino
and the Marines, A Study in the Formulation of
Foreign Policy (Mexico City: Distrito Federal: La
Impresora Azteca, 1958), 54
14. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, Fiscal


Year 1928 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy,
1920), 50, cited in ibid.
15. Ibid., 55.
16. By 1910, revolutions in Haiti followed a well-estab-
lished pattern. A military strongman would form a
caco army, consisting mostly of military adventurers
and conscripts. The caco army would seize the capital
city of Port-au-Prince, surround the legislature, and
oversee the election of the insurgent leader as the new
president. When the Marine Corps landed in July 1915,
a number of caco armies supporting Rosalvo Bobo
resisted. Suppressing these irregular forces became the
primary military objective of the Marine Corps in Haiti.
Likewise, when the United States intervened in the
Dominican Republic in 1916, armed clashes between
Marines and various irregulars erupted almost immedi-
ately. Generally lumped together as "bandits," these
irregular forces actually comprised professional high-
waymen known as gavilleros, ordinary criminals, dis-
contented politicians who used banditry to advance
their own ambitions, unemployed laborers, and peas-
ants, the latter generally impressed into service.
17. Lt Col Edward Johnson, Marine Corps Ariation:
The Early Years, 1912-1940 (Washington, D.C.:
History and Museums Division, Headquarters U.S.
Marine Corps, 1977), 49-51.
18. Major General Ford 0. Rogers, USMC, retired, tran-
script of oral history interview, Oral History Collection
(Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division,
Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, 3 December 1970),
25, cited in ibid., 49.
19. For a full treatment, see Ivan Musicant, The
Banana Wars: A History of United States Military
Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-
American War to the Invasion of Panama (New York:
Macmillan, 1990).
20. Johnson, 55-56.
21. Ibid., 53.
22. The use of aircraft to support Marines on the
ground is an important yet much overlooked aspect of
airpower history. It is beyond the scope of this article
to address the topic in the detail it deserves, but every
student of airpower history should spend time exam-
ining the tactics, techniques, and procedures devel-
oped by the Marine Corps in Nicaragua, as it laid the
groundwork for our concept of close air support
23. Major Ross Rowell, "Aircraft in Bush Warfare,"
Marine Corps Gazette, September 1929, 180.
24. Ibid., 181.
25. Major Ross Rowell, "The Air Service In Minor
Warfare," United States Naval Institute Proceedings,
October 1929, 872.

26. Ibid.
27. Rowell, "Aircraft in Bush Warfare," 195. See also
Captain H. Denny Campbell, "Aviation in Guerilla
Warfare," Marine Corps Gazette, pt. 3 (November
1.931): 33. In both articles, the authors advocated the
use of nonlethal chemicals ("a sneezing gas, a lachry-
matory gas, a laughing gas, a cholic-producing gas or
even a simple and harmless anaesthetic") over lethal
compounds. According to Captain Campbell, such use
"humanizes bullet warfare" (33).
28. Rowell, "Aircraft in Bush Warfare," 193-94.
29. Robin Cross, The Bombers: The Illustrated Story of
Offensive Strategy and Tactics in the Twentieth
Century' (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 70.
30. Neill Macaulay, The Sandino Affair (Durham, N.C.:
Duke University Press, 1985), 116.
31. As a result, Marine aircraft were struck by ground
fire on virtually every mission.
32. Rowell, "Aircraft in Bush Warfare," 191-92.
33. Ibid., 193.
34. Macaulay recounts one incident, however, in
which Major Rowell machine-gunned purported guer-
rillas in a house in a town where women and children
were present. Sarcastically, Macaulay wrote, "The
women and children were presumably not endan-
gered by'the machine gun fire." But one can argue
persuasively that at such low altitude and speed and
with the superior marksmanship prevalent among the
Marine aviators at the time, Rowell took the women
and children into account when lie made his decision
to open fire. Given the absence of reported civilian
casualties associated with this incident. Major Rowell
apparently took a calculated risk and succeeded. See
Macaulay, 116.
35. Major Ross Rowell, "Annual Report of Aircraft
Squadrons, Second Brigade, U.S. Marine Corps, July 1,
1927, to June 20, 1928," Marine Corps Gazette,
December 1928, 250-51.
36. Ibid., 254.
37. Cummins, 54.
38. Captain Francis Mulcahy, "Marine Corps Aviation
in the Second Nicaraguan Campaign," United States
Naval Institute Proceedings, August 1933, 1131.
39. Cummins, 45.
40. In addition to Major Rowell, who left Nicaragua in
August 1928, three other Marine aviators commanded
the air element in Nicaragua: Major Louis Bourne
(August 1928 to December 1929), Major Ralph Mitchell
(December 1929 to July 1931), and Captain Francis
Mulcahy (July 1931 to January 1933). As a colonel,
Rowell rose to become director of Marine Corps
Aviation from 1 April 1936 to 10 March 1939 and as a
major-general was at one point the senior Marine

Corps aviator in the Pacific during World War II. But
following a disagreement with the commandant of the
Marine Corps and Adm Chester Nimitz regarding the
use of Marine aircraft on escort carriers (as opposed to
supporting Marines on the ground), he was relieved
and sent to Lima, Peru, as chief of the Naval Air
Mission. It was a sorry end to the career of an other-
wise illustrious and dedicated Marine Corps aviator.
See Mulcahy, 1122; Marine Corps Aircraft, 1913-1965,
rev. ed. (Washington, D.C.: Historical Branch, G-3
Division, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, 1967), 49;
and Peter Mersky, U.S. Marine Corps Aviation: 1912 to
the Present, 3d ed. (Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation
Publishing Company of America, 1997), 98.
41. See Small Wars Manual (1940; reprint,
Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy, 1987), 9-
1-1 to 9-36-24.
42. Much of what the U.S. Army had learned in terms
of "pacification" came from its own experience in the
Philippines at the turn of the century. During the guer-
rilla phase of that war, the official U.S. policy under
President William McKinley was one of "benevolent
assimilation," emphasizing conciliation over military
solutions. See Brian McAllister Linn, The Philippine
War, 1899-1902 (Lawrence: University Press of
Kansas, 2000), 30.
43. Small Wars Manual, 1-8-13.
44. Ibid., 1-10-18
45. Ibid., 1-9-15, 1-9-16.
46. In truth, the Marines of the time were no less racist
than the British or French. In his article on the use of
aircraft in small wars, Captain H. Denny Campbell
regarded the use of propaganda to be an "effective
weapon against races of uneducated, uncivilized,
indolent and superstitious peoples." The distinction,
however, is that Marines recognized that mistreatment
and brutality-even directed at what they considered

to be inferior peoples-made success in counterrevo-
lutionary war all the more difficult and perhaps impos-
sible. (For the specific reference cited, see Campbell,
pt. 3 [note 26], 33.)
47. General Vernon McGee, "The Evolution of Marine
Aviation," Marine Corps Gazette, pt. 1 (August 1965):
48. John Akehurst, We Won a War: Campaign in
Oman, 1965-1975 (Wilton, Salisbury, Wiltshire,
England: Michael Russell [Publishing], 1982), 38.
49. Rowell, "Aircraft in Bush Warfare," 203.
50. According to Joint Publication 1-02, Department of
Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms,
12 April 2001, "the joint force air component com-
mander derives authority from the joint force com-
mander who has the authority to exercise operational
control, assign missions, direct coordination among
subordinate commanders, redirect and organize forces
to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the
overall mission" (222). Centralized control in support
of the overall commander's objectives is at the heart of
the joint force air component commander concept and
was the principal concern of Major Rowell and the
Aircraft Squadrons, 2d Brigade.
51. See, for example, Carl H. Builder, "Doctrinal
Frontiers," Airpower Journal 9, no. 4 (Winter 1995):

About the Author
Wray R. Johnson, Colonel, USAF (Ret.), is professor of military history at
the School of Advanced .'. ,fi, _. ... Marine Corps University, Quantico,
Virginia. He was professor of military history at the School of Advanced
Airpower Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base, at the time he wrote this article.
Johnson is author of Vietnam and American Doctrine for Small Wars
(2000) and coauthor (with James S. Corum) of Airpower in Small Wars:
t:. E...... Insurgents and Terrorists (2003). He holds a doctorate in U.S.
history from Florida State University.

r%. I

~ >21
.4' +1
t m N


Ths t

,4 ..,.-

" ..-W', ,.. -. ,-\: "- .
.r ^ -"* -- ;. #-\ -' -L

' i. '. :' 1 **
- dh !
.-, i1 -, 4

'*" .





~~ r

U.S. Marines and

Miskito Indians: The

Rio Coco Patrol of


by David C Brooks

Marine Corps Gazette, November 1996

While most military histories of the Marine
involvement in Nicaragua have focused on
light infantry tactics, it's the political aspects
of the Second Nicaragua Campaign that
might provide the more relevant lessons.
W 'Then it comes to the history of the U.S.
Marine Corps, few names stand out
VW more than Major General Merritt A.
"Red Mike" Edson's. Famous for winning the
Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal, Edson is also
recognized for his leadership during the Rio
Coco patrol during the Second Nicaragua
Campaign (1926-33). Although several historians
have treated the Rio Coco patrol, they mostly
have emphasized Edson's composure in the face
of natural hazards and determined opposition
from Sandinista guerrillas or his creativity in
employing light infantry tactics.1 Most of these
accounts have not dealt with the unique political
aspect of the mission. Yet this "other side" of the
Rio Coco patrol is perhaps the more significant
for today's Marines. Edson's story illustrates how
the many campaigns of that era, together known
by the trivializing term "Banana Wars," may have
much to say to the Marines of today.
Though the link between the 1920s and the
1990s may not be obvious, the two eras share a
basic similarity: The collapse of the United States'
great power rival (in the earlier case imperial
Germany, in the latter the Soviet empire) has led
to a period of prolonged peace characterized by
limited war and multiple forms of small-scale
military engagement. Historically, the burden of
these messy kinds of political-military missions
has fallen heavily upon the U.S. Marines. Like


7.. .

their Banana Wars' ancestors, today's Marines
have to carry out a variety of complex tasks-
peacekeeping, hostage rescue, refugee support,
drug interdiction, counterinsurgency, and combi-
nations thereof-on the shoestring budgets typi-
cal of these periods of military retrenchment. In
its own way, Edson's Rio Coco patrol illustrates
how Marines in the past successfully adapted to
similar exigencies. The full story of the patrol,
however, also shows some of the stickier and
unanticipated difficulties that accompany any
effort at foreign intervention, even a relatively
successful one.

Background to Intervention

Before discussing Edson's mission, it is impor-
tant to recall the circumstances that brought
about the Second Nicaragua Campaign. In 1926,
a vicious civil war broke out in Nicaragua
between the country's two rival political parties,
the Liberals and the Conservatives. Washington
responded, as it so often had in the past, by
sending Marines to Nicaragua to establish neutral
zones and protect U.S. lives and property.
Along with the Marines came Special
Presidential Envoy Henry Stimson in May 1927.
Stimson put forward a plan to get the warring
factions to move their struggle from the battle-
field to the ballot box. U.S. Marines would both
train a new, nonpartisan Nicaraguan army, the
Guardia Nacional, and would supervise a free
election. Under pressure from Stimson, Liberal
and Conservative leaders agreed to the American
representative's plan-all save one. In May of
that year, Liberal General Augusto C. Sandino
rejected the U.S. sponsored scheme as unwar-
ranted Yankee interference in his country's
affairs and retreated into the mountains of the
Nicaraguan north with about 200 men to launch
an early "war of national liberation" against what
he called Nicaragua's vendepatria (country-sell-
ing) elites and the U.S. Marines.
Within a year, the conflict had become a stale-
mate, locking itself into a pattern familiar to stu-
dents of counterinsurgency. The Marines easily
controlled the cities and towns of western
Nicaragua. Sandino and his men, however, were
masters of the rugged hills of Nueva Segovia. In

addition, when pressed from Marine patrols, the
Sandinistas could cross the mountains that divide
Nicaragua and descend the Coco River, or Rio
Coco as it is known in Spanish, which forms the
border between Honduras and Nicaragua, and
attack the country's Caribbean side-the site of
many important U.S. and foreign investments.
This region of Nicaragua, known locally as the
Atlantic Coast, served as a kind of strategic rear
for the insurgents.
The Marines recognized the military signifi-
cance of the Atlantic Coast and moved into this
zone in 1928, establishing the Eastern Area,
under the command of Major Harold H. Utley.
Working under Utley was an innovative young
captain named "Red Mike" Edson. In the weeks
before landing, Edson and his shipmates aboard
the USS Denver eagerly followed the campaign
in Nicaragua by studying a Christian Brothers
map of the country that hung from the bulkhead
of the ship's mess. At that time, Edson noted how
the Rio Coco dominated the northern part of the
country. A kind of Nicaraguan Mississippi, the
Coco begihs in Nueva Segovia, in the heart of
what was then Sandinista territory, and runs
more than 300 miles to empty into the Caribbean
Sea at Cabo Gracias a Dios. Edson reasoned that
the Marines might use the mighty Central
American waterway to penetrate Nicaragua's dif-
ficult terrain and blindside Sandino, hitting him
from a previously secure flank.

The Marines Land on the
Atlantic Coast

Utley, Edson, and about 150 other Marines
came ashore in January 1928. Almost immediate-
ly, Edson and several of Utley's other officers
began a series of riverine penetrations, an expe-
rience that gave Edson the chance to try out his
ideas about navigating the Coco. These first
efforts became a test that his Marines would fail
decisively. Edson himself later recalled what hap-
pened when the "can-do" attitudes of his men
clashed with the realities of Central America's
most formidable river. As he wrote:
While here [at Livings Creek on the Rio
Coco] two men of the patrol made their

first attempt at navigating a native dugout
with a pole and paddle as they had seen
the Indians do. [The two Marines] pushed
out into the river, both paddling frantically,
first on one side, then the other. The boat
went round and round in circles until final-
ly the current washed it ashore a mile or so
down stream and the two men gave up the
attempt and walked back. It was ludicrous
enough but it was a fair example of what
might be expected from men whose only
experience with water craft had been as
passengers in a ship's motor sailer.2
In contrast to the early and rather bumbling
efforts of the Marines, the Indians were masters
of the Rio Coco. As Edson described them:

[They] were taught to swim as soon as they
were taught to walk, and once they could
stand erect they found a pole and paddle
thrust into their hands so that they could
learn to navigate the native pitpan [dugout

The natives that Edson referred to were
Miskito Indians, members of an indigenous
group that, along with their neighbors, the Sumu
and the English-speaking black Creoles, made up
the population of Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast.
These different peoples constituted more than
just a series of Nicaraguan ethnic groups. In fact,
the Atlantic Coast was (and, some would argue,
remains) a kind of submerged nation within
Nicaragua that possessed distinct history, lan-
guages, and cultural rhythms from the rest of the

A Nation within a Nation-State

At the time of the intervention, the Miskito
made up the largest and most important popula-
tion group along the Rio Coco. As a people, they
have a singular and proud history. Unlike other
Central American Indian groups, the Miskito suc-
cessfully resisted Spanish conquest in the 16th
century. Later, in the 1600s they made common
cause with British buccaneers who found them
useful allies in raids against the Spanish for their
canoeing and maritime skills. This de facto

Indian-English alliance would receive official
expression in 1687 when British naval officers in
Jamaica crowned the Miskitos' most prominent
chief, Jeremy I. King of the Mosquito (the
spelling commonly used by British of that time,
as in Mosquito Coast).
For a little over two centuries, the Mosquitia,
a separate kingdom with its own monarch,
would remain independent from Nicaragua.
Over time, the Indian society lost its military col-
oration as Moravian missionaries from
Bethlehem, Pa., and American and British com-
panies like Standard Fruit moved into the area.
Along with the foreign companies and the mis-
sionaries came small businessmen-many of
them Britons, Germans, and Americans-who
settled in the interior of the Rio Coco. They set-
tled into the region, married Indian women, and
set up trading posts, ranches, boat yards, and
lumber supply areas along the river. These peo-
ple, called "bamboo whites" by the Marines,
shipped raw wood from inside Nicaragua to
sawmills located at Puerto Cabezas on the coast.
Both politically and economically, they would
prove critical in the war with Sandino.
As a result of all these developments-mis-
sionary activity, the development of foreign-
owned "big businesses" along the coast, and the
addition of a new strata of "bamboo business-
men" to the area's social structure-the
Mosquitia remained more connected to the
United States and the English-speaking Carib-
bean than to Hispanic Nicaragua. But if local his-
tory and economics pushed the coast in one
direction, geopolitics moved it in another.
Backed by pressure from the United States, Great
Britain dropped the coast from protectorate sta-
tus and officially ceded the area to Nicaragua in
1860. Since Nicaragua was too weak to exercise
its claim, the coast remained in political limbo for
decades until Nicaraguan President Jose Santos
Zelaya sent troops into the area to capture
Bluefields in 1894. Despite military occupation
by Spanish-speaking troops, the Indians contin-
ued to resent the Nicaraguans. The inhabitants of
the coast also kept looking to Great Britain for
support. In the years following the 1894
takeover, Black Creoles and Miskito Indians
would pepper the British Foreign Office with

petitions that asked the British to retake their ter-
ritory, a tradition that would continue until the
late 1950s.

Competing for Contacts

From the first, Edson worked hard to create a
network of contacts that could help him win the
cooperation of the local people. Fortunately, the
area's social structure provided him with a natu-
ral "in" with the natives. Benny Muller, a bamboo
businessman, was an American logger who had
lived in the area since 1895. Through Muller,
met all of the influential people in this sec-
tion and the chiefs of the larger settlements,
and they in turn assisted in inculcating the
ordinary Indian with the idea that we
meant them no harm. .4
These same local notables also related to
Edson the essentials of the Indians' history and
culture, and he was quick to appreciate their
implications for his own mission. As he wrote
years later in the Marine Corps Gazette:
The Miskitos were inculcated from the time
of their birth with a hatred of the Nica-
raguans whom they called 'Spaniards' and
so were potential allies if properly
approached and handled. By learning
enough native words to make my wants
known to them; by showing an interest in
their mode of living; and by always treating
them fairly, I believe that I succeeded in
that part of my mission to establish cordial
relations with the inhabitants.5
Despite his advantages, Edson's task would
not be an easy one. Sandino, too, had recog-
nized the Indians' importance and had taken
steps to win their trust. In addition, the people of
the coast had historically supported the Liberal
Party, of which Sandino was a member, albeit a
dissenting one. As Edson later recalled:
In his journey up the river in 1927,
Sandino had treated the inhabitants of the
river in a friendly and conciliatory manner
so that the feeling, not anti-American, was

certainly not anti-Sandinista. Through his
agents, Sandino exerted a distinct influence
throughout the whole valley and he re-
ceived tribute of both money and food
from as far east as Bocay.6
Sandino, like the Marines, depended on
Miskito help to move up and down the Rio Coco.
One sign of the importance that the Nicaraguan
guerrilla attached to the Indians' assistance was
the able lieutenants whom he appointed to over-
see his operations in this part of Nicaragua-
Abraham Rivera and Adolfo Cockburn. Both
were intimately familiar with the Rio Coco and
performed services for Sandino that resembled
those Muller carried out for Edson. Thus, the
miniwar for the Rio Coco quickly became less a
contest for territory and more a political one for
the loyalty of people whose skills either side
would need to control the region.

When in the Mosquitia, Do as
the Indians Do

Soon after arriving on the Atlantic Coast,
Edson suggested his idea for a long-range patrol
up the Rio Coco, but this was at first rejected by
the Marine command. In the meantime, he
worked to extend his relations with the local
people. Perhaps the most interesting facet of his
efforts at this stage was his attempt to imitate the
Indians and get other Marines to do the same.
When he had the opportunity, Edson traveled
with the Miskito in their canoes. In letters home,
he recounted how he enjoyed shooting the Rio
Coco's white-water rapids with the Miskito. As
his correspondence shows, however, canoeing
with the Indians constituted more than mere
sport. By learning how to handle a fast-moving
pipante, Edson and his men were later prepared
when local help proved hard to find. As he wrote
to his wife in early June 1928:
On the 2d Linscott, eight enlisted and
myself left Kalasanoki by boat and came
down to Bocay. There is no trail down the
river, so we came down to look it over.
Due to the shortage of Indians, a corporal
of-my outfit and I paddled down in a small

boat. You should have seen us shoot-
ing rapids-almost as good as Indians. It
was a great trip and rather thrilling in
Patrols overland also benefited from the
Miskito example. In a letter to his son, Austin,
written in May 1928, Edson described how the
Marines had adopted camping techniques from
the Indians:
You are probably asking if these Indians
live in tents, aren't you? They do not use
tents, but lean-toos (sic) when stopping for
only a few days. These lean-toos are made
like this. Four bamboo poles are cut and
tied together at the top. Then on the side
towards the wind where the rain will come,
they put up a roof or a wall of leaves some-
thing like this. [Illustrated in letter.] The
floor is the sand, and their beds are made
of big green banana leaves laid on the
sand. Then they put down a blanket from
the bark of a tree, and that is their sleeping
plan. It is not a bad bed either, for your
Daddy has slept several nights just like

The Rio Coco Patrol

In July 1928, the Marine command decided to
launch a patrol up the Rio Coco to take Poteca,
Sandino's headquarters 350 miles into the interi-
or of Nicaragua. This was a formidable task. First,
the mission would take place at the height of the
rainy season, when the Coco becomes a raging
torrent that can rise as much as 20 feet, often
tearing trees from its banks and hurtling them
downstream with deadly force. All supply would
be cut off except by air, and even that contact
would be intermittent during stormy weather. In
addition to natural obstacles, the Marines would
also face the prospect of ambush by Sandinista
guerrillas in the interior. On 26 July 1928, Edson
set out with 46 other Marines and their Indian
guides and oarsmen from Bocay to take Poteca.
Under these conditions, it became essential to
win local cooperation if the mission was to suc-
ceed. Edson found that despite his successes
with the Indians down the river, those who lived

closer to Poteca were more wary of the Marines.
This often resulted in a shortage of willing Indian
boatmen, and forced the Marines into a "stop
and go" pattern in their advance.9 Still, Edson
instructed his men to approach the river people
in a friendly way, even though some had aided
Sandino in the past.10
Utley backed Edson's patient approach.
Although this slowed the advance, he realized
that the Marines had to consider the Miskitos'
delicate political situation, sandwiched as the
Indians were between the forces of the interven-
tion and those of Sandino. In a letter to the
Marine command in Managua written in August
1928, he justified Edson's slow pace in political
It appears that we are approaching one of
the delays due to lack of transportation
which while I anticipated, are nevertheless
heartbreaking. We are .. handicapped
by two factors; the lack of boats and the
disinclination of the indians (sic) to go into
the zone of operations. We can get enough
to operate all the boats we have as far up
as Bocay but it is difficult to get them to go
farther then that. Impressment only serves
to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, as
it means that in the future the approach of
Marines is the signal for abandoning of the
towns and houses. We have been at some
pains to establish a feeling of confidence
among the indians (sic) and hope that the
situation will improve. The fact that Edson
did not have any of his indians hurt was an
important factor and I took pains to broad-
cast that information down the river as well
as at Bocay.11
Delay was a small price to pay for good rela-
tions. Edson did resort to impressment on occa-
sion, but his general treatment of the Indians
appears to have been good. As he moved into
the interior and captured Indians who had
worked for Sandino, he had them disarmed,
questioned, and then released in keeping with
his attempts to win their favor.12
Edson and Utley's gradual and humane
approach to the Indians of the Rio Coco contrast-
ed markedly with the way that at least some

Marines treated Sandinista "collaborators" in
Nueva Segovia on the other side of Nicaragua.
There, the burning of the houses of guerrilla
sympathizers and the loss of many prisoners
"shot while attempting to escape" took place fre-
quently enough that it compelled the Marine
command to issue orders in 1928 and 1931 ask-
ing for restraint in dealing with the locals and
prohibiting the destruction of homes.13 In 1930,
the Marines in this region also tried to resettle vil-
lagers by force into secured zones, an effort that
was called off when Matagalpa and Jinotega
became flooded with refugees.14 In part, the
Marines in Nueva Segovia resorted to harsher
policies because they were engaged in a shoot-
ing war when Edson and Utley faced primarily a
political situation. Nonetheless, the contrast
between the Marine approaches to these two dif-
ferent regions of Nicaragua is noteworthy.
Although the differences in Marine methods used
is only one variable in a complex situation, it
seems that Edson's patience contributed impor-
tantly to his ultimate success along the Rio Coco
and that the harsher measures used in Nueva
Segovia probably aggravated an already bad sit-
uation in the Sandinistas' home area.15
The patience of the Eastern Area Marines
would pay off handsomely in strategic terms.
After foiling an ambush by Sandinista guerrillas
on 7 August, Edson and his men captured
Sandino's headquarters at Poteca 10 days later
and sent the Nicaraguan guerrilla forces scatter-
ing into the interior of the country. This action
not only threw the Sandinistas off balance, it also
prevented them from massing to disrupt the U.S.
supervised election in the fall of 1928.
Edson's Rio Coco patrol would represent, in
the words of Major Utley, the "elastic limit" of the
Marines' penetration of Nicaragua from its east-
ern shore.16 Along the river, behind Edson's
base, Marines began to set up strong points that
secured the area from further Sandinista attacks.
Both the Miskito and the region's bamboo whites
benefited from the added security. The Marine
presence and careful treatment of the locals had
won the Indians' trust. After an initial period of
wariness, more Indians began to cooperate freely
with the Marines and many returned to their vil-
lages from the woods where they had hidden.17

The stability achieved along the upper reach-
es of the Rio Coco did not endure, however. In
March 1929, the Marine command in Managua
ordered a pullback from the interior of the Rio
Coco for later that year. Major Utley protested
these orders in the name of a people whose
friendliness he had cultivated. As he put it, the
Indians of the interior:
have gained confidence in our ability
and willingness to afford them protection.
To abandon Bocay will leave the entire
north eastern (sic) part of the province of
Jinotega open to any small band of
marauders who-when organized bands
are broken up-may be expected to con-
tinue their depredations.18
In fact, the Indians had gained more than just
confidence in the Marines. Some decided to
serve alongside the Marines by joining the
Guardia Nacional. Although it has proven impos-
sible to pin down exact numbers, one Marine
report from 1930 that describes Guardia recruit-
ing stated that, "On the Atlantic Coast a consid-
erable number of Mosquito Indians are enlist-
ed."19 Evidence also exists that Marine trainers
appreciated the special abilities of their Indian
recruits. As one Marine instructor working at
Bluefields in 1929 commented:
I can conceive of no more valuable soldier
than a property [sic] trained and disciplined
-Mosquito boy with his knowledge of
woodcraft and tracking and at the same
time an ability to read a simple map and
perhaps make a simple sketch.20
While young Indians joined the Guardia
Nacional, their community leaders looked at the
Americans in new ways as well. In particular,
they saw them as potential deliverers from the
abuses and depredations of the "Spaniard"
regimes in Managua, a development that added
another wrinkle of complexity to the Marine-
Miskito connection. Indians involved in land dis-
putes with the Nicaraguan Government protest-
ed to Major Utley in 1929, and to a Marine
Colonel Wynn in the Guardia Nacional in 1931.21
The concluding words to the petition sent to
Colonel Wynn show how at least some Miskito

had come to view the Marines and, by extension,
the United States. It read:
We Miskito Indians are clamoring for the
Americans to sever us from our bonds,
from this Nicaraguan yoke, [to] give us as
before our reservation, and hold the sole
rights of protectorate, given by us.22
Washington, however, viewed the problem
from a different perspective. The administration
hoped to wrap up an unpopular intervention as
soon as possible and so the planned withdrawal
of the Marines took place. Soon after, the
Sandinistas regained control of Bocay and used
this as a staging area to rebuild their position
along the upper reaches of the Rio Coco. In
February 1931, Indian spies told Guardia Nac-
ional Intelligence that the Sandinistas were once
again gathering forces at their old headquarters.
Driven from Jinotega and Matagalpa in the west
by aggressive Marine patrols, they were prepar-
ing a strike downriver with the aid of agents
located as far down as Puerto Cabezas. A critical
part of the insurgents' preparations had involved
successful political work among the Bocay
Indians. As the report said:
A deliberate effort has been made to gain

favor with the Bocay Indians with a view to
having their support, and has met with
considerable success. The Indians in this
reason professing (sic) themselves ready to
take part in any attack on Guardia or expe-
dition to Puerto Cabezas or Cabo Gracias [a
Dios]. What means, exactly, has been used
to gain the confidence of the Bocay Indians
is not known, but their feelings and sympa-
thies have been clearly brought over to the
side of the bandits.23
The United States' precipitous pullback com-
bined with the effects of the global economic
depression set the stage for a devastating guerril-
la retaliation. In April 1931, the Sandinistas
launched an offensive against the Atlantic Coast.
Striking down the Rio Coco, they captured Cabo
Gracias a Dios and assaulted Puerto Cabezas, the
headquarters of the Standard Fruit Company and
the home of hundreds of its American employ-
ees. The Sandinista raids caused panic within the
city and disrupted Indian communities all along
the river.24
Despite these later reversals, Edson's and
Utley's careful work would not be completely
undone. Miskito Indians, particularly those locat-
ed on the lower Rio Coco and those along the

Caribbean coast, served in the Guardia Nacional
alongside Marine officers and helped thwart
these same attacks.25 At least one reason for the
Miskitos' continued loyalty to the Marine-led
Guardia was a new-found fear of the Sandinistas.
Although Sandino's lieutenants would still enjoy
the help of some Indians from deep inside the
Rio Coco region,26 they abandoned the guerrilla
general's earlier careful treatment of the inhabi-
tants and resorted to terrorism in dealing with
the Indians and bamboo whites. They beheaded
a Moravian missionary for allegedly operating as
a Guardia spy and burned his village because its
inhabitants had helped Edson. In addition. San-
dinista guerrillas roved the Rio Coco with hit lists
of bamboo whites condemned to death for hav-
ing aided the Marines. Finally, the insurgents
captured and killed a number of employees of
Standard Fruit, dismembering their bodies with
Despite their violence, these measures would
do the guerrillas little good. Far from their logis-
tical base, they became vulnerable to Marine
counterattacks by aircraft and by ground patrols.
After one of Sandino's top lieutenants, Pedro
Blandon, was killed in the attack on Puerto
Cabezas, the insurgents had to retreat back up
the river. In the end, the depredations they car-
ried out only turned the inhabitants against the
insurgents and earned the earlier Sandinistas a
reputation as "bandits" among the Indians, a per-
ception that persists to this day and helps explain
Miskito resistance to the Sandinista Government
of the 1980s.27

Lessons Learned

Soldiers are inclined to view history in a very
technical fashion. Frequently, they want to know
what tactic or gambit can be borrowed from the
past and used in the future. This view, however,
better fits large, conventional battles than it does
small wars, interventions, and counterinsurgency
campaigns, which rarely turn on a single dazzling
maneuver. Instead, such endeavors prove the
truth of the old cliche about presidential cam-
paigns in the United States that "all politics is
local." Small wars most often turn on local factors,
and they are consummately political contests.

On this score, both Edson and Sandino have
to be given high marks. Each possessed an abil-
ity to "read" the local situation and put that
knowledge to effective use. If, in the end,
Sandino "lost" the Atlantic Coast, this would
appear to have happened not through any blun-
der of his own, but rather because he failed to
control his lieutenants-a problem not uncom-
mon to armies fighting guerrilla wars, as the
examples of Marine tactics in Nueva Segovia
cited above indicate. As the conflict with the
Americans dragged on and as their frustration
mounted, Sandino's lieutenants seemed to view
the complex bamboo white social structure of
the Atlantic Coast through the lens of their own
militant Hispanic nationalism. Thus, missionaries
and bamboo whites friendly to the Marines,
many of them American, appeared as foreigners
or vendepatrias, deserving only death. These
actions only alienated the Miskito who looked
upon these foreigners as friends, employers, and
even kinsmen.
But beyond Edson's (or Sandino's) effective-
ness as a "soldier-diplomat," the Rio Coco case
study also shows, in an overall sense, how inter-
ventions are shaped by the complex, many-sided
politics of underdeveloped countries. Since
Vietnam, it has become fashionable in some cir-
cles to interpret interventions as primarily con-
flicts between the resented forces of foreign
powers and outraged nationalists, between
"imperialists" and local patriots. From the per-
spective of post-World War I decolonization,
such a view seemed natural. Yet in the case dis-
cussed here, the conflict was not a two-sided
military one, but a three-sided relationship
between Indians, Marines, and insurgents-an
association that was shaped as much by the pol-
itics of adhesion as by some reflex on the part of
the locals to reject the outsider.
As Edson and Utley understood, special fac-
tors make the Miskito "potential allies if proper-
ly approached and handled." Yet this added new
complications to the Marines' task, for to have
remained effective along the Rio Coco, the
Americans would have had to stay in the area.
Overall, the Indians preferred the Marines to the
largely Spanish-speaking Guardia Nacional. Still,
to have created a purely Miskito army would

have been locally logical but also would have
undercut the U.S. "nation-building" agenda in
Nicaragua, its plan to bolster the elected regime
of friendly "Spaniards" in Managua. Yet to fail to
do either of these things left the Indians open to
the angry Sandinista backlash of 1931. Thus, the
Indians were not just "potential allies," but also
potential victims, as Utley recognized, when
Washington's shifts undercut the actions of cre-
ative Marines in the field.
In this way, the Rio Coco case study speaks to
what happens when U.S. forces encounter a frus-
trated national group of the type that appears to
be emerging in a variety of areas today. The
Miskito example discussed here brings to mind
the Montagnards in Vietnam and, more recently,
the Kurds of northern Iraq. Alliances with com-
munities like these quickly become very tricky
and are charged with ethical implications
because such peoples frequently become de-
pendent on the forces of an occupation for pro-
tection and support or, more importantly,
because they may want to use the intervention as
a springboard for further political action. When
these considerations do not parallel Washing-
ton's agenda, it is often up to the military to
resolve the differences in the field, something
that can be a difficult and messy task.
In conclusion, the Rio Coco patrol serves as
more than just an apt illustration of how some
members of an earlier generation of Marines
modified their tactics to fit the politics of the
areas in which they served. Ultimately, it also
shows why counterinsurgency remains the most
difficult of military tasks even when well execut-
ed under favorable circumstances. In the end,
this may be the most important lesson that
today's Marines can learn from the story of
Edson's mission and the Marine-Sandinista strug-
gle to control the Rio Coco from 1928-1931.


1. For an insightful discussion of Edson's use of light
infantry tactics, see Major Jon T. Hoffman, "Edson's
'First Raiders,'" Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 1991, 20-25.
2. Edson, "Coco Patrol," Marine Corps Gazette, August
3. Edson, "Coco Patrol," Marine Corps Gazette, August
1936, 41.

4. Edson, "Coco Patrol," Marine Corps Gazette, August
1936, 40.
5. Edson, "Coco Patrol," Marine Corps Gazette, August
1936, 41.
6. Edson, "Coco Patrol," Marine Corps Gazette, August
1936, 40.
7. Letter to Ethel R. Edson, Bocay, Nicaragua, 4 June
1928. File: "Letters Nicaragua. MAE to ERE. 5 April
1928 to 8 July 1928," Container 2, Edson Papers.
Library of Congress (LC).
8. Letter to M. Austin Edson, Musawas, Nicaragua, 22
May 1928. File: "Letters Nicaragua. MAE to ERE. 5 April
1928 to 8 July 1928," #16 Container 2, Edson Papers,
9. A telegram from "Commanding Officer, Puerto
Cabezas," (Utley) to "Brigade Commander,"
(Managua), 4 June 1928 reports that as Marine patrols
penetrated the Bocay-Poteca region deep in
Nicaragua's interior, "All reports indicate natives and
Indians show fear of Marines." NA, RG 127, Entry 221,
File 923 (Information from Eastern Area 1928).
10. Headquarters, Eastern Area, Nicaragua, Marine
Barracks, Puerto Cabezas, Nic., 17 June 1928. Special
Intelligence Report-Wanks River-Waspuc River-Bocay
Area. Signed, "M.A. Edson." The report notes that most
of the people in the area have aided Sandino at one
time or another but that, "If properly handled, a great
deal of assistance may be expect (sic) as boatmen,
guides and laborers." The key, Edson asserts, is, "to
maintain a friendly attitude towards them." Folder 20,
Entry 204, RG 127, National Archives.
11. United States Marine Corps, Headquarters, Eastern
Area, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, 16 August 1928.
Letter from Major Harold H. Utley to the Commanding
General, NA, RG 127, Entry 221, File 922 (East Coast).
12. Headquarters, Second Brigade, Marine Corps,
Managua, Nicaragua, 17 August 1928, "Dispatch-
Outgoing-Code Underlined Words."
13. Headquarters, Northern Area, Western: Nicaragua,
U.S. Marines, Ocotal, Nicaragua, 23 Mayu 1928,
Memorandum for all Officers and Men of the Marine
Corps and Guardia Nacional in the Northern Area
from Col R.H. Dunlap, USMC, Commanding Officer,
RG 127, Entry 220, File 811.0(2), 11th Regiment
Correspondence. Therein, Col Dunlap reminds
Marines that rural inhabitants are the victims of bandit
depredations and so, "they hide out. act suspicious
and become hunted creatures by both bandits and
Marines." The Memorandum asks that Marines make
sure that the houses they destroy belong to bandits.
Two years later the commander of the Guardia
Nacional, Col Julian C. Smith, would forbid all house
burning and prohibit the Guardia from exercising arbi-

trary authority under martial law, although such was
technically permitted in northern areas of the country
at the time. See Headquarters Central Area, Guardia
Nacional de Nicaragua, Jinotega, Nicaragua, 26 May
1931, Area Order from Col Julian C. Smith, Guardia
Nacional de Nicaragua, Commanding Central Area, RG
127, Entry 202, File 32.0.
14. Telegram from the CO, GN Northern Area to Jefe
Director GN Managua; All GN Northern Area, 9 June
1930. See also Telegram, Dept Comdr Matagalpa to
D.C. McDougal, both located in RG 127, Entry 220,
File 815: Commander of the Special Service Squadron.
15. For examples of the harder-edged approach that
the Marines took toward pro-Sandinista peasants in
Nueva Segovia, see Guardia Nacional, San Juan, 22
February 1931, Patrol Report [by 1st Lieutenant J.H.
Satterfield, G.N.] which describes how a "bandit" was
wounded and left where he fell, "Jaw broken, right
arm broken also shot thru (sic) back" after attempts at
interrogation. House burning is described in
Headquarters, District of Palacaguina, Guardia
Nacional, 9 March 1931, Patrol Report from J. Ogden
Brauer, District Commander, which describes burning
of houses. For an example of prisoner "shot while
attempting to escape," see Guardia Nacional de
Nicaragua, San Juan de Telpaneca, Nic., 13 March
1932. Patrol Report from 2dLt Donald G. Truesdale,
Guardia Nacional. All of the above references are RG
127, Entry 202. The first two are from File: 52.0 and the
last from File: 54.0. Further such information can be
found in the same Entry (202) in File: 57.0 and among
loose materials near File: 55 in the front of Box 13.
16. Headquarters, Eastern Area, Nicaragua, Marine
Barracks, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, 1 June 1928,
Letter from Major Utley to the Commanding General.
Utley's estimate of the situation attached, p.1 of
17. On Indians returning to their homes, see
Headquarters, Eastern Area, Nicaragua, Marine
Barracks, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, Intelligence
Reports for 1 April 1928 and 3 June 1928, RG 127,
Entry 204, Folder: 20.
18. Letter from the Commander Eastern Area to the
Commanding General, Second Brigade, 26 March
1929, PC 127, Box IV, Utley Papers, Marine Corps
Historical Center, Building 58, Washington Navy Yard,
Washington, D.C.
19. "Estimate of the Situation in Nicaragua," Sec. Nay.
General Corresp, 1925, "EF-49" Box 2009, Folder: EF
49/P9-2-(291112 to 30033).
20. Letter from H.D. Linscott, Department Commander,
to The Area Commander, Area of the East, Guardia
Nacional, Bluefields, Department of Northern blue-

fields, Guardia Nacional. Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, 6
September 1929, RG 127, Entry 202, File 92.0.
21. Letter from Major Harold H. Utley, Headquarters,
Eastern Area, Nicaragua, Marine Barracks, Puerto
tabezas, Nicaragua, 18 February 1928, to H. Sanford
London, Esquire, His British Majesty's Charge
D'Affaires, Managua, Nicaragua, Folder: Utley's
Personal 3 Jan '28 to Jul '31, Box, 3, Utley Papers,
Marine Corps Historical Center, Building 58,
Washington Navy Yard.
22. Letter from the Miskito Indians of Bilwi to the
Honorable Colonel Wynn, Commander, Guardia
Nacional, Eastern Area, Bluefields, Nicaragua, 15 May
1931, File E. Bilwi, Entry 206, RG 127, National
23. Letter from H.N. Sent to The Department
Commander, Department of Northern Bluefields,
Guardia Nacional De Nicaragua, 20 February 1931, RG
127, Entry 43-A, File: 2d Brig B-3 Repts & Mess 1
Jan-24 Mar 31.
24. Months later, Marine Inspectors would report how
previously secured areas remained in chaos as a result
of the Sandinistas' resurgence. In describing the situa-
tion around Waspuc, one Marine author (unidentified)
commented on how, as a result of Sandinista raids,
"Several hundred Indians who previously lived in that
region [the area around Waspuc, a town far behind the
areas originally secured by Edson] have come into the
town below Kisalaya, over crowding them (sic) and
making living conditions almost impossible."
Inspection Report (apparently a rough draft), Guardia
Nacional de Nicaragua, 9th Company, Puerto Cabezas,
31 August 1932, located on back of last page of said
25. See "Estimate of the Situation in Nicaragua," Sec.
Nav. General Corrsp., 1925, "EF-49" Box 2009, Folder:
EF 49/P9-2-(291112 to 30033); Letter from H.D.
Linscott, Department Commander, to The Area
Commander, Area of the East. Guardia Nacional,
Bluefields, Department of Northern Bluefields,
Guardia Nacional, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, 6
September 1929, RG 127, Entry 202, File 92.0.
26. See Patrol Report from 2dLt E.J. Suprenant, G.N. to
The Area Commander, Eastern Area, Bluefields, Nic.,
District of Kisalaya, Department of Northern
Bluefields, Kisalaya, Nicaragua, 2 February 1932, NA,
RG 127, Entry 202, File 58.0.
27. See Patrol Report by E.J. Suprenant, District
Commander, to The Area Commander, Eastern Area,
Bluefields, District of Kisalaya, Department of
Northern Bluefields, Kisalaya, Nicaragua, 29 February
1932, RG 127, Entry 202, File: 54.0. Therein, Suprenant
describes the enthusiastic participation of aggrieved

Miskitos in a Marine-led, Guardia Nacional patrol
directed against Sandinistas who bad recently raided
several villages in the Kisalaya area. Suprenant conclu-
sion relates his own frustration at not having enough
men to "clean up" the area above Kisalaya and his
inability to explain this deficiency to "the land owners
[Miskito Indians, for land along the Rio Coco is plenti-
ful] that (sic) have property above Kisalaya. ." On a
similar sacking of Sacklin, a town with pro-Sandinista
connections, for example, see patrol Report from
Department Commander O.A. Inman to Area
Commander, Area of the East, Guardia Nacional,
Bluefields, Nicaragua, Department of Northern
Bluefields, Guardia Nacional d Nicaragua, Puerto
Cabezas, Nicaragua, 29 April 1931, RD 127, Entry 202,
File: 57.0. In other areas, particularly along the
Prinzapolka River, at least some Miskito sought more
of a Marine presence to maintain order and protect
them from elements they saw as lawless. For an exam-

pie, see Letter from Stephen Boudien (?), Head of
Community Mosquitos (sic) Tungla to Commander in
Chief of the USMC, Tungla (Nicaragua), 7 January
1929, RG 127, Entry 204. Folder 26.2. Numerous other
reports document consistent Miskito cooperation with
the Marines in terms of providing a rich flow of infor-
mation about Sandinista or "bandit" movements. This
contrasts with the often unreliable information Marines
received in Nueva Segovia, Sandino's major area of

About the Author
David C. Brooks is currently chair of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the
Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State. A career diplo-
mat since 1994, he has served in Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Poland.
He was a Fulbright Scholar in Nicaragua in 1990. Brooks's University of
Connecticut dissertation was "Revolution from Without: Culture and
Politics along Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast in the Time of the Sandino
Revolt, 1926-34" (1999),

-r V

I n,,4

Lessons from


Operations Short of

War: Nicaragua and

the Small Wars


by Richard J Macak Jr.

Marine Corps Gazette, November 1996

Those who forget the past As the
Defense Department struggles to keep
pace with a changing world, this author
suggests it may be time to look back at one
of our previous experiences with low-
intensity conflicts.
A s the U.S. Armed Forces develop and
refine their doctrine for the use of military
sources in low-intensity conflicts and
military operations other than war, they should
carefully assess the "small wars"1 experiences of
Marine forces through the first three decades of
this century. These earlier campaigns are impor-
tant, not only for their doctrinal contributions,
but also because of their resemblance to conflict
wherein military force is combined with
diplomatic pressure in the internal or exter-
nal affairs of another state whose govern-
ment is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfac-
tory for the preservation of life and of such
interests as are determined by the foreign
policy of our Nation.2
Probably the most significant small war expe-
rience in Marine Corps history was the lengthy
conflict in Nicaragua. Fortunately, we still have
extensive published and unpublished firsthand
accounts of that campaign. More fortunately, we

have a complete manual of doctrinal statement
and application-the Small Wars Manual-
derived from that experience. Although the man-
ual has remained unchanged since its second
publication in 1940, it will nonetheless prove
invaluable to U.S. planners. Let's look at the sit-
uation of the time, the Marine involvement, and
the resulting publications.
During its 20-year military involvement in
Nicaragua, which ended on 1 January 1933, the
Marine Corps achieved State Department foreign
policy objectives by stabilizing a country with a
long history of political unrest and civil war. To
do so, the Marines engaged in diverse and
important missions promoting the internal stabil-
ity of the Nicaraguan Government. For instance,
they established neutral zones to protect Ameri-
can lives and property; they physically separated
and disarmed warring political parties, thus end-
ing the 1926-27 civil war; they successfully pro-
tected the election process ensuring free and
impartial presidential elections in 1928 and 1932;
and they organized and trained a nonpartisan
national guard, known as the Guardia Nacional
de Nicaragua, into an effective fighting force.3
Just before withdrawal, the Marines completed a
six-year counterinsurgency campaign against
Augusto C. Sandino that was important for its
intellectual contribution to counterinsurgency
The involvement's contributions to counterin-
surgency doctrine are the result of the cumula-
tive efforts of many Marine officers who served
in the lengthy campaign. Through their thought-
ful articles in the Marine Corps Gazette and
Naval Institute Proceedings, they provided a siz-
able reservoir of personal experience in coun-
terinsurgency operations. As an institution, the
Marine Corps focused these experiences at its
Schools Command in Quantico, Va. Other Marine
authors expanded the knowledge on counterin-
surgency warfare by publishing the Small Wars
Manual detailing the lessons learned from con-
flicts such as the Nicaraguan campaign.4
Before examining the military involvement in
detail, let's review the historical highlights of U.S.
regional interests and Nicaraguan political align-
ments. By the 1920s, U.S. economic, political,
and military interests had grown considerably in

Central America, particularly in Nicaragua. For
example, the American business community,
searching for overseas markets, expanded into
the region. Companies, such as the highly suc-
cessful United Fruit Company, established
branches throughout Central America, and these
became lucrative investments for U.S. business-
Also, the U.S. Government naturally consid-
ered the area vital to its national security, partic-
ularly because of the Panama Canal and its reten-
tion of construction rights to a future canal
through Nicaragua. Likewise, the United States
was concerned that Mexico, as a result of its
recent revolution, would begin spreading its
form of bolshevism or communism southward
into the Central American countries.5
In Nicaragua, Americans through their invest-
ments and influences controlled the key ele-
ments of the economy. Internally, Nicaragua was
politically divided between two powerful fac-
tions. The Conservative and Liberal Parties ruled
through separate family alliances that constantly
feuded over power. Always suspicious of each
other's motives, they turned political unrest into
a way of life in Nicaragua. The party occupying
the Presidential Palace could expect unlawful
attempts by the opposition to gain power. Thus,
the United States faced a paradox in Nicaragua.
On the one hand, U.S. national interests in the
area required a stable political environment to
survive, one conducive to growth and prosperi-
ty; on the other hand, the Nicaraguan Govern-
ment was powerless to provide such an environ-
With that historical and political context, let's
turn to the campaign itself. In late 1922, the
United States approached the problem from a
diplomatic standpoint. From 4 December 1922
through 7 February 1923, the United States spon-
sored a conference in Washington on Central
American affairs in which it proposed ways to
stabilize the area. Representatives from all five
Central American countries attended. The confer-
ence concluded with the General Treaty of Peace
and Amity signed by all parties establishing sev-
eral agreements.
First,' no country would recognize a govern-
ment that came to power through a coup d'etat

or revolution. Second, internal disputes would
be submitted to an international board of arbitra-
tion. Third, no country would interfere in the
internal affairs of another.7 Finally, standing
armies would be replaced by nonpartisan con-
stabulary forces. Thus, the 1923 treaty provided
a means to preserve law and order. It also grant-
ed a degree of legitimacy to constabularies
already established, especially the ones constitut-
ed in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1916
and 1917, respectively, during actions by U.S.
naval forces.8
The first opportunity to apply the General
Treaty of Peace and Amity occurred in October
1925, when a Conservative Party coup in
Managua deposed the Liberal president and vice
president. Invoking the treaty, the United States
refused to recognize the new Conservative gov-
ernment, instead proposing a diplomatic solution
that promised U.S. recognition to the party win-
ning the 1928 presidential election. But this
diplomatic initiative fell apart when Mexico,
throughout the autumn of 1926, covertly sup-
ported the Liberal cause by encouraging the
ousted vice president to return to Nicaragua and
claim power. A hotly contested civil war
By now, the State Department realized that
more aggressive policies were necessary to end
the civil war.10 As a result, beginning in
December 1926, the State Department expanded
the Marines' role and presence in Nicaragua.
Thus, their involvement entered a new stage
characterized by escalating intensity and diversi-
Since the State Department's initial concerns
were with protecting American lives and proper-
ty, the department directed the U.S. Navy to put
landing parties ashore to safeguard these inter-
ests. Accordingly, on 23 December 1926 the USS
Denver and USS Cleveland landed Marines and
sailors at Puerto Cabezas on the east coast.11 This
naval contingent promptly established a neutral
zone in a district containing American fruit, lum-
ber, and mining companies. Generally, a neutral
zone was an area in which combat would endan-
ger American lives and property. The Marines
established these zones where contending par-
ties were incapable of guaranteeing the safety of

life and property and when conflict 'appeared
imminent. Thereafter, neutral zones became a
standard practice for the Marines, recognized by
both Liberal and Conservative factions.12
Similarly, after initially landing in Corinto on
the west coast, Marines and sailors from the USS
Galveston arrived in Managua on 6 January 1927
and established themselves as the Legation
Guard.13 This force symbolized the U.S. commit-
ment to stabilize Nicaragua. In fact, the Legation
Guard was the vanguard for several other land-
ing parties and the 1st and 3d Battalions of the
5th Marine Regiment. By 9 March 1927, when
Brigadier General Logan M. Feland arrived in
Managua with his 2d Marine Brigade staff to take
command of all naval forces ashore in western
Nicaragua, the Marines totaled 2,000 men and
possessed six aircraft from Observation
Squadron-1 (VO-1M) for aerial reconnaissance
of the opposing armies.14
By mid-March 1927, the Marines had placed
themselves in key positions to protect American
lives and property and to guard critical commu-
nications lines between major cities. On 1
February 1927, one Marine battalion garrisoned
in Managua and took over its defense. The Corps
opened railroad lines between the major cities of
Corinto, Managua, and Granada by 13 February
1927, and on 12 March 1927 occupied Matagalpa
to keep lines of communications open with
Managua. Also, all large ports on both coasts and
the major cities in the interior contained Marine
detachments and neutral zones.15
With the Marines in position, State Depart-
ment officials thought the time was appropriate
to initiate a diplomatic solution to the civil war.
On 31 March 1927, President Calvin Coolidge
appointed a former Secretary of War, Colonel
Henry Stimson, as his personal representative to
explore possible solutions to the political situa-
tion in Nicaragua. Meeting with both Nicaraguan
parties on 4 May 1927 under a large blackthorn
tree along the banks of the Tipitapa River,
Colonel Stimson negotiated an end to the fight-
ing. Realizing the unlikelihood of a military vic-
tory and obtaining assurances from the State
Department that U.S. forces would remain in
Nicaragua as a stabilizing force, each side agreed
to a truce, disarmament, supervised elections,

and the establishment of a nonpartisan constab-
More importantly, while the negotiators final-
ized the details of the Treaty of Tipitapa, Marine
detachments occupied positions between the
Conservative and Liberal armies along the
Tipitapa River. The Marines thus prevented any
incidents from spoiling the diplomatic efforts
underway. On 13 May 1927, however, Sandino, a
general in the Liberal army, refused to abide by
the treaty's terms and abruptly left the area with
a small band of followers. On three separate
occasions in the next few days, Marine patrols
were fired upon.17 Despite these encounters
with Sandino's rebels, the Marines maintained
the peace between the contending parties.
According to Colonel Stimson's scenario, the
next step for the Marines entailed disarming the
warring factions. Over 800 Marines comprising
elements of the 5th and 11th Marine Regiments
arrived in Corinto on 19, 21, and 22 May 1927 to
assist with this task.18 With the 5th Marine
Regiment now manning the neutral zone along
the river, the factions were disarmed-the Liberal
forces turned in over 3,700 rifles and machine-
guns, the Conservatives over 11,000, and both
sides left over 5.5 million rounds of ammuni-
tion.19 Thus, the premature departure of
Sandino's relatively small band became only a
blemish on the disarmament process. Overall,
the Marines had thus far successfully fulfilled
State Department policy objectives.
With the civil war concluded and disarmament
complete, the State Department focused on its
pledge to supervise the forthcoming 1928 presi-
dential election. Also looking ahead, the Marines
realized that if they had any hope at all of effec-
tively supervising this election they had to do
two things. First, they had to transform the
emerging Guardia Nacional into an effective
force against the rising bandit threat. Second,
they had to conduct an aggressive counterinsur-
gency campaign of their own to keep the bandits
off balance until the election.
In accordance with the 1923 Treaty of General
Peace and Amity and the Tipitapa Treaty, the
United States and Nicaragua had agreed to estab-
lish a nonpartisan national constabulary. On 22
December 1927, both countries signed the

"Agreement Between the United States and
Nicaragua Establishing the Guardia Nacional de
Nicaragua." Marine officers and senior enlisted
men were appointed by the President under an
act of Congress to serve with the Guardia.
Eventually these Marines would be replaced by
Nicaraguans. Marine Colonel Elias R. Beadle was
appointed as the chief of the guard. The Guardia
now filled the void left by the disarmed political
factions. And with the Marines as the Guardia's
impartial leadership, both countries regarded this
new force as the most effective guarantee of fair
and free elections.20
Led by their Marine officers, Guardia detach-
ments began a campaign against the rebels that
totaled 510 engagements before the Marines
withdrew.21 Employing aggressive patrolling
techniques, the Guardia forces constantly pur-
sued Sandino, keeping his forces away from
populated areas.
One of the most famous Guardia units during
the Nicaraguan involvement was Company M
(for Mobile), commanded by Captain Lewis B.
Puller. A combat veteran with experience in
counterinsurgency operations, Captain Puller
became a continual thorn in Sandino's side.
Recognizing the need for mobility and speed,
Puller organized his patrols into two units rather
than one larger unit in order to reduce the logis-
tical load and number of pack mules per
patrol.22 In addition, by keeping one patrol at
the base, he could respond quickly either to
relieve the other patrol or to investigate other
incidents in his area. Because of the stamina of
the local mestizos he recruited into the Guardia,
Puller could average 18 to 20 miles daily-
stretching it some days to as many as 40 miles-
to overtake rebel bands. He chose to travel on
foot because horses not only drew fire but
slowed progress since so little jungle forage was
available for a fast-moving force. Mules, howev-
er, could feed on the foliage of felled trees after
the company encamped.23 The bandits used
horses, thus had to rest them every third day,
giving Puller an opportunity to close on them. In
one instance, Puller chased a mounted rebel
band of horse thieves for about a week before he
overtook them near Malcate in the interior. For
months after the capture, civilians came to

Puller's headquarters in Jinotega to claim previ-
ously stolen animals and saddles.24
As a result of these successes, the State
Department and Marine Corps recognized the
value of and need for Guardia units such as
Company M. Plans were made to organize eight
additional companies. However, severe budget
cuts forced by the worldwide depression pre-
vented implementing this good idea.25 Nonethe-
less, the Guardia had shown it was an effective
force in the field. One reason was that the
Nicaraguan guardsmen were intensely proud and
excellent fighters. The guardsmen transferred
their Conservative and Liberal Party loyalties to
their Guardia units. Once trained, they exhibited
a devotion to their Marine officers unequaled in
previous Marine Corps constabulary experience.
Deeds of bravery by guardsmen protecting the
Marine officers were not uncommon, and many
earned the coveted wound chevron. In short,
Guardia efficiency was directly attributable to the
excellent rapport between Marine officers and
Nicaraguan enlisted men.26
In addition to the Guardia, the 2d Marine
Brigade conducted a similar counterinsurgency
campaign, actively patrolling into the northern
areas where the bandits crossed into Nicaragua.
But while the Brigade's methods closely fol-
lowed those of the Guardia, a whole new factor
made possible by the Brigade's organic aircraft
assets distinguished this campaign from any pre-
vious ones.27
Never before had combat and logistical air
support been combined to augment a ground
campaign. By mid-1928, Marine aircraft had con-
ducted "84 attacks on bandit forces" and carried
"more than 1,500 people (including casualties
and sick) and 900,000 pounds. Accident rate
zero."28 Aviation also provided "aerial mapping,
photography, meteorology, daily message and
mail drops, and packages through the coun-
try."29 Airpower continually came to the aid of
Marine and Guardia ground forces. For instance,
on 16 July 1927 in the town of Ocotal, a seem-
ingly overwhelming bandit force of approximate-
ly 500 men threatened to overrun the detach-
ment of 39 Marines and 47 Guardia. "In the first
organized dive-bombing attack in history-long
before the Nazi Luftwaffe was popularly credited

with the innovation,"30 a five-plane detachment
from Managua routed the bandits with machine-
gun fire and bombs. The Marines and Guardia
sustained only one killed and one wounded,
respectively, while Sandino suffered his worst
defeat of the rebellion, losing 300 of the estimat-
ed 400-500 bandits in the attack. From this dis-
aster at Ocotal, rebel forces gained a healthy
respect for Marine aircraft, often moving at night
and avoiding open areas during the day.31
Another important aspect of the Brigade's
campaign was the civic action program created
to reduce bandit influence on the population.
Both a road-building project and a local volun-
teer defense group whose members were called
"civicos" constituted this innovative program.
On 24 May 1929, the American Minister in
Nicaragua initially proposed to the State
Department the idea of the construction project
with a "two-fold purpose: military necessity and
employment."32 Building through the rugged
bandit territory would let government forces
respond more rapidly to all parts of the area. In
addition, the construction would offer steady
jobs to the inhabitants, thereby eliminating the
manpower source for the bandits. And the roads
would economically boost the country because
they would serve to move products to the mar-
ketplace more efficiently. But, although the proj-
ect began in August 1929, the same funding
shortage that had prevented forming more
mobile companies halted construction a little
over a year later.33 Conceptually, however, this
project offered a real solution to the bandit prob-
lem. Had it continued, Sandino would have been
faced with a shrinking manpower base and thus
may have come to terms with the Nicaraguan
The other half of the program, the forming of
the civicos, was a reaction to the financial reali-
ties of the day. With fewer funds available in
1930, the Nicaraguan government was forced to
reduce the size of the Guardia. To supplement,
the Marines proposed urban defense groups to
work closely with the local Guardia commander.
The civicos were citizens organized and trained
as an emergency auxiliary.34 The forming of the
civicos indicates just how well the Marines
understood counterinsurgency warfare.

With the counterinsurgency campaigns well
underway, the State Department turned its atten-
tion to the upcoming 4 November 1928 presiden-
tial election. To supervise voter registration and
balloting, Marines were detailed to each of the
precincts throughout the country. The American
Minister reported to the Secretary of State in an
11 October 1928 telegram that 35,000 more peo-
ple registered to vote than in 1924 and that this
was due to the Marines and Guardia. The
Minister telegraphed:
[They were able to] protect citizens from
intimidation. Detachments were stationed
in key positions in towns and on patrol
duty on roads leading to booths throughout
registration period Sep23-Oct7 No
cases of intimidation, other disturbances
[were] reported at any of 352 precincts in
Republic [and] conduct of 352 Marine
enlisted men who served as chairmen at
precincts [was] highly commended by
both political parties.35
The Minister was equally enthusiastic on elec-
tion day when he telegraphed in short bullet
Complete order, heavy early vote through-
out Nicaragua polls opened 7 this
morning with crowds of 100 to 300 waiting
precincts in Managua and elsewhere. Final
air reconnaissance overflew every precinct
yesterday and reported large crowds mov-
ing over trails to precincts with as many as
200 to 300 arriving late afternoon to vote
early today Heavy vote indicated
Jinotega, Esteli, Segovia is considered proof
banditry has been practically ended by
Marine pacification program which has
given peaceable citizens complete confi-
dence in measure taken by Marines to pre-
vent intimidation of voters.36
The leading party newspapers appropriately
summarized the Marines' efforts. The Conser-
vative paper La Prensa's headlines read: "The
American supervision has honorably observed its
promise. The election Sunday was honest, tran-
quil, correct and honorable." The El Comericio,
the leading Liberal paper, wrote: "The United

States is vindicated before the world."37 Before
their withdrawal in 1933, the Marines would also
supervise the 1930 local elections and another
presidential election in 1932. Sandino would
remain at large, but he would not prevent the
Marines from bringing stability and democratic
processes to the country.

Lessons Learned

Back home, the involvement served as a cata-
lyst for intellectual development within the
Corps. Primarily, it motivated many Marine offi-
cers to regularly submit their combat experiences
for publication in the Gazette and Proceedings.
These articles offered valuable insights into the
realities of "small wars." In a May 1931 article in
the Gazette entitled "An Introduction to the
Tactics and Techniques of Small Wars," Major
Harold H. Utley noted that although the Marine
Corps maintained many historical examples of
small wars, "few real studies seem to have been
made of.them."38 It would not be long, howev-
er, before the Marine Corps would be seriously
analyzing all the evidence accumulated through-
out the occupation.
By the mid-1920s, the Division of Operations
and Training was frequently augmenting the
pages of the Gazette with firsthand accounts of
significant engagements, but the articles were
merely compiled battlefield accounts rather than
analysis and lessons learned. They dealt with
subjects such as "Protection of American
Interests" or "Combat Operations in Nicaragua."
For instance, one article, presenting the after-
action report of the Marine detachment's com-
manding officer at Ocotal, outlined Sandino's
attack on the Marine and Guardia garrison there
on 16 July 1927. The report also contained
Sandino's attack order and a detailed map of the
town. Even without discussion, by its detail and
completeness the report gave the reader an
insight into the tactics used by both sides.39
Even while articles continued regularly in the
Gazette on subjects such as "Aircraft in Bush
Warfare," "The Supply Service in Western
Nicaragua," and "The Guardia Nacional de
Nicaragua," the Marine Corps began evaluating
its formal school curriculum at Quantico.40 In the

Gazette's August 1934 issue, Major Charles J.
Miller highlighted the need to analyze the wealth
of material collected thus far. He indicated that
this work would seem to devolve upon the
schools to digest and place the material in
presentable form for the guidance and
instruction of all the officers of the Corps.41
He concluded by noting that "the subject as a
whole has only received a cursory examination"
and much more needed to be done to
furnish the students with a clear and com-
plete picture of all the tasks, obligations,
and responsibilities that may devolve on a
Marine Corps expeditionary force when
intervening as an occupation force.42
Quantico had increased its small wars instruc-
tion from nine hours in 1924-25 to 19 hours by
1932. Possibly in response to Major Miller's call
to establish a systematic education in small wars
techniques, the 1934-35 academic year featured
94 hours of instruction.43
Beyond this educational improvement, the
Marine Corps continued its efforts to produce a
manual distilling the Caribbean experience into
established principles. Based upon the efforts of
Major Utley, a Nicaraguan veteran, and other
small wars instructors at Quantico, the Marine
Corps produced the first edition of the Small
Wars Manual in 1935 and the final revision in
1940. They drew their material from published
articles, small wars lesson plans, and Colonel C.
E. Callwell's 1906 book entitled Small Wars-
Their Principles and Practice, which contained
guerrilla warfare experiences from such places as
Indochina, Cuba, Rhodesia, the Punjab frontier,
the Sudan, the Philippines, and sub-Sahara
Not surprisingly, the manual's blueprint for
future counterinsurgency operations closely cor-
responded to past events in Nicaragua. In 428
pages, the authors provided

instruction for feeding and supplying
troops, gathering intelligence, running a
military government, patrolling in jungles,
attacking houses, bombing and strafing vil-
lages, conducting river operations, and a

variety of other specific activities.45
The manual addressed other facets of coun-
terinsurgency warfare as well, such as the under-
lying causes of revolution, how to handle the
host country's population, and rules of engage-
Furthermore, the manual divided the process
of military intervention into five phases. First, the
Marines should begin a gradual buildup of forces
ashore. Second, they should commence combat
operations using neutral zones or patrolling tech-
niques. Third, they should develop a nonpartisan
constabulary force to assist the civic affairs proj-
ects and internal defense. The constabulary
should take on an active role in counterguerrilla
patrols. As the bandits are subdued, the Marines
should withdraw to garrison, the large cities.
Fourth, the Marines should begin preparations
for the supervision of free elections. Fifth, once
elections are complete, the constabulary should
take control as the Marines withdraw.46 From
this review of the manual's process of interven-
tion, one can see how much of an impact the
Nicaraguan campaign had on counterinsurgency
doctrine. In short, the manual was a comprehen-
sive and successful attempt to deduce the lessons
learned from this vast amount of counterinsur-
gency experience.
Unfortunately, after 1940 the Marine Corps'
firsthand experience with and schooled knowl-
edge of small wars declined significantly, due in
part to the large-scale amphibious nature of
World War II in the Pacific and the preoccupation
with nuclear warfare in the 1950s. In fact, by as
early as the 1946-47 academic year, the Marines
deleted all small wars instruction from the cur-
riculum at Quantico, although counterinsurgency
classes were reintroduced two years later. In
April 1950, Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Heinl,
Jr., bemoaned the loss of small-unit operations
expertise in a Gazette article entitled "Small
Wars-Vanishing Art?"47 In another instance, a
Marine officer preparing a 1960 study on coun-
terinsurgency operations was not even familiar
with the Small Wars Manual's existence.48
Despite this decline in small wars emphasis,
the Corps still retained a strong tie to its coun-
terinsurgency heritage. This link to its institution-

al past was apparent in the Marines' approach to
combat operations in Vietnam. According to Sir
Robert Thompson, the noted British expert on
counterinsurgency warfare:

Of all the United States forces the Marine
Corps alone made a serious attempt to
achieve permanent and lasting results in
their tactical area of responsibility by seek-
ing to protect the rural populations.49

By 1965, the Marines opted to use combined
action platoons (CAPs) that operated within
established hamlets (neutral zones) to protect the
inhabitants from Viet Cong intimidation. A
notional CAP consisted of 14 Marines, one Navy
corpsman, and 34 paramilitary Popular Forces
(PFs, i.e., constabularies). By rigorous day and
night patrolling, the CAPs sought to destroy the
insurgent infrastructure, protect the local popu-
lace, organize intelligence nets, and train the
constabulary. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps
Combined Action Program was not a high prior-
ity effort with Army leadership, which empha-
sized search-and-destroy operations. Ultimately,
this lack of priority combined with personnel
shortages restricted the use of CAPs despite their
promising accomplishments.50
A more complete analysis of the concepts
employed by the Army and Marine Corps in
Vietnam lies beyond the scope of this study.
However, the important point remains that
although the Small Wars Manual is now almost
50 years old, it holds much to discover, thanks to
its notable depth and range. And at a time of
increasing likelihood of U.S. military involvement
in operations much like the aging campaign in
Nicaragua, the manual takes on even greater


1. Small Wars Manual, United States Marine Corps,
1940 (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC),
1. The Manual recognized the wide variety of military
operations the term "small wars" implied by indicating
that "small wars vary in degrees from simple demon-
stration operations to military intervention in the
fullest sense, short of war."
2. Ibid.
3. Allan R. Millett, Semper Fidelis: The History of the

United States Marine Corps (New York: MacMillan,
1980), 243-261.
4. Ibid., 263; Major H.H. Utley, "An Introduction to the
Tactics and Techniques of Small Wars," Marine Corps
Gazette, May 1931, 50-53.
5. Millett, 236; Lieutenant Colonel Clyde H. Metcalf, A
History of the United States Marine Corps (New York:
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1939), 408; Neil Macaulay, The
Sandino Affair (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967),
6. Captain Evans F. Carlson, "The Guardia Nacional De
Nicaragua," Marine Corps Gazette, August 1937, 7;
Millett, 239.
7. Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign
Relations of the United States, 1927 (Washington,
1942), 288-289 (hereinafter cited as Foreign
8. Marvin Goldwert, The Constabulary in the
Dominican Republic and Nicaragua (Gainesville:
University of Florida Press, 1962), 24.
9. Lester Langley, The Banana Wars (Lexington:
University Press of Kentucky, 1982), 184-188.
10. Millett, 242-243.
11. Ibid., 243; "Summary of Operations in Nicaragua,
December 23, 1926-February 5, 1928," Appendix, U.S.
Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings:
"Use of United States Navy in Nicaragua." February
11-18, 1928, 70th Congress, 1st Session (Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1928), 2 (hereinafter cited
as "Use of United States Navy in Nicaragua").
12. Metcalf, 418. For an in-depth discussion on neutral
zones, see Small Wars Manual, Chap. 5, Sec. 1, 1-4.
13. Use of United States Navy in Nicaragua, 2.
14. Ibid., 3.
15. Ibid., 3; A. Millett, 244.
16. Henry Stimson, American Foreign Policy in
Nicaragua (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927),
42-84; Foreign Relations, 351-353; United States
Congress, Senate, Senate Document No. 288, 71st
Cong. 30 Sess., Serial 9347, United States Marines in
17. Use of United States Navy in Nicaragua, p. 3.
18. Ibid., 4.
19. Metcalf, 422-23.
20. Agreement for the Establishment of the National
Guard of Nicaragua, 22 December 1927, in Foreign
Relations, 1927, III, 434-439; Dana Munro, "The
Establishment of Peace in Nicaragua," Foreign Affairs,
11 (July 1933), 698.
21. Carlson, 7.
22. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., Soldiers of the Sea: The U.S.
Marine Corps, 1775-1962 (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval
Institute, 1962), 284.

23. Burke Davis, Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1962), 81.
24. Ibid., 62.
25. Richard Millett, Guardians of the Dynasty
(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1977), 93.
26. Langley, 193-216; Neil Macaulay, 161-185; Col H.S.
Reisinger, "La Palabra del Gringo, Leadership of the
Nicaraguan National Guard," Naval Institute
Proceedings, 61, 2 (February 1935), 216-220.
27. Heinl, 289.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid., 290.
30. Captain Kenneth A. Jennings, USAF, "Sandino
Against the Marines," Air University Review,
July-August 1986, 37, 86-88; Macaulay, 81.
31. Use of United States Navy in Nicaragua, 4;
Jennings, 89.
32. Foreign Relations, 1929, 3:567-570.
33. R. Millett, 91.
34. Ibid.
35. Foreign Relations, 1928, 3,507-509.
36. Ibid., 513-514.
37. Ibid., 515.
38. Utley, 50-53.
39. Division of Operations and Training, "Protection of
American Interests," Marine Corps Gazette, 12 (Sept.
1927), 175-183; and "Combat Operations in
Nicaragua," Marine Corps Gazette, 14 (Mar 1929),
40. Major Ross E. Rowell, "Aircraft in Bush Warfare,"
Marine Corps Gazette, 14 (Sept. 1929), 180-203; Major

Roger W. Peard, "Bull Cart Transportation in the
Tropics," Marine Corps Gazette, 15 (February 1931),
29-49; Carlson, 7-20.
41. Major Charles J. Miller, "Marine Corps School 1934
1935," Marine Corps Gazette, 19 (August 1934), 58.
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid., 59.
44. Ronald Schaffer, "The 1940 Small Wars Manual and
the Lessons of History," Military Affairs, Vol 36, 1972,
46; Col C.E. Callwell, Small Wars-Their Principles and
Practice (3d ed., London, 1906).
45. Ibid., 47.
46. Small Wars Manual, 5-9.
47. Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Heinl, "Small
Wars-Vanishing Art?" Marine Corps Gazette, 34, April
1950, 23-25.
48. Schaffer, 49-50.
49. Major Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., USA, The Army
and Vietnam (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins
University Press, 1986), p. 172.
50. Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, USMC (Ret),
First to Fight (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1984),
179-195; Krepinevich, 172-177.

About the Author
Richard J. Macak Jr. was, at the time this article was published in 1996,
Lieutenant Colonel, USMC, serving as executive officer of the 12th
Marines. He wrote the article while attending the Army's Command and
General Staff College, for whom he had written The CORDS I..;. ,'-., ,.
Program: An Operational Level Campaign Plan in Low Intensity
Conflict (1989).

i*e*<^ 1^ ^ *",' *"'v ^ .s**p& *'-. ^

I %

-L *-. :'- 2^^i$2: *b-1..*: -i

ni! ..or---.. A
S -CAzr: -, --4

^s^ -a -f~f


V ^ or to

; I' I :.4 1 '

i .l.' ,. ,4" .1-
S- .,- 4 it ^ ^ '.
i\ s ^ .'I>A 'i'

The American

Occupation of Haiti:

Problems and



by Robert Debs Heinl Jr and Nancy
Gordon Heinl

Marine Corps Gazette, December 1978
By 1920, Haiti had been pacified. The
Marines had stamped out banditry (known
as Cacoism) in the north and the Artibonite
Valley and had put down a major revolt, the Caco
Rebellion, originating in the same regions with
closet support from elite politicians in the nation-
al capital and abroad in exile. Now with the U.S.
occupation of Haiti established, important ques-
tions as to its direction, destiny, and ultimate suc-
cess remained to be answered.
A central paradox was that the specter of the
"Maitre blanc" (the white master), whom Haitians
had so spectacularly slaughtered in 1803, never
seriously frightened the peasant noirs (blacks) but
scared and angered the educated, mostly lighter-
colored (mulatre) elite.
As early as 1917, the French minister in Port-au-
Prince, reporting to Paris on "la question de race
qui prime ici toutes les autres" (the racial question
which, here, takes precedence over all others),
said that the elite oligarchy that had so long
exploited the country now feared possible re-
establishment of a white society. Such fears were
understandable in light of racial conditions then
prevailing in the United States.
In supporting the Caco Rebellion of 1918-1920,
the elite, characteristically at odds among them-
selves, had been playing with fire. President
Dartiguenave's enemies hoped to upset him, but
at the same time had everything to lose from the
defeat and expulsion of the Americans and a
return to the bad old days and ways of Caco-dom-
inated politics.

Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
mso-application progid Word.Document
w:wordDocument xmlns:w http:schemas.microsoft.comofficeword2003wordml xmlns:v urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml xmlns:wx http:schemas.microsoft.comofficeword2003auxHint xmlns:o urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office xmlns:w10 urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word xmlns:aml http:schemas.microsoft.comaml2001core xml:space preserve w:docPr w:footnotePr w:footnote w:type separator w:p w:r w:separator continuation-separator w:continuationSeparator w:body wx:sect w:pPr w:rPr w:lang w:val 0409 w:fareast w:t Insurgency: Modern Warfare Evolves into a Fourth Generationby Thomas X. HammesStrategic Forum, January 2005Fourth-generation warfare, which is now playing out in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a modern form of insurgency. Its practitionw:softHyphen ers seek to convince enemy political leaders that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit. The fundamental precept is that superior political will, when properly employed, can defeat greater economic and military power. Because it is organized to ensure political rather than military success, this type of warfare is difficult to defeat.Strategically, fourth-generation warfare remains focused on changing the minds of decisionmakers. Politically, it involves transnational, national, and subnational organizations and networks. Operationally, it uses different messages for different audiences, all of which focus on breaking an opponent's political will. Tactically, it utilizes materials present in the society under attackto include industrial chemicals, liquefied natural gas, or fertilizers.Although these modern insurgencies are the only type of war that the United States has lost (Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia), they can be overcomewitness Malaya (1950s), Oman (1970s), and El Salvador (1980s). Winning, however, requires coherent, patient action that encompasses the full range of political, economic, social, and military activities. The United States cannot force its opponents to fight the short, high-technology wars it easily dominates. Instead, the nation must learn to fight fourth-generation wars anew.On 1 May 2003, President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq. While most Americans rejoiced at this announcement, students of history understood that it simply meant the easy part was over. In the following months, peace did not break out, and the troops did not come home. In fact, Iraqi insurgents have struck back hard. Instead of peace, each day Americans read about the death of another soldier, the detonation of deadly car bombs, the assassination of civilians, and Iraqi unrest.Barely three months later, in August, a series of bombs hit a police academy graduation ceremony, the Jordanian Embassy, and United Nations (UN) headquarters in Baghdad. The Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim (leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) was killed, and an attempt was made to kill the Baghdad chief of police. These attacks marked the opening of the anti-coalition campaign that continued through the turnover of authority to the Interim Iraqi Government. As of this writing, the violence continues as Iraqi authorities struggle to provide security for their people and work to rebuild their country. Unfortunately, Iraq has become the scene of another fourth-generation war.At the same time things were degenerating in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan was moving into fourth-generation conflict. While al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not attacking U.S. troops directly, they were moving aggressively to defeat the U.S.-supported Hamid Kharzai government. Decisively defeated in the conventional campaign by a combination of U.S. firepower and Northern Alliance troops, the anti-coalition forces have returned to the style of warfare that succeeded1w:sectPr continuous w:pgSz w:w 12240 w:h 15840 w:pgMar w:left 1440 w:top w:right w:bottom w:titlePg off