Memorial Day

Today I drove through the gate at the nearby Marine Corps base. The young Lance Corporal who was faithfully executing his General Orders at the gate checked my ID card, saluted smartly, and wished me a “happy holiday weekend.” I’m not sure I can have that, frankly, for the similar reason that a devout Christian may think it strange to be wished a “Happy Easter.” It just doesn’t make sense when you examine what those holidays are about.

To me Memorial Day is intensely personal. I’ve had varying levels of a relationship with 15 Marines and Sailors who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Most of these men lost their lives in combat, but some lost their lives training for combat, too. Their deaths are still tragic–they were undertaking essentially the same tasks, doing dangerous work, and for the same ultimate goal.

Their names are:


Most of these guys are aviators. One was a UH-1 crew chief that I flew in combat with on dozens of occasions. I overflew over the wreckage which contained the remains of two of the pilots back in July, 2010. One of the 15 was a tank officer. Two were infantry officers. One was a special operations officer. One was a C2 officer. One of them was my “On-Wing” going through flight school (which means that he was the pilot who taught me how to fly).

15 irreplaceable lives.

I think about these men every day, but especially so on Memorial Day.

I hate this holiday–every second of it. I hope you hate it too. Happy Memorial Day–my ass.

Semper Fi, gents. Til Valhalla.

Don’t you belong on a beach?

In comment thread of another post, Grurray asked:

“I know the Marines are the best fighting force in the world, but haven’t you had enough of building nations in the middle of the desert? You’re called Marines for a reason. Shouldn’t the future should be closer to the shore?” (sic)

I’ll take the sentiment kindly. Marines usually do fine when compared to other forces. I hesitate to call ourselves the “best” or “finest.” But the Marines are probably as good as any force out there.

As for meat of the question: Marines are amphibious fighters, right? What are you doing in a landlocked country?

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Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Clausewitz on Combined Arms

Chapter Four of Book V of On War is titled “Relationship between the Branches of the Service.” This chapter, however, doesn’t really seek to explain the relationship between the branches (infantry, artillery, and cavalry). Instead, it seeks to explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three branches. The specific relationships between the branches are left for us to intuit.

Clausewitz explains the strengths right off:

“The engagement consists of two essentially different components: the destructive power of firearms, and hand-to-hand, or individual, combat. The latter in turn can be used for either attack or defense (words here employed in an absolute sense, for we are speaking in the broadest of terms). Artillery is effective only through the destructive power of fire; cavalry only by way of individual combat; infantry by both these means.

In hand-to-hand fighting, the essence of defense is to stand fast, as it were, rooted to the ground; whereas movement is the essence of attack. Cavalry is totally incapable of the former, but preeminent in the latter, so is suited only to attack. Infantry is best at standing fast, but does not lack some capacity to move.” (p.285)

Clausewitz then enumerates his thoughts on the combat arms:

“1. Infantry is the most independent of the arms.
2. Artillery has no independence.
3. When one or more arms are combined, infantry is the most important of them.
4. Cavalry is the most easily dispensable arm.
5. A combination of all three confers the greatest strength.” (p.286)

And so Clausewitz starts beating around the Combined Arms bush.

But what is Combined Arms?

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