Abstract

This article attempts to provide a historically accurate description of attrition as an operational strategy. The Korean and Vietnam Wars contain prominent and commonly recognized examples of attrition. These examples clash with the popular image of attrition as a futile and bloody slogging match in which a commander ruthlessly trades the lives of his men in order to weaken the enemy at a relatively favorable rate. In these conflicts, attrition was a basic process of warfare, characterized by a variety of methods. Although not necessarily optimal, it was a useful alternative to other operational strategies that were too costly or risky. Accordingly, the popular image of attrition—shared by many historians, political scientists, and military officers—may not reflect the actual history of attrition.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7795
Print ISSN
0899-3718
Pages
pp. 911-942
Launched on MUSE
2004-07-09
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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