Report from West Point, part 3; Mao Tse-Tung, Korea, and the Cold War

Well, I’m at the point now where I’m saying “to heck with being neat and orderly about these posts, it’s a blog after all, and when did a bit of randomness hurt anybody (except rocket scientists, that is)?”  So, here’s an overview of today’s classes, as well as the PRC’s official war-fighting principles, from Mao’s dispatches of December 25, 1947 (well prior to the Huai-Hai campaign.  They’re interesting to the point that I’ve reproduced them completely, since, while hardly anything new, I figure folks will be curious (and one of my friends is sure to comment!)…

Today we heard from our own Major Bradley, discussing the early phases of the Cold War, and various techniques for teaching it.  We also got a good list of studies to consult–useful to those who, like me, know very little of the ins and outs of this period, aside from one paper I did a while ago on British defense policy.  One highly-recommended book was The Global Cold War, as well as Schwartz’s Atomic Audit, and Shell’s The Seventh Decade.  One of the main tasks Major Bradley has students do is a multi-group project in which they define and apply the terms “containment,” “deterrence,” and “collective security,” and then come together to link the three concepts into what hopefully becomes a schematic of actual Cold War strategy.

Dr. Gary Bjorge, from the USA Cmd and Gen Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, then gave a talk on the Huai-Hai Campaign of the Chinese Civil War, and since I know virtually nothing about that either, I was very interested.  A large number of the veterans from this decisive campaign wound up fighting in Korea some months later, where the PLA found that its approach to war didn’t work so well without a massive and willing civilian population to integrate into the war effort.  And there was the fact that they were facing Army and Marine units whose fighting style, recon abilities, hardiness, and firepower could quickly adjust to cope with PLA tactics.  So, it’s an interesting campaign to study.

Finally, Dr. Barton Bernstein, from Stanford, gave us a fascinating overview of the Korean War, and the political-strategic ins and outs of American policy-making.  Again, an area on which I know very little, and I’m interested in the extent to which Dean Acheson dominated Truman’s thinking, as well as the surprising lack of critical thinking he seems to have brought to his position, especially given his amazing background.  I’ll write up the notes to this lecture in a separate entry at a later date, but it made me see Korea in a different light.

Anyway, here’s Mao’s commentary on how Communist Chinese forces had managed to gain such success against Chiang Kai-shek.  From The Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-Tung, “The Present Situation and Our Tasks”, December 25, 1947, pp. 349-50:

Our principles of operation are:

1.  Attack dispersed, isolated enemy forces first; attack concentrated, strong enemy forces later.

2.  Take small and medium cities and extensive rural areas first; take big cities later.

3. Make wiping out the enemy’s effective strength our main objective; do not make holding or seizing a city or place our main objective.  Holding or seizing a city or place is the outcome of wiping out the enemy’s effective strength, and often a city or place can be held or seized for good only after it has changed hands a number of times.

4.  In every battle, concentrate an absolutely superior force (two, three, four and sometimes even five or six times the enemy’s strength), encircle the enemy forces completely, strive to wipe them out thoroughly and don not let any escape from the net.  In special circumstances, use the method of dealing the enemy crushing blows, that is, concentrate all our strength to make a frontal attack and an attack on one or both of his flanks, with the aim of wiping out one part and routing another so that our army can swiftly move its troops to smash other enemy forces.  Strive to avoid battles of attrition in which we lose more than we gain or only break even.  In this way, although inferior as a whole (in terms of numbers), we shall be absolutely superior in every part and every specific campaign, and this ensures victory in the campaign.  As time goes on, we shall become superior as a whole and eventually wipe out all the enemy.

5.  Fight no battle unprepared, fight no battle you are not sure of winning;; make every effort to be well prepared for each battle, make every effort to ensure victory in the given set of conditions as between the enemy and ourselves.

6.  Give full play to our style of fighting–courage in battle, no fear of sacrifice, no fear of fatigue, and continuous fighting (that is, fighting successive battles in a short time without rest).

7.  Strive to wipe out the enemy when he is on the move.  At the same time, pay attention to the tactics of positional attack and capture enemy fortified points and cities.

8.  With regard to attacking cities, resolutely seize all enemy fortified points and cities which are weakly defended.  At opportune moments, seize all enemy fortified points and cities defended with moderate strength, provided circumstances permit.  As for strongly defended enemy fortified points and cities, wait till conditions are ripe and then take them.

9.  Replenish our strength with all the arms and most of the personnel captured from the enemy.  Our army’s main sources of manpower and materiel are at the front.

10.  Make good use of the intervals between campaigns to rest, train and consolidate our troops.  Periods of rest, training and consolidation should not in general be very long, and the enemy should so far as possible be permitted no breathing space.

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