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Forging the Steel Fist

This work expands the existing historiography on training and preparation of U.S. Army soldiers and various types of units for mechanized combined arms operations during World War II. It examines, within the greater context of the war, the establishment of the Army’s Desert Training Center (DTC) to train soldiers to fight desert warfare in North Africa, and its subsequent transformation into the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA) – the largest training area of its kind in United States Army History. Unlike the few existing works on the topic, this work is not a general history, rather it is focused on the training regimens and maneuvers conducted at DTC and CAMA. This includes how the costly lessons learned by “green” American troops in North Africa were incorporated into U.S. Army training at DTC. It also examines the relationship between training at DTC/CAMA and the combat performance of various Army units that passed through the area. Included are details on the operation of the training area as a theater of operations, the only training area designated and operated as such on U.S. soil during the war. It highlights the valuable experience acquired by non-combat support and Army aviation units at the training area that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to acquire under any other circumstances other than those in an actual combat theater. Ultimately, the examination of available sources confirms that the training and maneuvers conducted at DTC/CAMA by U.S. Army mechanized infantry and armored divisions were essential to their successful breakout and advance across Western Europe during World War II.

Year of the Rooster: First 72 Hours

China has been at war with the United States and the West for the last two decades. So far, the battlespace has been restricted and attacks staged in more ambiguous forms – espionage, influence buying, intellectual theft, and the infiltration of governments and institutions. In the not-too-distant future, if and when the ruling Communist Party feels it is in its best interest to do so, China could escalate the conflict into an actual shooting war. After all, the world’s current superpower was born of conflict; the United States emerged from World War II economically unscathed while Europe and Asia were ravaged by war.

Could China pursue global dominance via conflict? If one looks to human history for an answer to this question the answer is yes – so far, all great empires were born of conflict. All great empires and nations have historically had to fight to maintain their place of dominance. What then would a conflict of this sort look like? How would it begin? Again, history provides the answers to these questions; the record is rife with instances of surprise attack. In the wars of antiquity, we have Hannibal who crossed the Alps in 217 BC during the Second Punic War and ambushed the Romans at Lake Trasimene, killing 25,000 legionnaires, or the 9 AD Teutoburg Forest incident where Germanic tribesmen ambushed and wiped out an entire Roman army. Modern history is replete with examples of successful surprise attacks – the Battle of France (1940), Operation Barbarossa (1941), or the Inchon landing (1950) come to mind. Most relevant to the current situation in the Pacific, however, would be the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was a calculated strategic move intended to destroy the U.S. Pacific fleet and allow Japan the time to seize and fortify territory in the Asia-Pacific region without American interference. Unfortunately for the Japanese, the attack was unsuccessful from a strategic standpoint; the American aircraft carriers survived to fight the critical battles of the Coral Sea and Midway which halted the Japanese onslaught. But what if Japan had occupied the Hawaiian Islands in December 1941 and seized all U.S. naval assets there? What if Japan had landed troops on the west coast of the United States? How would this have affected the outcome of the war? Certainly, these scenarios were within the realm of possibility at the time that those events unfolded.

If the People’s Republic of China were to initiate conflict with the United States, military planners would certainly study the Japanese strategy and avoid making the same mistakes. They would exploit all potential U.S. weaknesses in homeland defense – not the least of which is the fact that the U.S. does not currently have the capability to stop a cruise missile attack against targets on U.S. soil. We have also co-located many strategic assets at giant bases under the assumption that the U.S. homeland is secure from possible near-peer threats. We also presume that our powerful nuclear force is sufficient deterrent to prevent an attack on our nation, however what if an enemy were able to successfully land its troops on our soil and the battle was fought here? How then would the U.S. respond? Likely, we would rule out the use of nuclear weapons under this scenario. In writing this series, I put myself in the place of Chinese war planners tasked with striking a deathblow to the United States and try to answer these questions. This is the story as I imagined, told in chronological order, as it unfolds from the various perspectives of those who would be directly affected by such an event. Is it far-fetched? Of course – it is fiction. However, if history has taught us anything, it is to never dismiss the unthinkable.