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Coast Artillery Journal - May 1927

Coast Artillery Journal - May 1927

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Published by CAP History Library

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: CAP History Library on Aug 26, 2012
Copyright:Public Domain


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Volume 66
MAY, 1927
Number 5
The Strategic Position of the United States
Some notes on the deJensive strength oj the United States and its dependenciesresulting from a consideration oj the geographic location oj our continentaland overseas possessions and the distribution of our resources
Coast Artillery Corps
preparing plans for the defense of any locality certain fac-
tors should be kept in mind. Among these may be mentioned thefollowing:
The value to ourselves-how far the position is necessary to usin war and in peace;
The value to an enemy-to what extentwould its capture enablehim to increase his opportunity for imposing his will in theterms for peace;
The natural defensive strength of the position as determinedby a study of local geography, hydrography, climate, andresources;
Its relation to other positions--is it supported by them or isit isolated;Canthe position be reinforced promptly and certainly;Existing or potential bases from which an attacking force
may operate.All of these have a distinct bearing both upon the probability oattack and upon the character of attack to be anticipated. We may becertain that an enemywill consider them all; we certainly should omitnone in our ownstudies. There are positions of such importance as to justify a complete defense regardless of support; there are otherswhereit would be advantageous to ourselvesto have an enemy commithimself. The former should be protected so as to discourage plans forattack; the latter should be left undefended.The following discussion attempts to cover a broad field in a briepresentation. There is no single point that is not capable and worthy
of considerable development. For example, practically every positionor group of positions discussed has its field in offensiveas well as de-fensive strategy; only the latter is touched upon. And of the six con-siderations to beheld in mind only the fourth and sixth are gone into toany extent.
is believed, in plans initiated locally, the third has re-ceived consideration equal to if no! greater than the others combined.
his writings Mahan frequently invited attention to the fact thatthe strategic value of a position depended upon three things: Its loca-tion; its natural strength; its resources. Of these, he stated the firstto be of greatest importance. While a position can be strengthened byartificial means, and while resources, if lacking, can be provided by thestorage of reserve supplies, no human agency can movea position fromone geographic location to another.Mahan had in mind, of course, positions of limited extent. Effort ismade in this article to touch upon the strategic strength, both of theContinental United States and of some of its dependencies. As far asresources are concerned little need be said other than that the UnitedStates are more nearly self sustaining, under the standards demandedbymodern war, than is any other nation-that the items of raw materialwemust have the forethought to secure and store are very few in num-ber.
might be mentioned also, as to man power, that we can createa larger force of fairly homogeneous stock than can any other nationexcept China and Russia and, due to resources and industrial develop-ment, can maintain a larger a~mythan either of these. There remainsour location and its natural strength.
has been said that the oceans are no longer barriers-that theyhave become highways. This is true to the extent that troops can bemoved by ships more economically, with less fatigue, and generallymore expeditiously than by other means. But, lacking harbors forbases, and lacking also a complete control of the seas (complete con-trol isnowalmost impossible to secure, dueto the developments in sub-marines and aircraft), the oceans still constitute a barrier that cannotbe disregarded.Certainly there is no comparison of a nation whose frontiers areseparated fro:mthe frontiers of others by several thousand miles owater, with a nation whose frontiers abut upon those of nations of ap-proximately equal power and in areas where the railroad net and roadsystems permit the concentration, on the frontier and in battle forma-tion, of great armies whosesupply is covered and assured by the con-centration. When the possibilities of damaging air attack coincidentwith the declaration of war are considered, the contrast becomes evengreater.
The land frontiers of the United States border on Canada andMexico. Both of these countries contain ample resources as to shelterand food for a modern army; neither has the capacity for munitioninga balanced force, nor is there any reason to anticipate an industrialdevelopment in either that would tend to result in such capacity. Thebulk of the munitions would have to come from overseas-to Canadaover favorable lines of communication from the east and over ratherunfavorable lines of communication from the west; to Mexico overlines of communication, a considerable portion of which are dominatedby existing or potential United States bases.The Canadian border from Lake Michigan to Maine abuts upon anarea vital to the United States. West of Lake Michigan there are sectorsof varying importance, though none could be classed as vital; it shouldbe noted that the development of communication is far superior southof the border. An invasion from any portion of Mexico would haveto penetrate deeply before affecting materially the war-making powerof the United States and only along the west coast and in Texas couldany especially important utility be affected. Excepting the Great Lakesand the Rocky Mountains, there are no natural obstacles to invasionalong our northern frontier; the desert lands of Northern Mexico andof our own Southwest are serious obstacles along the greater part of our southern land frontier.To study the sea frontiers it is best to use the great circle chartsplotted on a projection making a straight line on the map the shortestdistance between any two points.
outline sketch of such a chart isshown in Plate
In studying this chart it must be borne in mind thatit isnot to scale and distancescannot be taken from it. The sameresultsmay be had from the study of a globe with the advantage of b~ing ableto measure the distances.In sofar as the shortest distance is concerned, it is to be noted thatthe ~tlantic coastline of the United States lies practically in prolonga-tion of the routes from the northern Europe, as well as from Canadian,ports. The strategic effect of this is to place every base or potentialbase on our Atlantic seaboard on the flank of the line of communica-tions from northern Europe to every port more retired. That is, theKennebec, Portland, Portsmouth, and Boston are all advantageouslylocated for operations against an European force attempting to captureNarragansett Bay; similarly, these four and Narragansett Bay serveto protect NewYork. The farther to the southwest an enemy makes hisobjective, the longer and more exposed will be his lines of communica-tion-and the greater the number of bases he must capture or neutralize.In fact, it appears that a step by step reduction of the defended harbors

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