- Amphibious Assault: Manoeuvre from the Sea. From Gallipoli to the Gulf - A Definitive Analysis
The impressive Amphibious Assault: Manoeuvre from Sea edited by Tristan Lovering started life as an in-service publication, issued to all Royal Marine officers. Given Britain's armed forces' current commitment to expeditionary operations, [End Page 590] the book was given a wider distribution across the other junior services. Indeed the library of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst contains a large number of copies, where it has proved a useful teaching and research aid. Therefore, it is to be applauded that the decision was made to make this book available to a wider audience. It has been slightly redesigned and what was a very well presented book is now even more attractive. The standard of illustration and maps is extremely high. Also a few of the obvious gaps in the original, such as the lack of coverage of the US landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, have been filled and a new foreword by Corelli Barnett added.
Although there are a number of works that survey amphibious operations, none are of the scope and scale of Amphibious Assault. Thirty-five case studies of amphibious operations and two institutional surveys are provided from Gallipoli in 1915 to the Royal Marines' operation against the Al Faw peninsula in Iraq in 2003. Clearly the concentration is on the Second World War, but many of the most enlightening chapters deal with the post-war period, examining operations such as Suez and the Falklands. The authors represent an impressive range of academics and serving and retired service personnel from the United States and Great Britain. A number, such as Julian Thompson, Thomas Hayden and John Forfar, were actually involved in the operations they describe. The articles are scholarly in tone, usually well referenced and provide suggested further reading. As such they are an excellent starting place for any general study of this type of operation or a more detailed examination of a specific action.
What makes this book particularly interesting is the intellectual framework provided for the case studies by placing them within the context of the 'Manoeuvrist Approach' and current US and British doctrine. The ability to project force from the sea lends itself to such manoeuvrist precepts as surprise and out-flanking movements and this is illustrated by many successful examples, such as Inchon and San Carlos Water. However, there are enough failures and near failures examined to warn against considering manoeuvre as a panacea for all warfare's difficulties, as the foreword and a number of suitably sceptical studies note. Many of the most famous and important amphibious operations were intricately, even rigidly, planned and executed and supported by vast amounts of attritional firepower. Amongst the lessons, many of them chastening, that this excellent collection provides is the necessity of preserving both institutional memory and specialised amphibious capability. Armed Forces, particularly those of the British, seem to learn, forget and relearn old lessons time and time again. Perhaps, this book will help ensure that such short-sightedness does not occur again.
Sandhurst, United Kingdom