Toward a History Based
Doctrine for Wargaming
6 Jan 2000
Send comments to Matthew.Caffrey@MAXWELL.AF.MIL
- A Congressman with a national reputation as a defense expert opposes the
President's plan for military action because of the casualty levels predicted
by war games.
- One weapons program is
canceled and another accelerated, both largely due to the results of war games.
air component commander convinces an area CinC to change the deployment plan of
a major regional plan due to problems anticipated through a war game.
Our expectations of the
future shape that future. Those who concern themselves with the future of
warfare develop their expectations in many ways, from the study of history to
the building of complex mathematical models, to the integration of both these
approaches using the medium of wargaming.
Without question war games shape those expectations, hence they help shape
the future. Ever more powerful computers
appear to promise ever better war games.
Yet is the Emperor really wearing clothes?
Or to use a more contemporary expression, isn't the validity of
"garbage in garbage out" independent of computing power?
Will war games lead or mislead us in the future?
As several historians
have observed, "I know of no guide to the future but the
For almost 200 years modern
war games have been providing life saving insights and fatal mirages.
If these different outcomes were random there
would little use in studying that history.
However, as the Caffrey Cycle illustrates, history provides the raw
material for anticipating cause and effect.
It is important to know the history of wargaming in order to gain a
foundation upon which to build an understanding of how to maximize wargaming's
benefits while minimizing its dangers.
This paper will conclude with a theory of wargaming that I believe is
consistent with that history.
There are other reasons you
should keep reading. First, just as the
declassification of Ultra deepened our understanding of World War II, so
learning about wargaming's impact on history will broaden your understanding of
modern military history. Second,
learning how others have used wargaming may give you some ideas on how
wargaming can increase your mission effectiveness.
Knowing how potential future adversaries wargamed in the past may
also give you insights into how they will fight in the future.
If you look closely you may even see some
indications of the value of wargaming to a democracy.
Finally, the history of wargaming is an interesting story in its
Before we get into the
history it is necessary to make sure we understand the language.
The term, "wargame" is simply a translation
of the German term, "kriegspiel." One
source of confusion is that many in the military are simply uncomfortable with
the term "wargame", feeling perhaps that war is too serious for "games".
As a result you will often see every term
but wargame used to describe wargames.
These include Map Maneuver, Chart Maneuver, Field Maneuver, Exercise, or
increasingly, "modeling and simulation."
"Modeling, Simulation and Wargaming," as if it were one
term. Each is not only distinct; they build on each
other. Models are simply
proportional representations of reality. A
painting is not a model but a blueprint is.
Models vary in abstraction, for example, a physical model of
an aircraft, a blueprint of that aircraft, or a mathematical equation
representing that aircraft's characteristics are all
models. Simulations are proportional representations of reality
over time. For example, a small wing that
is exactly the same shape of a full size wing is a model, put that wing in a
wind tunnel and measure the effect of various wind speeds and you have
a simulation. As for wargames, while
the earliest (first generation) wargames were multi-sided abstract
representations of combat, modern (second-generation) wargames require multiple sides
that compete within a simulation of an armed
An exercise may or may not
also be a wargame depending on whether or not it fits the above criteria.
Typically the deciding factor is the
presence or absence of a thinking opponent.
Hence a Red Flag exercise with its aggressor force is a wargame while a
mobility exercise is not.
In his entertaining and
insightful TV series and book, Connections, James Burke describes
human progress as a series of connections, needs, and clues coming together to
produce invention. He cites the plow as
the trigger for all later inventions in that it allowed people to settle, hence
have the time to invent. While I admire
Mr. Burke greatly I must point out the plow is many rungs up the technology
ladder. There is a far more basic
trigger, one that unfortunately leaves no direct archeological record
Without language each
generation could not pass on what it has learned to the next.
Each generation would literally have to keep
reinventing the wheel, if it ever got that far.
While the invention of language left no direct evidence, from
early archeological sites we have found indirect evidence toys.
Actually, proportionally correct small
versions of adult weapons and tools the first models.
Too small for actual hunting, these models
indicate that adults were speaking to, and teaching, their children.
By allowing the children to simulate adult
tasks survival skills were passed from one generation to the next.
For thousands of years the
only toys were these small versions of adult implements.
Then with the rise of civilizations we find
evidence of strategy games. Though
abstract they represent the first generation of wargames.
Interestingly, it appears these games were
developed independently - the points of origin of quite distinct games being
separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles.
This is not surprising as necessity is the
mother of invention and all of these civilizations were feeling a new
necessity. A clue to that necessity was
that these games were found only in the tombs and homes of the ruling
This is because the world
had become more complex, and specialized.
It was no longer sufficient for the son of a ruler to know how to shoot
a bow. It became necessary for him to
learn how to outthink the ruler of the adjacent state.
Though games like "Go" and "Chess" are
abstract depictions of war, they do teach "down-board" thinking.
That is anticipating the consequences of
your possible moves and your opponent's possible responses.
And, this is an essential skill in the
deadly game of war.
The story of "modern"
wargaming starts in Northwest Europe, an unlikely place as these Europeans were
one of the few advanced civilizations NOT to invent an abstract strategy game.
When around the turn of the last millennium,
India's strategy game Chess came to Europe by way of the Moslem world it was
used in the traditional way. The same
people, the sons of the ruling class, played chess for the same reasons sons of
rulers had played various strategy games for millennia.
1664 1800 On the Brink
As the Renaissance gave way to the age of enlightenment, fundamental change began to accelerate
- change that in time would affect and be effected
by wargaming. An entire book could be written
(and has) on the increasing trend toward
quantification. Maps and blueprints became
increasingly accurate. Frederick the Great of Prussia
made heavy use of these increasingly accurate maps in planning
his campaigns. This quest for accurate
quantification was reflected in increasingly realistic versions
of chess. Starting in 1664 several new
versions of chess were produced each depicting military forces and terrain more
accurately then the previous. In 1797 the
actual terrain along the Franco-Belgian frontier
was depicted. Yet with all their improvements these games belong more
to the first generation of abstract strategy war games then to
the future.Movement was still accomplished in the
traditional, "I move a piece, you move a piece," fashion and they were still
being used as war games had always been used, to train the sons of rulers.
More importantly, while they were games,
they were not simulations.
Britain came close to
inventing modern wargaming. In late
1781 a Mr. Clerk of Great Britain developed a method of using model ships to
simulate historical engagements. By
carefully placing his "ships" in their historical locations at the beginning of
an engagement, stepping through the battles, and analyzing the influence the
geometry of the combatants had on their combat power, Mr. Clark was able to
acquire many useful insights. Though
clearly a military simulation, Mr. Clark's work was not a multi-sided game.
Yet fundamental changes in
society would soon produce fundamental changes in the way war games were
designed and used. From the New World
came the voice of a longhaired revolutionary.
This propagandist, Benjamin Franklin, had the audacity to say that all
men should play chess, as it would help them learn how to look after their own
defense. In Europe too, Voltaire
encouraged the common people to play chess.
The nobility was scandalized. If
mere commoners played chess where could it lead?
though a bit of an
oversimplification this type of thinking helped lead to the French Revolution
and that revolution led to Napoleon.
Today we tend to think of Napoleon as a great military genius.
Indeed, Napoleon may have invented the first operational war simulation.
He would "walk through" his campaigns in advance,
using colored pins on maps to help him visualize where his units and those of
his enemies would be when.
Yet genius was not the full
explanation for Napoleon's success. He
inherited from the French Revolution a meritocracy.
Previously, only children of officers could be officers.
Now, fully half of Napoleon's marshals had
started their careers as common soldiers.
Also, the French people, a nation in arms, could field a far larger army
then a similar sized state. Genius,
meritocracy and numbers made a combination very hard to beat.
The history of warfare
contains records of many innovations large and small.
When innovation provides a decisive advantage (suddenly or
through an evolutionary series of small innovations) a Revolution in Military
Affairs occurs. One side comes up with
a significantly more effective way of fighting and the other side comes up with
a counter or ceases to exist. The
crowned heads of Europe needed to come up with a counter.
To also adopt democracy was not their first
choice it's good to be King. Yet
something had to be done. Nationalism
was their first recourse. "Forget that
Liberty stuff, we Germans must drive out the French."
Nationalism helped the crowned heads expand their armies.
Soon the kingdoms of Europe had fairly
close to the same proportion of their subjects under arms as France.
However numbers alone would not be enough to
defeat Napoleon. To help match Napoleon
in genius Prussia invented modern wargaming.
1811 1824 The Birth of Modern
There is broad consensus
that the second-generation war games were ushered in by a Prussian named
Reisswitz. However, there is much
disagreement whether credit should go to the father or the son.
In 1811 the Herr von
Reisswitz, the Prussian War Counselor at Breslau invented a war game that was a
quantum leap beyond the earlier war chess innovations.
Dispensing with the board, he constructed a
sand table that modeled actual terrain.
He represented units by blocks that were in the scale of the terrain,
representing regiments in column. He
also introduced limited intelligence.
Each side would give their orders to an umpire who was required to
update the terrain table, resolve combat and tell the two sides only what their
forces would actually be able to report.
To determine the outcome of combat the umpire was provided with tables
listing a number of outcomes based on range and other factors.
The roll of dice determined the exact
outcome, in order to depict the uncertainties of the battlefield!
Arguably, not since
Gutenberg had one man made so many interlocking breakthroughs at the same
time. Yet most historians do NOT credit
Herr von Reisswitz with initiating modern wargaming.
Why? Because for all its
innovation Prussia used Reisswitz's invention in the same old way educating
princes for war.
But times were
changing. Remember how the crowned
heads of Europe used nationalism to increase the size of their armies?
Even after the defeat of Napoleon, dynastic
rivalries encouraged, and the industrial revolution permitted, armies to
continue to grow. Prussia soon found it
had too many soldiers for only the sons of officers to command.
Faced with this officer shortage even
conservative Prussia began allowing the sons of mere bankers, industrialists
and government officials to become officers!
One of these new officers
was Lt von Reisswitz Jr.. He soon
realized that he and his fellow, "outsiders" simply did not know as much about
war as those who had literally had been taught it on their father's knee.
He believed his father's game could help.
Yet he also knew frugal Prussia would never agree to the expense of
building sand tables for each garrison.
The solution? In 1824 he adapted
his father's game so it could be played on topographic maps.
At a stroke he made wargaming cheaper, more
convenient (you cannot roll up a sand table) and more flexible.
After all you could select a map of the
Austrian border lands one week and a map of the French frontier the next.
Lt Reisswitz soon demonstrated
his innovation to the Prussian Chief of Staff, General Karl von Muffling.
After initial bored skepticism General
Muffling became increasingly excited.
Finally he exclaimed, "It's not a game at all, it's training for
war. I shall recommend it enthusiastically
to the whole army." Actually, he soon ordered the frequent use of war games
by all units.
This may have been the beginning of Lt
His rules were thick and cumbersome.
As a result war game-driven exercises were slow and tedious.
This, and resentment born of wargames being
scheduled during what had previously been free time, led to wargames being
intensely disliked by many officers. Lt
Reisswitz felt this resentment was focused on him, and in 1827 he took his own
1825 1871 Wargaming Comes of
Of course not all young
officers hated wargaming. In fact one
young captain thought so highly of them that he wanted to do more wargaming
then required. To do so in 1850 he founded
the Magdeburg (Wargaming) Club and became it's first president.
Even when he was attending the War College
in Berlin he made the time to found a wargaming club in that city.
In 1857 now General
Helmuth von Moltke became Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army.
He could and did order an increased use of
wargaming. General von Moltke then
discovered something that continued to frustrate Generals to this day - issuing
and order and having it carried out was not necessarily the same thing.
Wargaming was still intensely unpopular with
many officers. The kindest way to say
it is that his orders were not carried out in full.
However, Moltke understood what motivated his subordinates and he
soon devised an effective strategy to increase the use of wargaming.
To understand Moltke's strategy and why it
worked you need to know a little about how Prussia was evolving.
I stated above that the keys
to Napoleon's success were numbers, genius and a meritocracy.
Nationalism and industry had allowed Prussia
to largely overcome France's numerical advantage.
Moltke believed wargaming would help with genius, yet even with
wargaming the chances of producing a genius on a par with Napoleon's was
slight. So Prussian military reformers
devised the concept of collective genius, many well above average men in key
places producing the same battlefield effect as one genius.
Indeed to produce such men the Prussian War
College was founded. Yet producing them
was only half the battle. How do you ensure the brightest are where they are
needed most in a monarchy their senior commands go to royal princes regardless
of their competence?
The Prussian solution was to
establish a staff corps. Each "von"
chosen by birth would be assigned a chief of staff, chosen by ability.
The nominal commander of the army would
entrust to the "von" while his chief of staff would look after the technical
details like, - oh - strategy, operations, and logistics.
Under this system there were two "tracks" to
high rank. First, if your dad were the
King you would make general. Second, if
your dad was not the King or some other very high noble, your only hope of
attaining high rank was to go to the War College and then be selected for the
As relatively few officers
were royal princes there were many applications to the War College.
Moltke's strategy was simple, he required
that each application package include a letter, signed by the local commander,
evaluating the applicant's performance as the senior umpire for an
installation-wide war game. As there
could be only one senior umpire per war game, Moltke assured each installation
would accomplish a war game for each application they sent in.
When the successful
applicants became War College students Moltke saw to it that they did a great
deal more wargaming. Wargaming appears
to have always been part to the curriculum at the War College, but Moltke added
new, surprisingly modern, elements. His
innovations were grouped under the title - Staff Ride.
Periodically Moltke would
take the entire student body of the War College and as much of his General
Staff as he could spare and literally ride on horseback to one of the actual
invasion corridors into Prussia. Moltke
would then personally describe the situation he viewed the most likely first
clash between invading and Prussian forces.
He would then turn to the
most junior student present and ask for his plan of battle.
He would then ask the second most junior,
then the third until he would ask the opinion of the most senior General
If the most senior spoke first would any junior disagree?
Besides the younger officers might come up
with something innovative. They would
then ride to a hill overlooking where Moltke felt the next phase of the battle
would be fought and the process was repeated.
By the end of the day the
group would have arrived at a consensus battle plan.
Yet the exercise did not end there.
They then played a map-based war game.
The entire group would retire to a local inn.
Moltke would then name the senior ranking
general (aside from himself) to command the invading forces.
He then named the second ranking general to
command the Prussian forces. He continued
thus until the staffers and students were split into two equal teams.
He did this for two reasons.
First, Moltke believed that if their plan
could succeed against some of their smartest strategists it would probably also
succeed against any enemy strategist.
Second, with two equal size teams more officers could participate meaningfully.
The Blue (Prussian) team would use the plan
devised during the day. The team
representing the invaders would develop their own plan.
This was sophisticated
enough but Moltke was not done yet. The
next day he would contact the local garrison.
(This was an actual invasion corridor.) He would direct the garrison
commander to march a few hundred soldiers where the plan called for thousands
to march. This was done to test the
marching times and other details of the plan.
When all this was done the plan went on the shelf as the actual
plan for an invasion along that corridor.
Now let us think about all
this for a minute. Moltke started with
an "off site". He then brainstormed to
reach a consensus. Moltke then tested
the resulting plan against a world-class adversary, and finally tested the
results with a field exercise. With all
our technology are we really this conceptually sophisticated today?
1872 1913 Wargaming Becomes
Oddly enough Moltke and Prussia won a
series of wars, usually against opponents with larger forces that were
technologically equivalent. There was near universal agreement that
Prussia's victories were due to generalship. This advantage in
generalship was produced by her War College and her general staff system, and
behind the success of both stood wargaming.
Not surprisingly the rest of
the world started coping Prussia's (now Germany's) wargaming methods.
The side bar chronology lists specific dates
for specific countries. For the sake of
brevity, I'll generalize here. There does seem to be a correlation between the
year a country was defeated by Prussia and the year they adopted
wargaming. Typically an officer would
translate a German work on wargaming.
This officer was usually a military engineer or an artillerist, probably
because those disciplines could handle the math involved.
Then some years later wargaming would be
formally adopted by that country's military.
Even then there was typically resistance.
Russia is an interesting
case, in some ways unique and in some ways typical.
Russia was probably the first country outside of Germany to
experience modern wargaming when, as children, the future Tzar and the future
Kaiser fought against each other using one of Herr von Reisswitz sand table war
games. (There is no record of who
won.) Then in 1875 the Russian general
staff directed the use of wargaming throughout the army.
Despite this order in 1906 a commission
investigating why Russia was defeated by Japan concluded that the Japanese use
of wargames and the Russian failure to use them provided Japan with an
important advantage. (In fairness, the
commission also listed many other factors.)
As a result the Russian general staff again ordered the army to use war
1776 to 1912 Coming to America
Like so much about America,
our wargaming is partially home grown and partially acquired from overseas.
The first American to
produce a modern war game may have been Capt Totten, 4th US
Cavalry. He claims to have produced a
manuscript in 1880 for a wargame without knowing wargames had already been in
use in Prussia for half a century. By
the time his "Stratagos" was published in 1890 he had read several books on
German wargaming and had incorporated some of their techniques.
One individual who disputed
this claim was Major W. R. Livermore, of the Corps of Engineers.
Having published in 1883 he claimed, and is
usually given the title of, the father of American wargaming.
While Major Livermore freely admitted he
started by simply translating German rules he then went on the compare their
attrition tables to actual statistics from the Civil War and Prussia's own wars
in 1866 and 1870-1871. He found that
the German attrition tables usually predicted lower casualties then the
historical record indicated, and he adjusted his tables accordingly.
this foundation in historical fact, when Major Livermore sought official
acceptance of wargaming by the US Army he was blocked by the Army's then Chief
of Staff, General William T. Sherman.
Sherman knew war as few men did.He disapproved
Major Livermore's proposal to incorporate wargaming into army training stating,
"wargames depict men as if they were blocks of wood, they are not blocks of
wood but human beings who are seized by fear and sustained by leadership."
His basic objection was that Major
Livermore's game, like all up to that time, only depicted attrition, that is,
units always fought to the last man.
Sherman knew better.
Well, if Major Livermore could
not succeed with the Army perhaps he could with the Navy.
There he found a remarkable ally.
William McCarty Little is one of those
historical anomalies who have shaped the world far more than rank or title
would suggest. McCarty Little had been medically retired for dubious cause in
the middle of a promising naval career.
Instead of being bitter, he went on to help found the Naval War College
and to father naval wargaming in America.
For years he did so as a volunteer, receiving no pay beyond his retirement
Through one of those happy
coincidences of history McCarty Little's retirement home in Newport, Rhode
Island, where his old boss Capt Luce was trying to found the Naval War
College. Remarkably, Major Livermore
just happened to be stationed near by.
Little did a wide range of tasks needed to get the college started.
Among these tasks in 1887 he wrote and
delivered the first lecture on wargaming given to a professional audience in
the United States. While he drew on his
conversations with Major Livermore and the writings of Captain Sir John
Phillips Colomb, Royal Navy, many of the insights were his own.
McCarty Little struggled for
years to keep both the Naval War College and naval wargaming afloat. He
continually innovated. In 1887 he and
Major Livermore conducted the first joint Army-Navy war game-driven field
exercise. The Army high command
promptly forbade any future joint exercises.
In 1889 McCarty Little ran a wargame at the Naval War College.
Wargaming has been conducted at the Naval
War College each year since.
Little won his fight. As early as 1894
and 1896 war games influenced the Navy's
budget. In 1895 a war game played a decisive role in convincing Congress
to fund the Cape Cod Canal. In 1899
the Army set up a War College and McCarty Little did what he could to
ensure their curriculum included wargaming.
From 1899 to this day it has.Soon it became
the Army's turn to innovate; turning to transparent overlays instead of blocks,
so that a permanent record of each move was made.
Also, to standardize the input of moves to the umpire they
devised a format for an operations order, the father of the joint format still
While success was gradual,
we can use a remarkable 1912 article in Proceedings to declare victory.
In this visionary article McCarty Little
describes concepts that would be much in vogue almost 90 years later.
He argued wargaming had and should shape national
policy, that it was the cure for peacetime "stove pipe" mentality, and that it
could not only produce better plans but could condition its practitioners to
think, hence react, quicker then their enemy (Observation, Orientation,
Decision, Action Loop) hence gaining a important advantage.
The clarity, persuasiveness and confidence
of this remarkable article clearly indicated wargaming had come to America
and like earlier immigrants had truly become American.
1872 1905 German Wargaming,
innovation and decline
While wargaming was spreading
throughout the world it was not standing still in Germany.
Unfortunately, (for Germany) not all of
wargaming's movement was in a forward direction.
combat experience Prussia/Germany gained during their wars of unification had a
powerful influence on their wargaming.One of the first
things they learned was something that Sherman could have told them, that units
did not fight to the last man. In 1877
a Saxon Captain named Naumann published rules to cover what today we would call
break points, that is, they
implemented criteria for determining at what casualty level units would cease
function. (By the way, in the late
1980s this author was told it was impossible to depict break points in
contemporary Air Force war games.)
Second a number of German
officers advocated what came to be called Free Kriegspiel.
Through a series of books published between
1873 1876 (See time line) these officers successfully argued for a radically
different type of wargame. At its base
the concept was simple, wargames has always been unpopular due to the
cumbersome, time-consuming adjudication rules.
These officers argued that Germany's combat experienced officers could
substitute their military judgement for many of these rules.
They argued this would allow games to be
played more quickly, and allow longer periods of game time to be depicted.
Finally, they predicted free play would make
wargaming relatively more popular and hence used more often.
At first their innovations
seemed to be working well. At its best
the professional judgement of experienced combat veterans could produce more
accurate outcomes in less time than the old methods.
There were two problems though.
First, as time went on, Germany's veterans of 1871 gradually aged,
retired, and died. Their replacements
could not produce adjudication with the same accuracy.
The second difficulty was more damaging and,
to a degree, commutative with the first.
Today we would call it
command influence. When one of the
players outranked the umpire, that player tended to value his professional
judgement over that of the umpires. As
even a high-ranking player may not be completely objective this tended to
reduce the accuracy of the war game.
this problem more visible or more damaging then in the case of Kaiser
Wilhelm II. Thinking himself a great
military genius, Kaiser Wilhelm never missed a staff
ride. The rides still started on a hill overlooking a
possible invasion corridor. Just when Moltke
would have asked the most junior officer for his opinion the Kaiser
would immediately announce the "perfect" battle plan.
You can imagine the level of debate.
During the actual wargame, instead of splitting up the officers evenly as
Moltke would have done, everyone wanted to be on the
Kaiser's team. The results
were predictable.The Kaiser's side always won.
It was Germany's loss.
1890s 1913 The Birth of Second Generation Civilian
While many of the citizens
of the Western Democracies had played Chess since the time of Franklin and
Voltaire they had missed out on the second generation of simulation wargames
initiated by Reisswitz. During the
early and mid 1800s a number of war chess war games were published in the
United States but these had more in common with earlier versions of war chess
than with modern wargaming.
Perhaps not surprisingly the
"technology transfer" that led to the civilization of wargaming started with a
couple of reservists, one British one German.
Both illustrate the impact dedicated individuals can make.
Spenser Wilkinson began his
crusade while still attending college.
In 1873 while on summer vacation in Germany he glancing through a
pamphlet on the continental military balance and was shocked to learn Britain's
Army was among Europe's smallest.
Wilkinson immediately began reading books on military history and
theory; he joined the British equivalent of our ROTC and within a year
organized England's first wargaming club.
This was the beginning of a lifelong effort to increase Britain's
military preparedness that included a career in the reserves, positions in the
government and advocacy of wargaming within and outside of the military.
Presumably through Wilkinson's efforts in
1900 one member of Parliament listed wargaming as a hobby.
More on Wilkinson latter.
The German reservist's contribution to civilian wargaming was
more indirect. Before civilians would be interested in
complex simulation wargames they needed to be motivated to
study war. Hans Delbruck provided much of
that motivation.His family had advised Prussian Kings on
matters of war for generations. "It was
vital that the King understood war for it is on the outcomes of war that the
nation prospers or dies," he said. "Now
Germany is evolving toward a democracy, the people are becoming the sovereign,
and it is just as important that they understand war."
To help achieve that end he
became the foremost military historian of his time, he is considered by many to
be the father of modern military history.
Rather then the traditional, "great man" school of military history,
Delbruck used his training as a reserve officer on the German General Staff to
analyze past campaigns. In addition to
his books, that are still considered classics, he founded the first chair of
military history at a civilian university.
He also founded and edited the first defense affairs journal aimed at a
civilian audience. We will also see
The first direct
contribution to civilian wargaming came from England.
There a civilian had published detailed rules for naval
battles. To play the game, very
detailed profiles of the ships were needed indicating the thickness of the
armor and other details. Data on only
four ships were included with the original game, and customers were soon
clamoring for more. He then came out
with a game supplement with the needed profiles and data for all British
ships. Now his players had some
variety. Still, playing a war game
against other British ships was a little like kissing your sister and there was
soon demand for a supplement with data on foreign navies.
His next offering provided the needed data
for the entire German Navy.
What happened next indicates
that political correctness is not a new concept.
There was an uproar in the press the Germans are our friends,
how dare he imply our navies may someday fight?
Learning his lesson the next rules supplement Mr. Jane came out
with was called All the World's Warships.
(This way no one nation was singled out.)
So the entire Jane's group, that has contributed so much to the
reference sections of libraries around the world, and to the British balance of
payments, started with a wargame.
Finally, a ground combat
simulation war game was published for civilian use.
The author's avowed purpose in designing the wargame was to help
civilians to better understand how terrible war was.
He predicted that if the peoples of democracies truly understood
how terrible war was they would make sure their governments would never again
start one. While the author, H.G. Wells,
made many correct predictions in his long career, this one was, at best,
premature his book of rules called, Little Wars, was published in 1913.
While both works were fairly
popular, the number of civilians playing
simulation wargames would remain modest for many decades.
While the fairly complex rules deterred
some, the main problem was the cost of the metal soldiers or ships each game
required. Only the fairly small upper
middle class or wealthy class could afford full sets of such "miniatures"
around the turn of the century. Still,
this is not to say early civilian simulation war games did not have an impact
on history. One young British
aristocrat enjoyed wargaming with miniatures well into his adult years, his
name, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.
1905 1918 Wargaming and the Great War
Arguably the most decisive
war games of all time were played in 1905.
That was the only year Count von Schlieffen's plan for a wide turning
movement through neutral Belgium and Holland was war gamed while he was still
on active duty. This was during the
period that the Kaiser was attending the staff rides. For this test the entire
general staff and virtually the entire War College class were on the Kaiser's (German)
team while two 1st Lieutenants played the armies of France, Britain, Belgium
and Holland. No question on the
validity of this test was recorded.
After all it predicted the destruction of the France so quickly that the
British did not have time to come to France's aid.
The Kaiser was pleased.
In the same year at
Wilkinson's urging the British played a war game examining the consequences of
a new war between Germany and France.
While accounts differ slightly the British game also envisioned a German
turning movement through Belgium. Like
the German war game the British game also indicated the Germans would destroy
the French Army before a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) could get to the
continent. This is effectively the same
outcome as the German wargame played the same year.
However, Wilkinson and his fellows were not nearly so pleased as
the Germans with that outcome. This
wargame led to a host of actions, in no small part due to Wilkinson's ensuring
the results of the wargame came up on the floor of Parliament.
Repercussions ranged from reworking
mobilization and cross channel plans to informal staff talks with the French.
wargaming was short lived. War games
dropped in popularity as it became evident wargames of the period could not
address the psychological and political dimensions of the Boer War.
Still, as the Germans lost the key first
campaign of World War I because the BEF was in the wrong place at the right
time, the impact of Britain's brief flirtation with wargaming on world history
would be hard to exaggerate.
One war game that did not
shape history, but should have, took place in Saint Petersburg early in
1914. The French thought they knew
Germany's broad plan in the event of war, an immediate offensive against them
hoping to defeat France before Russia could fully mobilize.
To defeat this strategy France urged her
Russian ally to focus all her mobilization efforts on her two most modern
armies. As their mobilization was
complete, these two armies would invade East Prussia.
This would help Russia, as the Germans would be unready for such
an early offensive. Even more
importantly it might help to keep France in the war by causing the Germans to
divert forces from her campaign against France.
Russia agreed to the French strategy and developed it into a
detailed plan. This wargame would test
this new plan.
The wargame began well.
The same two generals commanding the
designated armies directed the Russian side in the war game.
Both armies advanced into East Prussia
against little opposition. Then the
Russian armies entered an area of lakes that made cooperation between the
armies difficult. The two Lieutenants
playing the German side placed a thin screening force in front of the Russian
army to the North they then shifted the bulk of their forces to the south,
surrounding and destroying the other Russian army.
With that the war game ended.
Roughly seven months later
the same two Russian generals commanding the same two armies implemented what
appears to be the exact same plan. Once
again both armies made good initial progress.
Once again they reached the area of lakes that made cooperation between
the armies difficult. Now the real Germans placed a light screening force in
front of the Russia's Northern Army and shifted the bulk of their forces to
surround and destroy Russia's Southern Army near the town of Tannenberg.
In Germany in the decade
before the First World War something of a wargaming renaissance was underway,
due to the much criticized Moltke the Younger.
This Moltke has received much abuse over the years for "ruining"
Schlieffen's master plan. While it is
true Moltke made some decisions during the execution of the plan that with
20/20 hindsight appear clear errors, he did much to improve planning methods
before the war. If he made any pre war
mistakes it was to work only to make existing wargames and the existing plan
better instead of taking a fresh look at both.
Moltke started by going to
the Kaiser, a childhood friend thanks to his famous uncle.
Moltke gently and respectfully told the
Emperor that his participation in the Staff Rides was closing off rigorous
debate, hence reducing their value both as an educational tool and as a
planning tool. The Kaiser agreed not to
voice military opinions during future staff rides.
Next Moltke examined the
wargames themselves. He discovered
machine guns were not depicted in the war games, he was told this was because
there was insufficient data to predict their impact on attrition precisely.
Moltke saw to it that data was acquired from
the Russo-Japanese War and machine guns were added to the wargames.
He then asked why logistics were not
included. When told war games could not
account for logistics he pointed out that the Italian War College had been
including logistics in their war games for decades.
When logistics were depicted
during the next wargame of the Schlieffen plan it was learned the two armies on
the outside of the great wheel would run out of ammunition two days before the campaign ended. As a result Moltke
saw to it that Germany organized the first two motorized units of any army
anywhere in the world two ammunition supply battalions.
Of course when war came the
plan did not work as well as the Germans hoped.
Why? Moltke's efforts to
make the wargames more fully depict contemporary combat results did produce
positive effects. Germany was
relatively less surprised by the nature of the early fighting.
In part for this reason their equipment was
relatively closer to what they actually needed.
What got Germany into trouble was not what they wargamed wrong
but what they failed to wargame.
They did not simulate the
diplomatic and political consequences of their actions.
Spontaneous efforts by Belgian civilians to destroy
their own railroads caught the Germans by surprise.
There were no such "units" in German wargames.
Even more serious, they did not simulate the
diplomatic consequences of invading Belgium in the first place.
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but
invading Belgium brought the British Empire into the war, and that Empire
eventually brought in the United States, and the additional weight of US forces
ultimately defeated Germany. Again,
they got most of the details right, but none of their war games addressed the
most decisive consequences of their invasion of Belgium. They lacked the
"political" dimension of strategy.
There is relatively little
is known about wargaming during the Great War.
Perhaps a few games were conducted or perhaps the records are yet to be
found. There is a record of one series
of war games, and much of that record is due to the moral courage of one man -
Germany conducted a wargame
prior to each of her 1918 "Peace Offensive" operations.
These campaigns were intended to win the war
before the Americans could arrive in force.
Germany had a "window of opportunity" as its recent victory over Russia
had freed up a great many forces, and few Americans were yet on the
continent. But, if they failed, Germany's
prospects were bleak. While they
achieved spectacular advances by World War I standards, these offensives did
not reach any truly strategic objectives and hence ultimately failed.
Delbruck, writing in his
defense journal during the war, criticized the General Staff.
He stated that the wargames had roughly
predicted the indecisive outcomes that took place yet the General Staff went
ahead. He claimed that if representatives
of the Foreign Ministry were present at the wargames they would have realized
that the initial advances would have caused panic in allied capitals.
If before the offensives had lost momentum,
he claimed, Germany had offered generous peace terms (like giving back oh -
most of Belgium) the offer might have been accepted.
Now Delbruck feared Germany would not get nearly such good
terms. He was right.
1919 1938 Inter-War Wargaming the Visionary and the Blind
Delbruck may have had a hand
in bringing about the most sophisticated wargaming of the inter-war or any
other period. While many accepted the
simplistic (and wrong) "stab in the back" theory of why Germany lost the war,
many in government and the military worked for a clearer understanding.
Delbruck testified before a government panel
that poor strategy was the root cause of Germany's defeat, and the General
Staff's purely military analysis of war plans was a cause of this poor
strategy. Their wargames could only
show the attrition effects of invading neutral Belgium or unrestricted
submarine warfare. They could not
predict the political effects of these actions or their subsequent military
Delbruck's influence on what followed was direct or indirect is unclear.
What is clear is that the German government
soon established strategic level war games - not at the shadow general staff -
but at the ministry of defense. These
wargames were truly comprehensive, with industrialists brought in to advise on
the speed of industrial mobilization, attachιs brought back from their assigned
countries to play those country's militaries realistically, and diplomats
integrating their actions with the militaries.
Even journalists participated, commenting on likely world public
opinion. How could all these
"stovepipes" be brought together?
Perhaps Germany was so weak after World War I that her leaders realized
they had to work together just to survive.
Perhaps for the same reason, wargaming received even
more emphasis within the military. Deprived of most their forces, Germany could
still wargame with forces she did not yet possess. In addition, the Germans took
an extremely pragmatic and detailed look at the history of the war. From this
history they derived at first tentative theories about what would and would not
work in future wars. As the theories were rigorously compared to the historical
facts, a new doctrine began to emerge. In turn this doctrine was rigorously
tested in wargames. They employed hardware and tactics and then further refined
their hardware and tactics - all with forces that did not physically exist. The
Germans called the concept they so developed, "Mobile Operations." Within a
decade it would become known to the rest of the world as - Blitzkrieg.
Germany's World War II preeminence in armor is all the
more remarkable because the United Kingdom ended World War I with the world's
most potent armored force whether measured by technology, numbers or tactics.
Britain also produced the inter-war period's most prominent and articulate armor
theorists, J. F. C. Fuller and B. H. Liddell Hart. How did Britain fall so far
behind? Well, there were many social, political, economic and military
considerations that worked against Britain maintaining her lead.
Still, a "fixed" wargame may well have been the most
decisive single blow. General Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, Chief of the
Imperial General Staff from 1933 to 1936, detested the internal combustion
engine. He let it be known that he would find it pleasing if England's only
experimental armored force would fail in an upcoming field wargame. The umpires
dutifully scored the unit a failure and Montgomery-Massingberd used that outcome
as justification to disband the unit.
Although not as bad, the inter-war period was also the
low point of US Army wargaming. Though little is written, all that is known is
bad. Two articles on naval wargaming briefly commented on the devolution of Army
wargaming during this period. Perhaps due to the malaise born of slow promotions
and low budgets, most army wargames stopped being wargames and instead became
one-sided scripted exercises. These exercises deadened initiative, as the
outcome was always the same regardless of brilliance or stupidity, diligence or
laziness of the participants.
The only other reference to Army wargaming during this
period was from a biography of Claire Chennault. While on the faculty of the Air
Corps Tactical School Captain Chennault had been called to testify to Congress
on the Army's professional military education coverage of air power. He paid his
own way because he was told the Army budget had insufficient funds to pay for
his travel. At the hearings he stated that he and his school had tried to insert
contemporary air power into Army Command and General Staff College wargames.
They were unsuccessful. He reason he was told was that the Staff College had a
learning objective of practicing trench warfare. When airpower was included in
the war game trench lines would not be formed. Hence airpower had to be removed
so that their learning objectives could be achieved.
Chennault argued that these wargames needed to include
airpower precisely because airpower would prevent World War I trench systems
from forming. If the students did not learn how to fight the more mobile style
of future war through wargaming, they would have to learn those lessons at a far
higher cost on actual battlefields.
When Captain Chennault returned from testifying he was
informed he had been accepted to attend the Army's Command and General Staff
College in error, hence his slot had been revoked. Not seeing a chance for
advancement without attending CGSC, Chennault left the service.
This was NOT an isolated incident. The faculty of the
Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) participated in Army War College (AWC) annual
wargame from 1923, hoping to educate senior Army officers in the doctrinal use
of airpower. The results were uniformly disappointing. Despite the gradual
inclusion of air officers in the planning process, the AWC restricted air
participation to activities in the combat zone and not against vulnerable enemy
rear-area targets. The artificial nature of the depiction of airpower disgusted
the ACTS participants, and may have actually been dis-training for the Army's
Things were not perfect in the Army's air arm either. At
Maxwell Field the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) was evolving the doctrine and
educating the airpower leaders that would fight World War II. On the surface
their teaching methods appeared outstanding. Periodically the students would
apply what they learned by writing a plan to attack a real target. The faculty
would then pick one of these plans and the entire student body would climb into
aircraft and execute the plan. Not since Moltke's staff rides did planning
receive such a fast real world confirmation. There was just one problem. ACTS
was simulating actual missions - they were not wargaming them. The bombers
always got through to Selma, as there was no enemy resistance. How this caused
doctrine to evolve, or more likely not to evolve, is hard to say.
There was one bright spot. A young captain recognized
the need for wargaming and further recognized the need for airmen to understand
how air power fit into overall theater campaigns. On his own initiative he
developed an air/sea/land, war game that took maintenance, supply, and even
airfield construction, into account. Student feedback to his war game was mixed.
Immediately after execution, the war game received a lot of criticism for being
difficult to play. However, it was the number-one-rated class in graduation
Unfortunately the war game was so complex and cumbersome
that after the captain's departure, no other faculty member was willing to take
it over. So, how much impact could such a short-lived war game have? Well, a
decade later the war game's designer, now General George Kenney served as
MacArthur's combined forces air boss. Many historians believe Kenny was the
prime architect of the entire air, sea, and land campaign in that theater. How
much impact indeed?
Clearly the wargaming success story of the inter-war
period is that of the US Navy. Both the fleet and the Marine Corps made
impressive use of wargaming, with a positive impact that has seldom been equaled
before or since.
The Navy built upon the work of McCarty Little,
continually refining his technique. Even before World War I the bulk of their
wargames began looking at a possible war with Japan. Initially, all war games
assumed the American fleet would dash across the Pacific, fight and win a big
climactic battle and relieve the Philippines. However, as the Naval War College
refined its methods, the logistical constraints on such a rapid advance became
obvious. Soon the wargames also made clear the need for forward bases in such a
campaign. As understanding increased, the time needed for the advance grew from
days to months to years.
Other elements were lass clear. All through this period
US intelligence on the specific characteristics of Japanese weapons and of their
training levels was atrocious. Instead of arguing over what they did not know
the Navy turned this handicap into an advantage. How they did it shows their
keen insight into education and human nature.
In the words of George S. Patton, "Americans love to
win." The students going through the Naval War College were no exception. They
certainly wanted the win the big "capstone" wargame at the end of their school
year. As students have always done, they asked those who graduated before them
for advice, or in the vernacular of the US military "gouge." Graduates were
happy to provide advice, "try to engage the Japanese at night, they are blind,
watch out for their torpedoes though - they are killers, fortunately though
their ships sink like rocks after the lightest of battering." However, when they
talked to someone who graduated in a different year they learned, "avoid night
engagements the Japs are incredible, and their ships are so rugged they can
really close in and slug it out, at least you don't have to worry about their
tinker toy torpedoes." Slowly it dawned on the students - the faculty was giving
the Japanese different strengths and weaknesses in each war game!
What were the students to do? Unable to simply learn
Japanese strengths and weaknesses before the game they had to play the game in
such a way that they could learn them through experience before any decisive
engagements took place. Once they learned what those strengths and weaknesses
were they would then develop a strategy to put US strengths against Japanese
weaknesses, while protecting our weaknesses from Japanese strengths. They would
then force the decisive engagements. In other words, they were "learning how to
This by itself was a breakthrough, but the Navy's
wargamers did more. Despite the Navy of this period being influenced by
battleship admirals the Navy's aviation community was able to develop
operational concepts and procedures that were ready to implement when, at Pearl
Harbor, the Japanese took away our option for battleship tactics. How did they
do it? Buried in the back of his book Thriving on Chaos, Tom Peters finally gets around
to explaining how a business can afford to encourage failure, "Make your
failures as cheap, fast and educational as possible." By reducing the cost of
failure this advice allows more new ideas to be tried out without killing the
company. In a similar way the Navy was able to use wargames to cheaply, quickly
and educationally try out different ideas in aviation and even ship design. For
example, the circular formation used during World War II by carrier task forces
was first developed during an inter-war wargame. Some of what they learned
resulted in changes in ships already under construction. In other cases, what
they learned helped win World War II.
As Admiral Chester Nimitz, US Pacific commander later
put it, "The war with Japan had been reenacted in the game rooms at the Naval
War College by so many people and in so many different ways, that nothing that
happened during the war was a surprise . . . absolutely nothing except the
kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war; we had not visualized these."
Yet as impressive and important as the wargaming
achievements of the aviators and the fleet were, the United States Marine Corps
carried out arguably the most important wargaming work done during this period.
The Naval War College's war games had shown the importance of forward bases in
any war with Japan. Yet World War I had seemed to show that, against modern
weapons, amphibious assaults were problematic. Besides, there was still the
age-old problem of having to quickly capture a typically well defended port with
infantry alone. You could land men across beaches from ship's boats but you
could not land the artillery or other heavy weapons they needed, nor could you
efficiently and effectively land the supplies they would need.
So the Marines had to solve an enduring problem, widely
believed to have been made worse by modern technology, and they had to do so
despite one of their traditional handicaps - a very sparse budget. Wargaming was
their key. Through both map wargames and live wargame exercises, they developed
their doctrine of amphibious operations. They set out to make an offensive
against Japan sustainable, yet what they really developed the key to Allied
success in all theaters. D-Day and victory in Europe would have been impossible
without the work done by the USMC during the 30s - with almost no budget and all
too little recognition then or since.
Finally, late in the inter war period civilian second
generation wargaming enjoyed a small increase in popularity with the publication
of Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game. Its popularity was probably enhanced by
increased civilian interest in things military and by relatively easy to
understand and use rules. Still, with America struggling to emerge from the
Great Depression not too many propel could afford the luxury of the required
miniature naval vessels.
1933 1941 The Storm Builds
It can be argued that the most potentially decisive
wargames of World War II were never played. When Hitler came to power he quickly
put a stop to the strategic-level war games played at the Ministry of Defense.
He considered them a pseudo-intellectual pursuit. He would make the future
strategic decisions for Germany based upon "blood and soil," that is on his own
genius and intuition. Germany nevertheless continued to wargame operational and
tactical problems. If you consider Germany fought well at the operational level
but blundered at the strategic level, the possible impact of allowing these
games to be continued can only be guessed at.
Still, there may not have been any effect on history, if
Hitler had not listened to the wargame results. In 1938 General Beck, then Chief
of the German General Staff, conducted a wargame of a German campaign against
Czechoslovakia. While the wargame predicted a German victory, the fight would be
so costly that it would weaken Germany to the point she could be conquered by
any of her neighbors. Hitler ignored these findings, as he believed the Czechs
would not fight.
This should not suggest that wargames did not play an
enormous role in the German war effort from start to finish. In early 1939,
before the war began, the Germans wargamed their attack on Poland. While they
certainly would have won that campaign anyway, the wargame seems to have had
some effect in speeding up their victory. More importantly, differences between
the wargame's predictions and the Army's actual performance was one of the
motivations for the rigorous training regime implemented between the victory
over Poland and the offensive in the West.
Also, Hitler was not above sighting a wargame when its
outcome confirmed his inclinations. In the Spring of 1940, a then relatively
obscure Lieutenant Colonel by the name of Manstein, proposed an innovative plan
for the coming offensive. Instead on swinging through Holland and Belgium as
Schlieffen had proposed 35 years earlier, Manstein proposed a massive armored
thrust through the Ardennes Forest, across the Meuse River, and on to the
Channel coast. In so doing he would cut off the British Expeditionary Force and
the most modern elements of the French Army. Initially his ideas received a
chilly reception by the high command.
He persisted though, wargaming his plan at his
headquarters and showing that the plan could work. Well, thought the high
command, perhaps there was something wrong with his wargame. His plan was
wargamed again at higher headquarters, and again the plan worked. Perhaps, the
plan would work on paper but tanks could not actually negotiate the Ardennes.
Next, a field wargame was conducted over similar terrain within Germany and
again the plan worked. At this point Hitler got involved. He had been wanting
some plan that promised a more decisive outcome but, this early in the war, he
was still reluctant to overrule his generals. Now, with the endorsement of the
wargames, he ordered the change. The result was a French defeat far faster and
more complete then would have otherwise been possible.
Wargames could also discourage. German games played
before the war on the subject of a strategic bombing campaign against Britain,
and war games played after the fall of France on a cross-Channel invasion, both
showed how difficult such operations would be. When the actual Battle of Britain
proved indecisive as predicted the discouraging predictions of the cross channel
invasion wargame were taken even more seriously.
Hence a wargame predicting disaster should the Germans
attack the Soviet Union could have had some effect. True, after conquering
France Hitler was far more secure politically. Still, many prominent generals
did not like the idea of invading the Soviet Union in general and they did not
like the plan that came from Hitler's headquarters in particular. Hence, the
usual pre-invasion war game was unusually important. Given the massive size and
depth of the operation, the Germans conducted what was probably the largest,
longest war game to that date, and possibly of all time.
Operation Otto , was
conducted over three separate occasions as the Germans attempted to wargame a
long campaign through to its conclusion. At the end of their third session, they
had only wargamed through to early November. Yet no fourth session was
scheduled. One reason was that the war game predicted the destruction of 240
Soviet Divisions, with only 60 remaining, and a front line that stretched from
the gates of Leningrad to the edge of Moscow and deep into the Ukraine. Surly
the Soviets could not recover at such a point. Those officers who continued to
have misgivings about the invasion after the Operation Otto, felt they had no
military basis to object.
Ironically, in the actual campaign on the actual "date"
that Operation Otto ended the Germans had advanced about as far as predicted by
the wargame and had actually destroyed more (248) Soviet divisions. However,
instead of the Soviets being down to 60 divisions they still had 220 divisions.
How could the war game be so wrong? They got most of the details right as far as
the capabilities of individual Soviet divisions and their reconnaissance had
given them a very accurate picture of the Soviet order of battle at the
beginning of the campaign. It was what they did not depict that misled them. The
Soviets had a plan to mobilize entire new divisions upon the beginning of
hostilities. The German wargame made no provision for new Soviet divisions. To
make matters worse, beyond the time period wargamed the Soviets acquired an old
ally, the Russian Winter. Expecting victory, German forces were woefully
unprepared for winter fighting. It is intriguing to speculate how history might
have been different if the Germans had held a fourth session of Operation Otto.
At about the time of the first phase of the Operation Otto war game, the Red Army was also
wargaming a German invasion. Though much shorter, this wargame also shaped the
war. The Russian plan for a German invasion was to initially stand on the
defensive wearing the Germans down in a fighting retreat. Then, when the Germans
were tired, the Soviets would counterattack and drive the invader from Russian
territory. While the plan worked in the wargame the German side penetrated
far deeper into the Soviet Union then anticipated. When Stalin was briefed on
the outcome he was outraged.
This exercise appeared to have three impacts. Stalin
blamed the deep penetration on the Red Army waiting too long to counterattack.
This may help explain the premature counter-attacks made in the actual invasion.
The wargame did alert Soviet leaders to the possibility of deep penetrations by
a German invasion, so the actual German advance was probably somewhat less of a
shock. Finally, Stalin concluded that one of the reasons the Red Army did so
poorly was that the young general playing the Germans had done a brilliant job.
Already well thought of by Stalin, this increased the general's stature further.
This general's name? Zhukov.
At the same time that Germany and the Soviet Union were
wargaming their future conflict, the United States Army was increasing the rigor
of its wargaming in an attempt to prepare for less specific future challenges.
Part of the reason for this change was due to the Army's new Chief of Staff,
George C. Marshall. Like Moltke, Marshall had liked wargames and wargaming from
the time he was a very junior officer. Now, with the likelihood of war growing,
he turned principally to the field exercise type of wargames.
The best remembered of these exercises were the
Louisiana Maneuvers. While live play increased realism, especially in unit movement, combat used systems of adjudication very similar to map
wargames. As much of the Army's equipment was new, the wargame could only be as
accurate as the guesses about the effectiveness of this new equipment.
There were some honest mistakes. The head of the tank
destroyer program provided the adjudication guide for the effectiveness of tank
destroyers. Later events would show these guides overstated their lethality, but
until then these exercises "proved" their effectiveness. As a result, in the
early battles in North Africa the tank destroyers were used too aggressively -
with sometimes tragic results.
There was also more deliberate command influence over
the exercise. Efforts were made before play ever began to guarantee an outcome
that would "prove" the ground officers' position on the employment of air power.
Their efforts were successful. As a result the US entered the war with small
numbers of aircraft assigned to each army unit. For this reason, even though we
had more aircraft in North Africa, the Germans were able to overwhelm the few
aircraft assigned to the ground units defending a place called Kasserine Pass.
The Luftwaffe mauled US ground units while most of our aircraft bored holes on
the sky over unengaged units.
The Japanese also used wargames to test their plans. In
August of 1941 Japan's Total War Research Institute conducted a global political
military war game that attempted to assess the likely outcome of World War II in
all theaters. Paying close attention to the politics within target, neutral and
friendly countries, this wargame (which did not include an
attack on Pearl Harbor) predicted an Axis victory and may have encouraged
Japanese entry into the war. Once the decision for war was made, more wargaming
of specific operations became the responsibility of the executing service. These
war games were more detailed hence could more accurately predict relative
attrition, but they did NOT include political considerations.
Some historians have maintained that Japan's wargaming
in support of her attack on Pearl Harbor illustrates how wargaming should be
done. Japan's original plan was rather conventional - simply sail the carrier
force from its normal base in the Inland Sea straight toward Pearl Harbor.
During the wargame of this plan the Japanese officers playing the Americans used
their limited sea surveillance assets to search in the direction of Japan. As a
result the American side spotted the Japanese force well out to sea and
mobilized to meet it. The Japanese side did "win" (i.e. they sunk more ships
then they lost) but it was a Pyrrhic victory Japan could ill afford at the
beginning of a long war against a industrially stronger nation. So the Japanese
planners went back to their planning cell and came up with a new plan. Now they
would depart from the Kurile Islands, begin by sailing toward Alaska and then
turn to approach Pearl Harbor from an unexpected northerly direction. This plan
was wargamed with much better results. Japan's subsequent victory at Pearl
Harbor was used as proof of wargaming done the right way.
But was Pearl Harbor a Japanese victory? Certainly it
was a tactical victory by standards of attrition ratios. It was also clearly an
operational victory as the US was unable to effectively interfere with Japanese
conquests for almost six months. But was it a strategic coup for Japan? The blow
was delivered before Japanese diplomats were able to deliver their war message
to the US Secretary of State. Shortly after his great "victory" Admiral Yamamoto
said, "I fear all we have done is waken a sleeping giant and fill him with a
terrible resolve." The purpose and unity Pearl Harbor gave the American people
far outweighed any temporary advantage it gave Japan. How could this be missed
during planning? Japanese Naval wargaming did not take political impact into
1942 - 1946 World War and
With the entry of the United States the war had become
truly global. Wargaming would be used in every theater, though few records of
wargaming by the US Army, the US Army Air Force, or the British has yet been
found. In the Pacific both sides made extensive use of wargaming.
The Japanese war game in preparation for the Battle of
Midway was easily the most notorious war game ever played. During the game the
American side's airpower sank two Japanese carriers. Rear Admiral Ukagi Matome,
Yamamoto's chief of staff and commander of their carrier force for the
operation, unilaterally reversed the umpires' ruling on the loss of the
carriers. The carriers were restored to the game, and the Japanese side went on
to capture Midway. Weeks later, during the actual battle, the Americans sank the
same two carriers, plus two more. This time Admiral Ukagi was not able to reach
into the "dead pile" and replace his ships.
This morality play is arguably the most often told
incident from the history of wargaming. While the above is true, it makes the
argument against the Admiral more "open and shut" then was actually the case.
Most authors fail to mention that the American aircraft that sank the carriers
during the wargame were B-17s. In the actual battle the B-17 proved completely
ineffective (they never hit an enemy ship), so, in a narrow sense, Ukagi was
right. Still, Admiral Ukagi failed to address the issue the loss of his carriers
in the wargame should have brought up - what if the American's get in the first
hit? Would we have enough strength to win anyway?
In contrast, the US Navy was working hard to get the
most out of its wargames. A few months into the war, when we thought we knew the
real relative strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese, Admiral Nimitz sent two
lieutenant commanders back to the Naval War College. Their mission was to see if
the College, through trying depict all the different combinations of Japanese
strengths and weaknesses, had ever got it right. They found records of two
different years when the college had come close. The commanders brought back
with them to the Pacific the doctrine and plans from those years.
The Marines also got to see how close their inter-war
wargaming came to actual amphibious operations. Frankly, their early landings
revealed some inaccuracies in their wargaming. These inaccuracies had helped to
produce flawed doctrine as well as the development and purchase of not quite the
right equipment. But the war games and the decisions they influenced were at
least close. The Marines learned that in the high tempo of war it is infinitely
easier to fix something that is close than to come up with a capability from
The Marines refined their wargaming techniques quickly.
Within a few amphibious assaults they were getting results that were so close to
the subsequent casualty count and "island secure" times that one Marine called
it, "eerie." Yet the wargame for the next landing predicted casualties far lower
than actual and the island took far longer to secure. They used the same
wargaming techniques as before, and the same intelligence methods to estimate
Japanese strength. Indeed when the island finally was secured it was found their
estimates of Japanese strength used in their wargame were only a little low. Why then was the game so wrong? It was due to a
Japanese war game.
The story of this Japanese wargame answers a still
bigger question, "after the Japanese were hopelessly outnumbered in 1944 and
1945 why did they keep on fighting?" Due to a complex arrangement to exchange
our embassy staffs the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his staff
were not able to get back to Japan until after the Japanese defeat at
Guadalcanal. Upon their arrival, instead of be allowed to see their loved ones
the entire embassy staff was taken to a secret location outside Tokyo. There
they played the US side (the ambassador playing Roosevelt, the Army Attachι
Marshall, etc.) in a rare Army/Navy wargame. The outcome of the war game was
that Japan lost the war. Now what? As a result of this war game a new strategy
evolved. Japan could not defeat America but she could kill Americans. As America
was a democracy they believed if they could kill enough soldiers, airmen,
sailors and marines, the Americans would grow war weary and give Japan better
terms. Hence the doctrine became not victory but a delaying action calculated to
inflict the maximum cost on the Americans in time and blood.
This new doctrine was what had gone wrong with the
Marines' wargame. For wargames to correctly predict outcomes the real enemy must
follow roughly the same strategy and doctrine followed by the wargame's Red
Team. In the Marine wargame their Red Team continued to follow Japan's previous
doctrine, as they were unaware of the shift in Japanese strategy that their
American success had precipitated. As the enemy did not fight as expected, even
doing everything else right did not produce a correct outcome. Later in the war
Japan's ability to do the unexpected produced the biggest variance from the War
Plan Orange wargames. That innovation was called Kamikaze attacks.
In the European Theater both the Germans and Russians
continued to wargame throughout the conflict.
The Soviets evolved a unique style of wargaming. Closer
to Herr von Reisswitz's game than his son's, Soviet war games typically centered
on elaborate terrain models of the battle area. Both the Blue and the Red sides
would write out orders for the entire operation and turn them over to the
umpires. The umpires, using incredibly detailed and cumbersome adjudication
procedures, would take days or weeks to execute a fight all the way through to
its conclusion. Only then would the two teams be called back, typically seated
on bleachers arranged around the terrain table, and then walked through how the
war game unfolded step by step. Essentially these were one-move war games. If
the commanders did not like the outcome of the war game the entire process had
to be repeated.
Understanding the Soviet style of wargaming helps you
understand their style of fighting. Soviet offensives tended to start off with a
kick, plenty of well-focused combat power. Over time though they would run out
of steam. There would then be a pause, typically longer than the pause between
operations for any of the other major combatants. Then the Soviets would kick
off another initially powerful, focused operation. Most historians attribute
this episodic method of offense to Soviet logistical limitations and the troops
simply needing a rest. These explanations undoubtedly contain much truth, but as
the Soviets were outrunning their logistics they were also outrunning their
plans. Knowing how the Soviets wargame also explains their seeming obsession to
collect statistics on military movements, attrition, river crossings etc.. They
were collecting data to improve the accuracy of their future war games.
The Germans made heavy use of wargaming throughout the
war. To describe all of their efforts would require a paper the length of this
work. Here is just a sample.
While Operation Bodyguard, the deception plan for the
Normandy invasion, had confirmed German suspicions that the main invasion would
come at Calais, the Allies were not able to hide all their preparations across
the Channel from Normandy. The Germans concluded that these preparations were
being made for a feint, an attempt to trick them on the location of real
invasion. Still, they conducted a wargame of an Allied landing at Normandy and
concluded that an Allied lodgment was probable! This caused considerable concern
in the high command. Though they may have joked about the ugly American
uniforms, they had come respect the initiative shown up and down the chain of
command of the American Army. If the feint was successful the Americans might
decide to make the feint their main effort.
The Germans therefore ordered reinforcements into
Normandy. The regiment that made Omaha Beach so bloody was one of those
reinforcements. So was the 21st Panzer Division,
the unit that prevented the British from taking Caen on D-Day. The invasion
would have been much more difficult if it had not occurred before two-thirds of
the planned reinforcements arrived.
Ironically, while one German war game made D-Day far
more costly for the Allies, another actually helped the Allied cause. When the
invasion took place many key commanders were away from their headquarters as
they were on their way to a second wargame. This wargame would test how well
they could meet an invasion of Normandy when all the planned reinforcements were
in place. The delays caused by key commanders being away from their command
posts actually helped that invasion succeed.
Finally, the Germans' wargame of the "Middle" Battle of
the Ardennes may have been the most unusual game of the war. After the German
Army was chased across France, resistance began to stiffen. Early in the Fall
Field Marshal Model, commander of Army Group B ordered the Fifth Panzer Army,
the German formation defending the Ardennes sector, to conduct a wargame of an
American attack. On 2 November 1944, while the wargame was going on the
Americans actually attacked. Instead of dismissing the game Field Marshal Model
(Who was present at the wargame) sent only the commanders of units in contact
back to their commands. He then directed that actual American movements be fed
into the game. The Germans then wargamed out each of their orders before
executing them. Finally, it was time to commit the reserves. The Field Marshal
Model called the commander of the reserves over to the wargame map, personally
briefed him on his mission and sent him on his way. It is difficult to imagine
the leader of a counterattack ever having better situational awareness.
This and many, many other war games undoubtedly helped
the German Army fight its battles and campaigns more effectively. However,
Hitler had gotten Germany into a war in which she was hopelessly outnumbered and
in a bad cause. The defeat of the Axis Powers ushered in an eclipse of
wargaming. Just as recent scholarship suggests the Dark Ages were never quite as
dark as some had previously thought, wargaming never completely disappeared.
It did decline substantially. Obviously, with the
disbanding of the Axis armed forces all their wargaming ended. Within the United
States the use of wargaming dropped almost as steeply. Days of wargaming at the
Naval War College plummeted from 420 war game days a year (obviously sometimes
multiple war games were going on at the same time) to 23 war game days.
Initially this may have been due to a lack of enemies to wargame against. Only
inside the Soviet Union was wargaming expanding and becoming more rigorous.
Even if we knew this at the time it probably would not
have encouraged more wargaming within he US. After all, the Soviets were our
brave wartime allies. Even as wartime good will rapidly evaporated
demobilization continued. Atomic bombs had made war, and with it wargames,
In time America and the West would learn at a great
price that the reports of war's death had been greatly exaggerated. This would
create the demand that would produce first the recovery and then the advancement
of wargaming. The road would be long and full of triumph and tragedy.
The late 1940s and 1950's: The
Long Road Back
Our expectations of the future shape that future. In the
immediate aftermath of World War II the US expected peace guaranteed by atomic
weapons and the Soviets expected continued conflict and doubted the
effectiveness of atomic weapons. Because of those expectations wargaming
atrophied within the US and grew in the USSR.
As the world was becoming bipolar militarily,
politically and economically so too was it dividing into two schools of
wargaming, the US and USSR schools. The injection of World War II experience and
data lead to an increased prominence and credibility of Soviet wargaming. In the
US demobilization lead to many officers with wargaming experience leaving the
service. As atomic weapons would deter future wars it appears there as no effort
to capture their expertise before they left. If atomic bombs would deter wars
then the military simply needed to be efficient managers, maintaining sufficient
military force to deter at the lowest practical cost to the tax payer. This
management mindset influenced how we educated our future leaders. If you were to
review all the services' War College curriculums in the late 40s and 50s you
would find a great many hours dedicated to management and communications and
very little time dedicated to wargaming or any other study of war.
As in the early missile programs, the Soviets widened
their lead in wargaming because the US was standing still. Unlike missile
programs, Red wargaming was virtually unknown outside of the Soviet Union so
their lead did NOT spur us to action.
Still, this bipolar wargaming world, in which the
Soviets did, by far, more wargaming, quickly began to change. Actually, the
seeds of wargaming's eventual recovery in the West were planted even before its
post-World War II eclipse. Techniques and technologies developed during the war
years would eventually support its recovery. Perhaps most importantly, the
contribution wargaming made to all sides during the war would not be
A lasting legacy of the war was the mobilization of the
scientific community for the war effort. The Manhattan Project is the most
famous example, but the Radar work at M.I.T. and countless other projects on
both sides of the Atlantic contributed to allied success throughout the war.
Mathematicians frequently had a rapid impact, along with
others who came to be called the operations research community. First employed
to help win the Battle of the Atlantic by seeking ways to use initially scarce
Allied resources to the best effect. Due to its success by wars end, "OR" was
tasked to look into every type of military problem.
The war also spurred the development of computational
devices for applications as diverse as code breaking and artillery tables. The
continuing requirement for computational machines during the beginning of the
cold war provided the seed money for what would soon take off as the computer
As for the actual recovery of wargaming, the Navy again
led the way with the first increase in time scheduled specifically for
"wargaming". In 1947 the Naval War College Wargaming activity increased contact
time allotted to its principle war game to allow greater logistic play. The
Korean War helped wargames recover indirectly. This conventional war and the key
role played by US Navy carriers, especially early in the war, suggested that
neither war nor navies were obsolete. A major breakthrough came in 1958 when the
Naval War College's computerized Navy Electronic Warfare Simulator (NEWS) became
operational. While later articles would admit this first computerized wargame
never quite worked (aside from it's big status screen) the mere fact that the
war game was computerized lent an air of modernity to what was supposed to be an
The Korean War at least demonstrated the possibility
that conventional forces may again be needed. This was one of the motivations
behind setting up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With NATO can
an increase in allied officers attending US service schools. Hence as wargaming
recovered in the US an increasing number of allied officers were exposed to it.
Of course, this was also the period the Soviets set up the Warsaw Pact. Officers
from the "satellite" nations were trained using Soviet methods and often in
Soviet schools. Hence from the start Soviet training and operational wargaming
spread throughout the Communist Block.
The US Air Force's initial use of wargaming seems to
have stemmed the most directly from the OR community. After the war the Air
Force facilitated the creation of RAND (an independent non-profit corporation)
as a way to retain access to OR specialists and other scientists who had proved
so helpful during the war. As early as 1948 RAND began experimenting with
"crisis" gaming. Though after 1949 RAND returned to more traditional OR methods,
in 1954 they launched a number innovative wargaming projects. RAND began a
computer model of the Cold War competition between the US and the USSR. Input
from the Air War College and the State Department prompted RAND to add political
and economic factors to their wargame. Thought the depiction of these factors in
a December 1954 wargame were viewed as crude the potential value of including
such factors were recognized. To increase flexibility RAND later turned to a
Free Kriegspiel style of play, and in so doing re-invented the German
Political/Military wargame. Also in 1954 RAND attempted to game through an
entire nuclear war. The next year RAND used an Air Warfare Model to accomplish a
"net assessment" at the Air War College. Given the great credibility of OR at
the time, this too gave an impression of modernity to Air Force wargaming.
Wargaming also recovered some in the Army. Stung by its
lack of preparedness in Korea, the Army began a continuing series of field
maneuvers in 1955. Their cartoon adversaries the "Aggressors" bore little
resemblance to the Soviets or their tactics, but it was a start. And, as the
Army began to realize it might have to fight the Soviets, it started debriefing
officers of the last army to do so in the hope of finding useful lessons
learned. One of the things the Army learned from debriefing the German Generals
was the value the Germans derived from wargaming. This knowledge seems to have
precipitated a number of articles in Army publications urging less use of
scripted exercises and more map and field maneuvers.
As the 40's included events that would later become
significant, so the 50's included a wargaming development that went largely
unnoticed at the time. In 1953 a young man named Charles Roberts started selling
a cardboard-mounted map war game he designed called "Tactics" to civilians. By
1958 he had sold 2000 copies and had come within $30 of breaking even.
Encouraged, he founded the Avalon Hill Game Company to sell war, economic, and
sports simulation games to the general public.
By the end of the decade wargaming was clearly on the
rebound. In 1958 RAND had begun to reinvent Germany's Political/Military
wargaming techniques. In that same year the US Marine Corps established a
Landing Force War Game series at Quantico, Virginia, and even The Harvard
Business Review published an article on adapting wargaming techniques to
developing business strategy. Talk about a comeback.
1960's: As Bad as it
It would be difficult for the 1960s to have gotten off
to a more promising start for wargaming. Wargaming was becoming international
again. A 1962 list of organizations active in wargaming cited one Canadian and
two British organizations. Still, much of that promise was due to an energetic
and forceful Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. His strategy was to use the
management techniques that succeeded at Ford Motor Company and the OR techniques
that helped win the Battle of the Atlantic, and merge them to help win the Cold
War. His goal was effective defense at a cost the US could sustain over the long
At its core his concept of deciding on new defense
initiatives was elegantly simple, accomplish a life cycle cost analysis to learn
what a proposal would really cost, and then use OR techniques to estimate
military utility. For example, two wargames might be conducted one with and one
without the proposal being implemented. Yet, the decade would also include some
of the worst wargaming ever performed.
The decade got off to a great start for naval wargaming,
with Admiral Nimitz giving wargaming a ringing endorsement from the stage of the
Naval War Collage. "The war with Japan had been [enacted] in the game room here
by so many people in so many different ways that nothing that happened during
the war was a surprise," he said, " absolutely nothing except the Kamikaze
That same year the Naval War College began offering a course in wargaming. Two
years later the Navy conducted the first ever remote war game with the players
aboard ship and adjudication accomplished at the Naval War College. By
mid-decade the Navy had upgraded their wargaming system to the Warfare Analysis
and Research System (WARS). Even so, those responsible for naval wargaming felt
naval warfare was growing in scope and complexity faster then they could
increase the capabilities of their wargames.
Major advances were made in Air Force
wargaming. Working with the Joint Staff and RAND, the Air Force started to
wargame the Strategic Air Command's Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP)
against a Red SIOP. (Actually the term used was Red Integrated Strategic
Operation Plan, so the acronym could be pronounced.) The RISOP was prepared by a
team of intelligence officers who worked, not only to accurately predict the
numbers and types of Soviet weapons, but their strategies and tactics as well.
On the defensive side, the Air Force also wargamed the defense of North America
using a war game called Big Stick. Big Stick was demonstrated at the Air Command
and Staff College in 1961, and in 1964 the conduct of an exercise using Big
Stick became part of the school's core curriculum. For the first time since 1931
wargaming had returned to Maxwell AFB. It had come to stay. Finally, in 1967,
the Air Force introduced the world's first instrumented air weapons range.
Established at Eglin AFB and used in Weapon Effectiveness Testing, the full
impact of this innovation would not even begin to become apparent until the next
The Army also did some very effective wargaming during
the 1960's. Wargaming was used by helicopter enthusiasts to develop the concept
of an Air Mobile Division. In 1962 they then used wargaming to sell the concept
to McNamara, who directed that the Army follow through with the idea quickly.
When the Army deployed their first Air Mobile Division to Vietnam they, like the
Marines before them, found that real combat was different from the war games in
some ways, but like the Marine's wargaming Army's initial concepts were close
enough to allow field adaptation.
McNamara's procedures were not always so successful. In
1961 a Joint Chiefs of Staff-level wargaming operation was established to
provide an unbiased, joint arena to conduct McNamara's wargames. The next year
wargame/cost study predictions helped convince McNamara to support the creation
of an Air Mobile Division, while relatively low cost effectiveness predictions
influenced him to cancel the Skybolt air-to-surface missile system. This caused
a storm of protest from Britain, which had spent a significant part of their
limited defense funds on the assumption the program would continue. The US was
blindsided by this criticism because McNamara's attrition per dollar
calculations did not even consider possible diplomatic repercussions of program
cancellation. Worse followed.
Attempts were made during the 1960's to broaden
wargaming beyond attrition. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco President Kennedy had
complained that his military advisers did not understand the political
implications of recommendations they were making. This encouraged the increased
use of Political Military wargaming at the Pentagon and at professional military
schools. In 1964 the Advanced Research Projects Agency funded efforts to produce
a wargame that would depict all the political, psychological and economic
ramifications of an insurgency. This would have produced an entirely new
generation of wargames capable of examining all wars in a much more
comprehensive way. Regrettably, despite some interesting work in this area the
defense planning community continued to use attrition based second generation
In April of 1964 the JCS conducted a manually
adjudicated politico-military game called Sigma I-64. This exercise tested US
theories of operations at the strategic and operational level in Vietnam. The
exercise was repeated in September (as Sigma II-64) with even higher-level
participation. In his book War Games, Thomas Allen implies these wargames
predicted a US defeat, and yet we committed forces anyway. An analogy to the
1914 Russian wargame comes to mind.
However, review of the actual declassified reports on
both exercises presents a different image. First, the strategy executed in the
wargame did not match that followed in the actual event. During Sigma II-64 the
blue side immediately executed attacks on an expanded version of the JCS's 94
Target List, and North Vietnam's ports were promptly mined. When in 1965 the US
deployed large formations to Vietnam the administration choose to follow a
strategy of gradual escalation. Second, and perhaps more importantly, each
exercise depicted only the first several months of US involvement. Even if they
had been able to adjudicate the political consequences of US casualties the
wargames did not cover sufficient time for those consequences to arise. It would
seem an analogy to Operation Otto is actually a more appropriate analogy.
Still, even if the war had been wargames through to its
conclusion it is unlikely the political consequences of casualties would have
ever been predicted. Progress in computer adjudicated "pol-mil" games was
probably retarded by the sincere belief among many OR professionals that it was
simply impossible to model human factors (they called "intangibles") like
training levels, fatigue, and break points for units, or for a nation that
watched thousands of body bags return home year after inconclusive year. (They
apparently did not know Germany had wargamed break points since the 1880s.) An
indication of just how misleading such molds can be came at the end of the
decade. President-elect Richard Nixon asked the Joint Chiefs how long he would
have to maintain public support for the war in Vietnam for the US to win. In
February of 1969 a wargame was conducted, that indicated we had won in November
Ironically, it appears the most accurate wargaming of
the conflict was done by the Communist North Vietnamese. Using Soviet wargaming
methods, presumably learned at Soviet professional military education
institutions, the North Vietnamese would wargame each of their major operations.
First they would build a terrain model of their objective. Then one group would
develop their plan of attack while another team developed the enemy (US)
defensive plan. Umpires would then map out the collisions of both plans and the
results would be briefed to all. The process was repeated until the outcome
satisfied the Red commander. The familiarity with the plan this method produced
allowed the Communists to conduct fairly complicated attacks without radios,
coordination being accomplished by a subordinate commander's memory of the plan
and simple wristwatches.
At least the 1960's witnessed the steady growth of
initially simple civilian wargaming. While the decade started with one publisher
and a few thousand annual sales it ended with a half dozen publishers with total
sales of over 100,000 units per year. The sophistication of these wargames also
increased over the decade as the pressures of the market place dictated that
each new "release" in some way had to be qualitatively better than what had come
1970's To Study War
Very little was published on wargaming in the early
1970s. Perhaps this reflected the anti-military attitude of the times. It
appears there was also something of a downturn in the actual use of wargaming.
If so, the decline did not last long. As before, the Navy led the way, but this
time they were soon overtaken - by the Air Force.
Vietnam was not going well. Among all the other problems
our air-to-air kill ratio had dropped from spectacular in Korea (12 or more to
1) to dismal (occasionally worse then 1 to 1, seldom even 2 to 1). A study
conducted by the Air Force called "Red Baron" concluded among other things that
while we were teaching our pilots how to fly well, we were not teaching them how
to fight. If a pilot survived his first eight missions "on the job training"
would teach him to fight, and he would probably survive his tour.
The Navy acted to fix this problem first by establishing
their Top Gun school. As anyone knows who has seen the movie, the
aggressor/instructor pilots flew small, nimble jets similar to those flown by
the enemy in Vietnam. They also attempted to duplicate Soviet style tactics.
These measures were so effective the Navy saw an immediate improvement in their
kill ratios over Vietnam.
The Air Force response took longer to kick off but was
more comprehensive. In 1974 the Air Force Established the Fighter Weapons School
at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The school would be similar to the Navy's Top Gun school
in that only the best of the best would attend, but different in that air to
ground tactics would also be taught. Then in 1975 the Air Force initiated the
Red Flag series of exercises to improve the fighting skills of all their combat
pilots. Both the School and Red Flag employed aggressors like the Navy, but they
also installed an electronic range like that at Eglin to allow more accurate
adjudication and debriefing of engagements. Over time the Air Force also created
an entire enemy nation in the Nevada desert complete with strategic targets, and
defended by radars and surface-to-air missiles that even gave off visual cues
similar to real missiles. All this not only provided excellent training but also
provided a very realistic environment for trying out new equipment and tactics.
Also in 1975 the Navy established its Command Readiness
Program. While this program simply institutionalized the distributed wargaming
capability the Navy had experimented with much earlier, the effect on combat
proficiency was probably similar to that achieved at Red Flag. At decade's end
the Navy launched a new batch of games at the Naval War College, their Global
War Game series. A deliberate attempt to recapture the ability to gain valuable
insights that Navy inter-war games produced, Global also started with fast
climatic Naval battles. Also like the War Plan Orange wargames the rigors of
wargaming change that expectation and with it our expectations of a war with the
The 1970s were also good to commercial wargaming. Fears
that the unpopularity of Vietnam would effect sales never materialized and
commercial wargaming entered what was considered by some their "golden age". An
increasing number of publishers and growing sales encouraged increased
innovation. Various games considered effects of morale, training levels,
surprise, and a host of other supposedly "intangible" factors.
Commercial wargaming was also starting to attract
serious attention. Sinai was perhaps the first to do so. Published in 1973 this
theater level wargame included scenarios for each historical Arab/Israeli war
and an "early 70's hypothetical conflict." Within months of publication this
"hypothetical conflict" became the 1973 war. Though the course of that war
surprised almost all defense analysts it tracked fairly closely with the typical
outcomes of this commercial wargame. In 1974 the US Army became the first
service to buy a commercial style wargame when they paid for the development of
the tactical ground combat simulation "Fire Fight". (More below.)
In 1975 Origins, the first national commercial wargaming
convention, was held in Baltimore adding to the cohesion of the civilian
wargaming community. Sales rose steady during the decade, exceeding 2 million
units in 1979.
Still, the trend that would have the most profound
effect on wargaming in the long run came from within the services. As the 1970s
progressed, company grade officers from all the services began to enter
positions of greater authority. Many felt the fighting forces in Vietnam were
let down by a failure of strategic vision and a lack of basic campaign planning.
As individuals and as groups many worked to ensure that the services would be
better prepared intellectually the next time. In the Air Force Lt Col Denny Drew
pushed to put more "war" in the War Colleges. In the Army many officers such as
Lt Col Ray Macedonia pressed for more wargaming. The "Fire Fight" contract was
one of several initiatives to come up with war games that were more
user-friendly or more accurate products. The expectation was that if wargames
could be made more user-friendly than earlier types, then they would be used
more. Much less progress was made then anticipated though, as unit commanders
were busy people, especially with all the personnel problems of the "hollow
force era", so little additional wargaming was actually accomplished except by
enlisted and junior officer enthusiasts.
1980's Promise and
Things seemed to come together for wargaming in the
80's. Each service, our NATO allies, and even commercial wargaming, made major
progress. A good thing because efforts to "get it right" after Vietnam would be
tested sooner and in a manner different than almost anyone could imagine.
The most important improvements of the early 1980's were
clearly made by the Army. In 1980 the Army opened the National Training Center
at Fort Irwin California. This "Red Flag for ground forces" employed a mix of an
Air Force style instrumented range, technology similar to laser tag, and a
credible aggressor force to produce the most realistic and educational combat
environment ever. More wargaming was also being done at home station thanks to a
simple innovation pioneered by III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas. III Corps simply
established a base wargaming center that would handle all the administrative
details of conducting a war game. Suddenly overworked commanders found it took
less of their time to
conduct a wargame then other types of training, and the use of wargames
The Navy also made major innovations. In 1981 the Navy
upgraded its WARS wargaming system to produce the Naval War Game System or NWGS.
Just seven years later they upgraded their system again to the Enhanced Naval
War Game System or ENWGS. Each upgrade roughly doubled the computing power of
the previous system. Yet the scope of Naval War College wargaming always seemed
a generation beyond their latest computer system and as in the 50's wargame
faculty filled the gape with innovation, common sense and long hours. This teem
effort was put to work through increasing academic use of wargames within the
Naval War College, increasing fleet use, the rapidly growing Global exercises.
As Global increased in sophistication it became
increasingly evident that a war with the Soviets would likely be protracted and
that in a protracted war the Soviets were doomed, by the West's superior
scientific and industrial might. As Global attracted more and more of
Washington's power hitters, that perception became more wide spread, coloring
not only Navy strategy but national strategy as well.
Finally, as Global helped to increase the credibility of
wargaming with Congress the Department of the Navy turned to wargaming to help
support budget proposals. In 1984, the Navy began to explicitly wargame their
Program Objective Memorandum (POM) initiatives. In 1988 the Marines began
wargaming their POM initiatives as well.
The impact of these innovations may have prompted
greater Air Force efforts in wargaming. In 1984 the Air Staff Director of
Operations was given oversight of all Air Force wargaming. In 1986 construction
was completed on the Air Force's first wargaming facility, located at Maxwell
AFB. Two years later this $21 million facility/computer system was declared
fully operational - despite continuing problems with their adjudication
software. As with the problems the Navy War College had with the early
generations of its computer adjudication system, hard working individuals came
up with work-arounds and Center was soon making significant contributions to Air
The 80's was also a successful but transitional decade
for commercial wargames. Print wargame publishers considered the decade a
disaster as they saw their sales plummet. Peaking at 2.2 million units in 1980,
sales dropped to less then a million at mid-decade and half a million by the
decade's end. Most of the early drop was due to competition from role playing
games like Dungeons and Dragons. Later much of the decline was due to the rise
of a new (for civilians) wargame medium.
The advent of home computers allowed the recreational
software industry to take off, and with it, computer based wargames for home
use. The decline in print games probably would have been still steeper but this
decade saw some of the most sophisticated and innovative designs ever produced.
Leadership, moral, training levels and other supposedly intangible factors were
depicted in more and more print wargames. One commercial wargame called Gulf
Strike, depicted air, sea, land, special and logistical forces at the theater
level. Compared to designs like this, early computer designs, constrained by the
low power and poor graphics of early home computers, seemed crude by comparison.
Still, the computer handled the bothersome adjudication, provided limited
intelligence on the enemy and even provided an opponent through a computer
artificial intelligence routine.
The 80's also saw important innovations in Joint
wargaming. 1982 was a big year, with the National Defense University finally
receiving a dedicated wargaming center, and the joint Warrior Preparation Center
becoming operational in Germany. The Warrior Preparation Center was specifically
designed to allow senior US and NATO country headquarters practice joint warfare
and try war plans without having to maneuver troops in the field. The growing
bills for exercise damage, growing environmental concerns, and concerns over
Soviet capabilities to monitor live exercises, all contributed to increasing
support for the center. In 1983 a TV special "The Crisis Game" provided the
public with a peek into the political military wargames the Joint Staff had been
quietly conducting since the time of Kennedy. By the late 1980's all area
Commanders-in-Chief (CINCs) were using games to gain insights for their war
plans. A 1989 study concluded that US Central Command was clearly ahead of the
pack in its use of wargaming a circumstance that turned out to be
The 1980s also saw the first unclassified reports in the
West on how the Soviets wargames. In small part this was due to greater openness
and articles that wanted to appear frank but revealed few details began to
appear in the Soviets open press. However, the real meat came from defectors
from the Afghan Army. Trained by and in Soviet wargaming methods these officers
were only to happy to provide exhaustive detail on Soviet wargaming
1990 1991 War on Sand Table
To a degree, the Gulf War was a fight between Soviet and
US wargaming methods. Beyond a doubt US methods came out ahead, but this success
should not blind us to very serious deficiencies that the war revealed.
To understand how Iraq wargamed the Gulf War we must
understand how they wargamed the Iran/Iraq War. Iraq's initial invasion of Iran
appear to have been opportunistic and little planned. After becoming
overextended, mauled and thrown on the defensive, Iraq's planning became more
careful. They used Soviet methods for their ground offensives, down to the
terrain models and bleachers for debriefings. Late-war Iraqi offensives bore all
the signs of operations planned by Soviet wargaming methods; the initially
highly synchronized attack making rapid progress, only to slow as plans were
overtaken by events.
However, Soviet terrain model wargaming is not suitable
for exploring the strategic impacts of air power. So, in 1986 Iraq contracted
with the US defense contractor BDM for a computer wargame that would depict
Iran's air defenses and the "system" impacts that hitting Iranian targets would
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait also followed the pattern
of Soviet wargamed operations - a fast start that petered out at the Saudi
To understand US action during the war, knowledge of
pre-war war games is necessary.
Months before the war, CENTCOM conducted a war game at
the Marine Corps Base at 29 Palms, California. In the exercise many "Scud"
surface-to-surface missiles landed on or near US air bases. While few missiles
were adjudicated as hitting anything, the delays in launching sorties required
by the need to confirm that no damage or chemical weapons were present, were
having a major effect on our sortie generation rate. The Air Component Commander
for the exercise, General Horner, asked the CINC, General Schwarzkopf, to beef
up the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles which had anti-SSM
Just prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, CENTCOM
played another war game called Internal Look. In this exercise only a token US
force was sent "to show resolve". Iraqi forces drove south and the US had
trouble getting sufficient forces in theater to slow the Iraqi advance. With
these exercise outcomes fresh in his mind, Schwarzkopf's emphasis on getting as
much combat power into theater as fast as possible becomes more
The morning of the Iraqi attack, Mark Herman, the
designer of Gulf Strike and employee of the defense contractor Booze Allen, was
approached by representatives of the Joint Staff and asked to produce a wargame
of the developing situation. He was on contract by lunch. (and now classified)
By modifying his commercial wargame Gulf Strike, he was able to begin play of a
now classified wargame by mid afternoon!
Early in the deployment of US forces, the Air Staff's
"Checkmate" office was used as the nucleus to form a joint planning cell. This
cell, lead by Col John Warden, produced the "Instant Thunder" air plan. The plan
envisioned a conventional strategic air attack against Iraq, incredibly a
controversial concept at the time. The plan was sent to the Air Force Wargaming
Center for exploration. The resulting wargame produced no effect, as the
software had no way to adjudicate the impact of hitting strategic targets
being designed to model Cold War attrition campaigns. Fortunately, the plan was
accepted anyway and it served as the foundation for the initial air phases of
As time for the Coalition counterattack approached, an
element of the US government pushed for CENTCOM to occupy western Iraq with the
101st Air Assault Division. It was believed that
this would prevent mobile Scuds from getting close enough to launch against
Israel. CENTCOM quietly wargamed such an operation, passed on the estimated
casualty figures, and the suggestion did not come up again.
Many others in Washington and elsewhere were wargaming
the Desert Storm plan. Although outcomes varied somewhat, most official war
games indicated Coalition casualties would total about 30,000 of which 22,000
would be US, and of which 3,000 would be killed. Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia had
access to these numbers and decided to oppose the US counter offensive as it was
his political judgement that the American people would not accept casualty
figures that high.
As the time to attack grew closer, individual units
started to wargame their own parts of the plan. First Infantry Division wargamed
its operation to breach the Iraqi barrier fortifications so many times that one
of the battalion commanders expressed a preference for death over wargaming it
one more time.
At least one Army unit used a commercial wargame to
exercise its part of the plan. We know this because someone in the unit wrote
the publisher claiming a sandstorm had blown their game away. The soldier asked
the publisher to please send a replacement wargame quickly.
It's easy to overlook one category of wargame when
discussing US success on the Gulf. Pilots based in Turkey referred to Northern
Iraq as "The Range" and a number of soldiers were taped saying, "the NTC
(National Training Center) was much harder." The superb training received during
live wargames like Red Flag and the NTC, contributed much to our success.
As Coalition forces moved forward, they uncovered
evidence of Iraqi wargaming, the characteristic terrain model and seats of
Soviet style war games. From the terrain modeled, it was clear the Iraqis were
rehearsing to repel in amphibious invasion. Our Navy/Marine deception plans had
Despite our overwhelming military victory in the Gulf,
many have been unsatisfied by the state of peace that followed. It appears the
US never wargamed through to the establishment of peace. The Marines had planned
to conduct such a wargame at their Quantico Wargaming Center but military
victory came so quickly we unilaterally ended offensive operations two days
before the wargame was scheduled to begin. But why hadn't any of the earlier
wargames been continued through to the establishment of a sustainable state of
peace? This may be due to the time required to wargame combat makes it difficult
to find the time to wargame through to a conclusion. Or it may be due to our
attrition models being incapable of modeling the human aspects of war. It may
also be that the overblown casualty predictions convinced our political leaders
that the simple liberation of Kuwait was all the American people would have the
will to achieve.
The impact of wargaming on the Gulf War was enormous,
and mostly positive. Certainly the NTC/Red Flag type wargames proved their
worth. Yet the official casualty predictions were over 20 times too high. The
predictions are even worse if you consider these wargames never produced
"friendly fire" casualties. If these casualties are subtracted from the US total
the predictions are 30 time to high. These false predictions had real political
and military consequences. Theater C-130 transport aircraft were configured to
airlift out our "hordes of wounded", not to fly in the fuel that was actually
needed. It may be noted that the "commercial" war game designers / military
analysts, such as Jim Dunnigan and Charles Kamps, predicted far fewer Coalition
casualties than the "official" estimates mainly because they were used to
"factoring in" the intangibles that old-time government hands always said
couldn't be calculated.
So did these bad casualty predictions produce yet
another eclipse of wargaming?
1990s: The Return of
More money is being spent on wargaming within the US and
world wide then ever before and with good reason. Much of this increased
investment is producing excellent value for the cost. Yet the central problem of
the bad predictions is being explained away, pronounced impossible to fix, or
In the euphoria of Coalition victory, and a victory with
far fewer casualties than expected, no one was in a mood to complain. If any
explanation was made at all it was simply that no one could have predicted that
the Iraqi army would not fight. No one seemed to remember that the Iraqi army
had fought hard for eight years against Iran without surrendering in droves.
What was different this time and why hadn't the war games seen it?
A few saw the problem. An excellent RAND paper, "The
Base of Sand" captured the problem well. High casualty estimates were just a
symptom of a bigger problem. What was needed was a more comprehensive
adjudication of armed conflicts. More computing power without a more
comprehensive understanding of war would "simply produce the wrong answer faster
and with more persuasive graphics." Few saw the problem this way. Instead
emphasis has been placed on reducing the cost of wargaming and making them more
Joint. Both worthwhile goals, especially in light of the increasing use of
wargames, and the general trend toward jointness in military operations.
In 1990 the Deputy Secretary of Defense created the
Executive Council on Modeling and Simulation (EXCIMS) to take a comprehensive
look at wargaming within the Defense establishment. What they saw was a maze of
adjudication software - most looking at one regime of warfare (such as ground),
using different data, and producing different answers to the same questions. All
these different models were not only wasteful they were also harmful. Ground and
naval surface forces had clearly played an important role during the final days
of the Desert Storm campaign, yet no one service's war game could fully depict
such a joint operation.
As a first step to bring order to this chaos, a
permanent office was established to take a DOD- wide view of wargaming. In 1991
that office, the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office (DMSO) was established.
Next it was important to establish an information clearing house so that new
duplicate wargames were not created out of ignorance. The first such office was
established in 1993 as the Tactical Warfare Simulation and Technology
Information Analysis Center (TWSTIAC). However, different types of information
were available from various sources, so to provide defense wargamers with "one
stop shopping", a new center was established in 1999, the Modeling and
Simulation Information Analysis Center (MSIAC).
While these measures were important, to really save
money many existing models had to be consolidated into a smaller number of more
comprehensive models. While many improvements were, and are, being made most
improvements increased the accuracy of the adjudication of attrition. The new
DOD-sponsored game, JWARS, was to replace most analytical models while JSIMS,
using modules developed by each service, was to replace all the models used to
train CINC staffs. As an interim measure, until these new wargaming systems
could be made ready, software was developed that allowed existing service war
games to talk to each other Aggregate Level Simulation Protocol (ALSP).
The increasing use of wargames makes such cost
containment measures all the more important. The same considerations that made
the Warrior Preparation Center popular in Germany: savings compared to live
exercises, no environmental impacts, and no possibility of "overhead"
observation, has made wargame exercises an increasingly popular option in every
Also, increased competition for
limited defense dollars and the success of Global as a lobbying tool have led
all the services to conduct Global-like wargames. Collectively called "Title
Ten" wargames, the Air Force's version, called Global Engagement, was started at
Maxwell AFB and will in the future while be held in Washington, while the Army's
version, Army After Next, is held at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
The 90s have been a decade of surprising sales trends
and important innovations for commercial wargaming.
Initially sales of print wargames continued to decline,
falling to about 200,000 units a year by mid-decade. Yet, despite repeated
rumors of print wargaming's death sales have now stabilized at about 150,000
units a year. One reason for this recovery is that desk top publishing
techniques are reducing the cost of producing print wargames. This means that
lower sales may still be profitable. Industry trends are for more titles, each
with smaller print runs.
Computer wargaming are moving in the opposite direction.
The explosive growth of the recreational software industry ($25 Billion in
global sales in 1997) has attracted much Hollywood talent. This new talent has
increased the production valued and the costs of all titles. Increased costs
means only titles that are expected to generate lots of sales get made. As
wargames are not perceived to have the mass appeal of titles like Tomb Raider,
wargaming's share of the recreational software industry's output has fallen from
25% when the personal computer began to about 10% today. (Still, 10% of $25
The biggest surprise though has been the return of
militaries wargaming. Originally the hobby of the rich and near rich the rising
standard of living has made "Miniatures" an increasingly popular and increasing
middle class medium. When asked if computers will make their wargame medium
obsolete they point to their usually hand painted figures as the ultimate "high
Wargame sales are also increasing globally. US
publishers are selling more overseas, with the export sales of many computer
wargames exceeding domestic sales, and more and more international wargame
publishers are entering the market with some excellent products.
Most innovations centered around making wargames in all
mediums more user friendly. As for print wargames, years of blaming external
competitors for their decline is being supplemented by an increased realization
that easier to understand wargames were needed especially to attract new blood
to the medium. Computer based wargames tended toward increasingly intuitive
interfaces. At the same time though the increased computing power of current
personal computers are allowing them to rival print wargames in accuracy. New
Miniatures rules are also stressing clarity.
These trends are combining to make commercial wargames
increasingly valuable tools for teaching voters about war. As Hans Delbruck
pointed out over a century ago, in a democracy the people are the sovereign
hence it is vitally important that they understand war. Through all its mediums
commercial wargaming is reaching a larger percentage of the American people then
ever before. More user friendly and more accurate games are imparting more
understanding. As the trend toward professionalism means fewer and fewer
citizens of most democracies actually serving in the military commercial
wargaming is helping provide that vital understanding of war.
As the end of the 90s approach, there are some
indications defense wargaming may have reach the millennium early. In October of
1999 a well attended NATO conference on modeling, simulation and wargaming
demonstrated that wargaming had indeed become international again. Earlier in
the year major test of JSIMS by the US Atlantic Command demonstrated that this
important $150 million system was approaching operational usefulness. Finally,
as a fitting conclusion to a century of achievement and growing capabilities, on
28 September 1999 the Naval War College dedicated its new $19 million wargaming
facility. The facility will house the Wargaming department's 150 full time staff
and 300 networked computers. Most appropriately this latest attempt by the Navy
to "push the envelope" of wargaming is named for the selfless individual who
started it all over a century ago its named McCarty Little Hall.
Yet despite a decade of heavy investment and significant
innovation all is not well with defense wargaming. In the Spring of 1999 defense
wargaming received the acid test, when America again sent its people into harm's
way, this time in the skies over Kosovo. The Air Force committed a larger
percentage of its assets to the fighting over the former Yugoslavia than it had
committed to Desert Storm. How well did wargaming do? Again war games failed to
provide insights to the types of human effects and system impacts that were the
main focus of NATO's air campaign. When there was no Forward Edge of the Battle
Area to move and no "blue" ground forces, most DoD attrition models had nothing
to measure. But was this a fair test? A fair question. True, all wars are
unique, but this one was far more unique than most. That is why it is important
to consider the entire history of wargaming before reaching any conclusions.
An Assessment of History
Just as astronomers needed to look at all the data on
the past locations of planets before the true nature of the solar system could
be discovered, so we must look at all the impacts on, and of, wargaming. When we
look at its entire history the conclusion that wargaming can provide an
invaluable edge is undeniable. From the battlefields of Europe to the Sands of
Iwo Jima to the skies over Vietnam, wargaming repeatedly provided insights that
often proved decisive. However, history also shows that wargames have at times
misled their users with disastrous results. A balanced assessment needs to look
at the good and the bad. Also, if there is a pattern to the bad outcomes perhaps
we can devise a strategy to eliminate or at least minimize them. Lets start with
The Value of Wargaming
While wargames provide many advantages, the benefits can
be grouped into three, sometimes overlapping, categories:
Personal Development :
This was the earliest and arguably still most important value of wargaming in
the long term. From the citizens of a democracy choosing a new
Commander-in-Chief, to a fighter pilot choosing engagement tactics, the record
shows wargaming has increased effectiveness. It does so in several ways. First
it creates an artificial urgency. Instead of a possibly boring lecture, now the
user is in a competition. This increases attention and retention. Second, it
provides for a higher level of learning, as its users must apply their knowledge
in new ways, increasing the depth of their understanding. Finally, through the
artificial experience of wargames, participants not only learn to make better
decisions (anticipating the countermoves of their adversaries), but through
practice they learn to make decisions faster. This increases the chance that
they can react faster than their adversaries, gaining all the advantages
described by Col Boyd in his discussions on the decisiveness of decision time
Force Development : As
most writings on Revolutions in Military Affairs argue, new technology only
becomes effective when new tactics, operating procedures, and organizational
structures are in place that exploit its advantages. As the US Marines and the
German Army showed during the inter-war period wargaming can be used as a
partial replacement for war in the Caffrey Cycle of military doctrine
development. Hence wargaming can help us to both buy the most appropriate forces
and to use then in the most effective way.
Strategy Development :
From the inter-war Naval War College wargames to countless Soviet preparations
for attacks on the Nazis, to Desert Storm, war games have helped to develop
specific plans for specific operations. As in all the above cases the value (or
damage) in any specific case depended on the accuracy of the wargame.
Sources or Failure
The record shows that false
predictions in wargames reduce the advantage of wargames and can turn them into
a liability. Even in professional development wargames, inaccuracies can lead to
what is called "dis-training." If we can identify sources of inaccuracies
perhaps they can be minimized or eliminated. What have been the sources of past
Command Influence : Fixing
a wargame is about as useful as changing the results of a medical test. In time
the truth will out, and in the mean time much damage can be done. General
Montgomery-Massingberd could stop armored development Great Britain but that did
not make tanks less effective. When German tanks drove into Belgium no one could
"fix" the outcome. As defense dollars get even scarcer and wargaming becomes an
even more credible lobbying tool, there will be increased temptation to "cook
the books." Don't. We owe it to our children not to cause another Kasserine.
Incomplete depiction of the
conflict : In all my research I never found a case where a war game gave a
misleading outcome because the war game used a .925 probability of kill and the
real "PK" was .952. The record doe's shows case after case where commanders were
mislead by wargames that omitted relevant aspects of the conflict depicted. From
the ability of the Soviet Union to mobilize new divisions to the impact of body
bags on public support its what is left out that will mislead.
The Enemy not following your
plan : All the wargames played on the defense of the Fulda Gap are wrong.
The Soviets never did invade. From the Marine wargames in the pacific to
Schlieffen and his famous plan, enemies reacting differently than anticipated
can produce unanticipated outcomes even if the wargamer got everything else
right. Can this problem be solved? No. Even when you play according to the
enemy's doctrine there is a chance the enemy will change his doctrine,
especially if you are winning. However, the record also shows common sense
efforts by many countries have at least minimize this source of false
Toward a Third Generation of
Can these sources of misleading outcomes be eliminated?
Well, avoiding the temptation to "fix" wargames will require moral strength and
accurate adversary play will require long and diligent study of potential
adversaries (and luck), but there should be a technical solution to war games
which leave out key elements of the conflict.
We need a new generation of wargamess that take
wargaming from depicting attrition battles between armed forces to depicting
struggles between opposing nations. This will not be easy. It will require types
of adjudication and categories of data that have not been considered in the
past. However, at least conceptually, the solution is quite simple. Three areas
of enhancement need to be made to our current second generation attrition
System Effects : The
Instant Thunder plan, as it evolved into Desert Storm had an enormous effect,
yet contemporary wargames did not even include target categories for most of its
targets, much less how disabling such targets would have a ripple effect though
the enemy's system. Potential enemies and we ourselves must be modeled as a
system of systems, with each military and economic entity requiring inputs and
Human Factors : In all the
pre-Desert Storm war games not a single Iraqi soldier surrendered. As we would
prefer surrender to fighting, why individuals, units and nations decide to stop
fighting must be modeled. Differences in troop proficiency, moral, and fatigue
all must be modeled.
Time : Wargames must
depict the entire conflict being examined and they must do so in a practical
amount of real time. Not to do so invites a repeat of the German wargame of
their invasion of Russia or the US wargame of Vietnam. This does NOT mean all
wargames need cover large chunks of time, but wargames that depict battles
should be played long enough to depict all the days of the battle, wargames that
depict campaigns should simulate all the months of the campaign and wargames
that examining entire wars need to depict the entire period from the outbreak of
hostilities until the reestablishment of a stable state of peace.
The Fight for a More Peaceful
If the United States wants to fight its future wars
quickly, with minimum casualties on all sides and at the lowest cost to all
sides - in other words, if we want to fight so as to facilitate a better state
of peace we will have to change how we wargame.
By advancing wargaming to its third generation we can
develop strategists, develop forces and devise specific plans for achieving a
better state of peace.
Franklin was right; playing chess could help a free
people learn how to best fight to preserve their freedom. Now as heirs to
Franklin we must use techniques descended from chess to preserve and extend the
blessings he helped secure. Franklin also said, "If I make my enemy my friend
have I not destroyed my enemy." It is in our national interest to fight our wars
in such as way that the people of our former enemies are better off then before
the war, as this gives then an incentive to preserve the peace.
Third generation wargames can help us develop
strategies, technologies and force structures to win wars faster, with fewer
casualties on ALL sides and at a lower cost, to all sides. Such wars will
increase the chances we will be able to turn former adversaries into key
military allies, important trading partners and major vacation destinations. (It
worked for Germany.) Peace, prosperity and freedom around the world will help to
secure peace, prosperity and freedom at home. With the right tools we can fight
our wars so that governments of the people, by the people and for the people
will inherit the earth.