Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War

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9780801866487: Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War
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Throughout history, from Kublai Khan's attempted invasions of Japan to Rommel's desert warfare, military operations have succeeded or failed on the ability of commanders to incorporate environmental conditions into their tactics. In Battling the Elements, geographer Harold A. Winters and former U.S. Army officers Gerald E. Galloway Jr., William J. Reynolds, and David W. Rhyne, examine the connections between major battles in world history and their geographic components, revealing what role factors such as weather, climate, terrain, soil, and vegetation have played in combat. Each chapter offers a detailed and engaging explanation of a specific environmental factor and then looks at several battles that highlight its effects on military operations. As this cogent analysis of geography and war makes clear, those who know more about the shape, nature, and variability of battleground conditions will always have a better understanding of the nature of combat and at least one significant advantage over a less knowledgeable enemy.

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"Those who do not know the conditions of mountains and forests, hazardous defiles, marshes and swamps, cannot conduct the march of an army."

So wrote Sun Tzu in his classic treatise The Art of War. This stimulating book takes Sun Tzu's advice and examines what many others on military history ignore: the effect the environment (physical terrain, weather, vegetation, etc.) has on battle. Each chapter focuses on a different environmental problem, and reveals the various ways in which it can influence a battle's outcome. A section on storms, for instance, shows how the elements randomize success: in the 12th century, a typhoon ruined Kublai Khan's attempted invasion of Japan, yet relatively calm seas helped assure the Allied victory on D-day hundreds of years later. Another chapter compares and contrasts the dense forests of the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil War with the intractable jungles of Vietnam. One lesson this book teaches is that bad weather usually favors defenders: the Germans used fog and precipitation to their advantage during the Battle of the Bulge, as did the Viet Cong during the siege of Khe Sanh. The authors draw a few predictable conclusions--planning, logistics, leadership, and tactics are all critical, they say--but on the whole they provide a fascinating look at how wind, clouds, waves, rain, snow, mud, sand, heat, hills, mountains, and islands (to name a few factors) affect war. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Harold A. Winters is a professor emeritus of geography at Michigan State University. Gerald E. Galloway Jr., who retired as a brigadier general after serving thirty-nine years in the U.S. army, is secretary for the U.S. Section of the International Joint Committee. William J. Reynolds, a retired colonel and Vietnam veteran, is northwest regional manager for Science Applications International Corporation. David W. Rhyne, a retired lieutenant colonel, teaches at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Hanover County, Virginia.

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9780801858505: Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War

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ISBN 10:  080185850X ISBN 13:  9780801858505
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998
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