Few aggressive organizations accept absolutely afflicted their roles and missions on a dime and survived the transition. The U.S. Marine Corps is one. The development of avant-garde amphibian commodity by the Marine Corps during the interwar years, commodity after adopted by the Navy and Army, is a well–told story. According to J.F.C. Fuller, this about-face was “in all anticipation … the best far extensive adapted innovation” of Apple War II.
There is a aberration to the arresting adventure of the way the Marine Corps afflicted its role: It was not a marine’s idea. It was a sailor’s. That sailor’s critiques of the Marine Corps eventually punctured the defenses of the abundantly alone service, helped to activation its modernization, and in so accomplishing helped to bottle its actual existence. His account helped transform the Marine Corps from a ship’s bouncer to the expeditionary force it is today. But because he was a sailor, it was years afore his account acquired acceptance.
The sailor’s name was William Freeland Fullam. He accelerating from the U.S. Argosy Academy in 1877 and went on to serve in the Spanish-American War and Apple War I. A key accessory of William Sims and the Navy General Board, he was additionally an innovator and an abrupt backer of argosy aviation, advocating for a beyond role for carriers and submarines alike if it meant a beneath role for battleships.
Fullam casting his aciculate eye for ameliorate and addition not alone aloft his own service, but its sister account as well. In an era aback abounding were debating the approaching role of the Marine Corps, what was altered about Fullam was that his cerebration casting agnosticism on the service’s actual existence. He railed adjoin the attendance of marines on ships as enforcers and disciplinarians over the sailors. His full-throated attacks on the Marine Corps and its role alike spawned the appellation “Fullamite,” which became autograph for enemies of the service.
But the affair is, he was right. And today, as the Marine Corps struggles with addition annular of questions apropos its purpose, the account could use addition thinker like Fullam to help cross these acclimatized shoals.
Fullam’s aboriginal battery adjoin the Marine Corps was appear by the U.S. Argosy Institute in Proceedings in 1890, aback he was a lieutenant. The article, “The Arrangement of Argosy Training and Conduct Required to Promote Efficiency and Allure Americans,” was mostly a alarm for a avant-garde arrangement of recruitment, retention, and conduct of sailors to ensure that the Navy could allure and absorb affection Americans for service. The blackmail of acrid conduct imposed by marines at sea, Fullam believed, was a damage to recruitment. At this time, the Marine Corps had few academic tasks and landings were not their sole specialty; sailors armed with baby accoutrements and ship’s cannons frequently formed the aggregate of any landing force. By arguing for removing marines from ships, Fullam was in aftereffect arguing for the abounding alteration of that albatross to the Navy. The commodity was not, however, a alarm to adjourn the Marine Corps. Rather, it proposed removing them from their duties on ship, replacing them with sailors, and acceptance the Marine Corps to apply on added missions. He stated, “The Marine Corps is bare for assignment at argosy yards and bank stations.” The commodity spurred a continued agitation about whether the attendance of marines aboard ships was adapted and alike spurred Administrator of the Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Heywood to accuse to the secretary of the Navy of a “conspiracy” in 1894.
Six years later, Lt. Fullam afresh addressed the role of the Marine Corps, this time in a Argosy Institute General Prize commodity claiming access that acceptable an atonement mention. In the essay, “The Organization, Training, and Conduct of the Navy Personnel as Viewed from the Ship,” he accepted abounding of his beforehand credibility but also, in a change of tone, presented the abatement of marines from ships as mutually benign to the Navy and the Marine Corps. Notably, he fabricated a advocacy that presaged the approaching role of the Marine Corps: Fullam believed the Marines were alluringly ill-fitted to be the nation’s rapid-reaction force. The Navy and the Marine Corps had acted in that accommodation in the past, but it would be years afore anyone but Fullam acclimatized the charge for a force advised for such missions.
In 1902, Fullam wrote a acknowledgment to an commodity by a Marine captain, Dion Williams, alleged “The Aegis of Our Argosy Stations.” By this time, marines like Williams had accomplished that the Marine Corps was ill-fitted for added important missions than at-sea discipline. Like Fullam, Williams presented a approaching eyes of a Marine Corps that defends across bases, the mission that would eventually advance to the accumulation of the Advanced Base Force and afresh the Fleet Marine Force. (Today, an adapted adaptation of this abstraction is alleged Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.) In his response, Fullam acclimatized Williams’ abstraction and alike proposed ships advised to backpack and bear marines to adopted shores or, as we alarm them today, amphibian advance ships.
These account were initially not able-bodied acclimatized by Marine Corps leaders, but they were correct. The Marine Corps’ old mission — shipboard aegis and boarding parties — was acceptable beneath accordant to both services. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt adapted the duties of the account through Executive Adjustment 969, which codification the dematerialization of Marine ship’s guards and the move adjoin the aegis of bank installations and the accouterment of expeditionary troops. This was the aboriginal official attack to transform the Marine Corps, although chief marines and their supporters succeeded in acceptable Congress to override the order.
Fullam’s crusade, however, did accept some Marine converts and it was those heretics who eventually put the institution’s change in motion. In 1913, the Navy’s General Board captivated hearings apropos the accumulation of Marine Corps units to avert across bases, hearings at which Fullam testified. The aboriginal training academy for such units was acclimatized in 1915. The afterward year, Congress acclimatized added allotment and manpower to accomplish the affairs a reality. In the words of historian Allan R. Millet, “What would accept been agnosticism aural the Marine Corps in 1900 had become by 1916 a new creed.” In 1920, Gen. John Lejeune became administrator of the Marine Corps and accelerated the reforms. Fullam’s aboriginal commodity was 30 years advanced of its time.
Military organizations are not advised to change their absolute mission and anatomy but, acknowledgment to the bright eyes of amphibian thinkers like Pete Ellis and the efforts of a alternation of commandants alpha with Lejeune, the Marine Corps did aloof that. It approved a new mission and begin that Fullam’s abstraction would work. By Apple War II, the Marine Corps was the best avant-garde argosy infantry force in the apple with absolutely chip aerodynamics units, accessories advised for amphibian assaults, and comprehensive, activated commodity that both the Marine Corps and the Army acclimated in both theaters of the war. The adventure of how it bent what its avant-garde mission should be, recreated itself to assassinate it, and afresh leapt advanced of all competitors in the amplitude of two decades is one of the clearest examples of addition in aggressive history.
Today, the Marine Corps finds itself in a agnate position to its bearings at the about-face of the aftermost aeon aback Fullam was writing. Reports of the afterlife of amphibian advance accept been abundantly exaggerated, a accepted accident in argosy history. But amphibian assaults are not the Marine Corps’ raison d’etre. Its amount mission is to activity action ability aground in abutment of the U.S. Navy, and to conduct argosy and collective campaigns, whatever anatomy that ability take. The avant-garde Marine Corps is accepting an added difficult time accomplishing that mission from the sea because of avant-garde littoral aegis capabilities.
Anti-access and breadth abnegation systems, principally consisting of a arrangement of anti-air and anti-ship defenses, are chip littoral aegis systems akin to chip air aegis systems. Littoral defenses accept continued been a actuality of argosy warfare, but the admeasurement of attention guided missiles has agee the advantage abroad from ships and adjoin these defenses. The botheration is affronted by the baby cardinal of amphibian advance ships in the Navy’s account and the age-old amphibian advance cartage that charge be launched aing to shore, assets that are all-important to affected any chip littoral aegis system.
Another botheration is experience. With the barring of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011, the Marine Corps hasn’t had abounding argosy campaigns to abutment lately. Instead, it has been operating on and from land, sometimes alike in landlocked theaters like Afghanistan. The action acquaintance acquired is valuable, and the Marine Corps has a continued attitude of angry alongside the U.S. Army. But this is not its primary purpose, nor should it be trained, organized, and able as a accessory army. Using the Marine Corps to accomplish Army missions for too continued can accept deleterious effects. The Marine Corps has become acclimatized to actuality the accurate force, rather than the acknowledging force. The autograph and cerebration of William Fullam admonish us that its primary role is the latter: The Marine Corps is fundamentally a argosy force.
To affected the avant-garde claiming of amphibian operations in a apple of chip littoral aegis systems, greater Navy-Marine Corps affiliation is needed. Given the adapted equipment, the Marines can action the Navy a almighty weapon adjoin shore-based threats. It may be that amphibian assaults of the approaching attending beneath like the massive beachcomber assaults of the 20th aeon and added like repeated, accompanying raids. At sea, Marine Corps arms is already gearing up to advice the Navy accomplish its “distributed lethality” goals. Of course, for the Marine Corps to accomplish any all-embracing operations, they’ll charge the abutment of the Navy, abnormally in agreement of argosy aerodynamics and ballistic missile defense.
Better affiliation amid the casework will additionally access the Marine Corps’ appliance for the Navy, if marines can booty on added missions at sea and beneath on land. Ironically, that may beggarly bringing marines aback on ships. Fullam was adapted that marines were not bare on ships and were bigger ill-fitted for a altered role. Today, already again, the Marine Corps needs to accomplish new roles. While the marines of the backward 19th aeon bare to be afar from the Navy, today, alive calm in added venues will accord to acquaintance and advance the cooperation all-important in a above conflict. The Navy and Marine Corps are sister casework and should alpha to act like it. Perhaps we charge a modern-day Fullam to accessible the altercation anew.
Rear Adm. Fullam died in 1926 and did not alive to see the all-inclusive changes his account had catalyzed. “Fullamites,” however, will acceptable never die. Sometimes, they are bearded or advocating for biased interests. Others, though, like Fullam himself, are allurement the adapted questions and accept the interests of the argosy casework at heart. Marines can be too quick to aish the Navy’s angle and absorption in amphibian operations that abutment argosy campaigns. That is a mistake. The Marine Corps is a argosy service, its admiral are argosy officers, and it has a albatross to the Navy.
The account should not be conceited about that responsibility. The institutional absorption in regaining its argosy character, anticipation by the Marine Corps Operating Concept, is acutely there. What is still bare is a abiding accomplishment on the allotment of both casework adjoin greater and added boundless integration. A modern-day “Fullamite” ability able-bodied acquisition a added affable admirers than Fullam himself did.
B.A. Friedman is a aggressive analyst and accessory editor at The Strategy Bridge. He is the columnist of On Tactics: A Theory of Victory in Battle and 21st Aeon Ellis: Operational Art and Strategic Prophecy.
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