Tactics is the science and art of organizing and employing military forces. It includes the proper direction of combat troops and the most effective use oftheir weapons to achieve the assigned military objective. It is distinct from strategy, which is the science and art of selecting military objectives that are within the capability of one's military forces and which will most effectively accomplish the purposes of a campaign or a war.

The tactics employed by a particular military force will usually reflect the doctrine under which the military force has been trained.

United States. The United States Army tried to develop a simple tactical doctrine built around a single maneuver, the hook, that could be quickly taught to inexperienced officers and applied at any echelon of the Army. These tactics took advantage of the triangular structure of American formations, in which each combat unit was composed of three smaller units plus supporting elements. Thus, a division had three infantry regiments, an infantry regiment had three infantry battalions, and so on down to squad level. To carry out a hook, two of the three subunits making up an attacking unit would pin down the enemy while the third subunit attempted to maneuver around his flank. Mobility and use of firepower were heavily emphasized.

The U.S. Marine Corps disagreed with the Army over tactics. The Army advocated a deliberate approach to attack, which was time-consuming but was thought to minimize casualties and better protect lines of communications. The Marines preferred shock tactics, with a strong emphasis on maintaining the momentum of the attack, leaving enemy strongpoints to be bypassed and reduced later. It was acknowledged that the Marine approach meant a higher casualty rate, but it was thought it would hasten victory and thus reduce the total casualty count. The Marine approach seemed to make sense for the kinds of short, sharp island campaigns envisioned by Marine planners, but it failed at Peleliu. Rupertus' prediction of a tough but quick battle proved completely wrong, and his insistence that his Marines keep pressing forward to maintain momentum wrecked the better part of his division. Rupertus' chief of staff, Oliver Smith, and the commander of 5 Marine Regiment, Bucky Harris, seemed to understand this, and Harris adopted a more methodical approach to reducing the Umerbrogal Ridge. He brought in tankdozers, flamethrower LVTs, and tanks and artillery to fire directly into cave mouths to pave the way for the infantry, and, in three days' fighting, his regiment took strategic high ground that the other regiments had failed to take in three weeks. Even with these successes, Harris had to resist continued pressure from Rupertus to hurry up his advance.

Japan. The Japanese Army's 1929 field manual emphasized spiritual power and the use of the bayonet. Artillery was to be kept light and mobile to keep pace with fast-moving infantry. Encirclement and night attacks were favored and retreat was unthinkable. A reluctance to surrender probably accounted for Japan's failure to ratify the 1929 Geneva Convention on prisoners of war. Commanders were to indoctrinate their troops with a "belief in certain victory," a phrase first appearing in the 1929 manual that was echoed repeatedly during the war, even when victory was clearly unattainable. By the late 1930s, fighting to the death (which had not particularly been a feature of earlier Japanese conflicts) had become part of the Army's ethos, and was formally institutionalized in 1941. Allied intelligence had concluded by 1944 that the Japanese emphasis on attack was so great that the Japanese tended to be negligent securing their flanks and rear. Ironically, this was the  criticism leveled by the U.S. Army against the U.S. Marine Corps.

However, Japanese tactical doctrine underwent a significant shift in August 1944 with the release of a new tactical manual, "Essentials of Island Defenses", which emphasized mobile defense anchored at strong points and local counterattacks. This new doctrine, which was first used on Iwo Jima, was described as shūgettsu ("bleeding strategy"). It acknowledged no hope of repelling the invaders and sought instead to inflict such casualties on the Americans that they would hesitate to invade the home islands. Dispersal and concealment were emphasized, and defense on the beach deemphasized in the face of massive American firepower. However, shūgettsu went against a generation of Japanese training that emphasized offensive operations, and even the Emperor questioned why the airfields on Okinawa had been given up so easily.


Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (accessed 2011-6-15)

Dupuy et al. (1986)

"Handbook on Japanese Military Forces" (1944-9-15)

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