The CMHS held its 2014 annual conference in Kansas City in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society for Military History. Nine papers were presented.
Peter Lorge (Vanderbilt University), "Warfare Is the Way of Cunning"
About half way into the first chapter of Sunzi is a passage often seen as the fundamental description of Sunzi's method of warfare. It states that "warfare is the way of cunning," and then proceeds to delineate what sort of deceptions are useful in warfare. These stratagems are based upon misleading one's opponents about one's capabilities and dispositions in order to wrong foot him and so achieve victory. The passage and its succeeding explication appear appear to be a clear and straightforward statement of best practice.
Despite that clarity, the early commentators on the passage and its explication felt it necessary to offer their own further clarification of their meaning. This paper will explore what and why those commentators felt it necessary to explain an otherwise straight- forward proposal. Part of the commentators' efforts were devoted to providing historical examples of cunning in warfare as a means to solidify and make practical Sunzi's more general statements. Other commentators sought to distinguish the precise function of cunning and why it was necessary in warfare, or to insist that it was critical though separate from the morality required to succeed in war.
Yang Wei (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs), "Knowledge of Deception for Sale: Sunzi Cantong, a Commercial Military Encyclopedia in Late-Ming China"
During the late imperial China, the authority of seminal military texts such as Sunzi (the Art of War) had long been acknowledged. This study addresses a hitherto little researched topic: late-Ming commercial publishers' engagement with the text of Sunzi for publication targeted at a general readership. By a scrutiny of Sunzi cantong (A Companion to Sunzi), a text that puts together a wide variety of commentaries to Sunzi from over 30 different historical sources (originally published in 1620 and currently preserved in the rare book collection at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing), this study seeks to examine how military concepts such as deception and espionage were reconstructed and repackaged by commercial publishers and editors for a wider audience comprised of ordinary literati with basic literacy in late-Ming China, an era marked by florescence of a variety of commercial encyclopedias. I will focus on the ways in which the meaning of deception is contested and historicized by the compilers of Sunzi Cantong through an indiscriminate representation of the diverse exegetical traditions concerning the related passages in Sunzi. Situated at the intersection of military history, intellectual history, and print culture study, this case study seeks to demonstrate how the flourishing print culture diversified attitudes to knowledge, breeding the rise of an encyclopedic approach to established military cannons, and ultimately revealing a popularist orientation in interpretation of the texts consistent with the changes in attitudes toward knowledge within larger intellectual contexts of 17th-century China.
David Graff (Kansas State University), "Brain over Brawn: Shared Beliefs and Presumptions in Chinese and Western Strategemata"
The claim has often been made that there is a unique and distinctive "Western Way of War" that differs in very fundamental ways from the military thought and practice of China and other non-Western societies. This view, especially prevalent in the U.S. military establishment today, is mirrored by the claims of Chinese military intellectuals regarding the uniqueness (and superiority) of their own country's ancient tradition of strategic thought. Careful examination of the evidence, however, suggests that the notion of a radical disjuncture between East and West is overblown. This paper con- centrates on a single aspect of this much larger problem by comparing the West's classical tradition of strategemata, found mainly in the works of Frontinus, Onasander, and Polyaenus dating from the first and second centuries CE, with the corresponding Chinese tradition found in the ancient military treatises, the early dynastic histories, and important encyclopedic works such as Du You's Tongdian. It finds that for all practical intents and purposes the two corpora form a single corpus -- that is, they include essentially the same range of stratagems that appear to be derived from common or shared assumptions about human psychology. To cite only two examples, both traditions hold that an army can be routed by putting forward the false claim that its leader had been killed or captured, and both advise that it is best to allow desperate, cornered opponents a path of escape. The paper will consider possible explanations for this overlap, and will also seek to identify (and perhaps explain) change over time and subtle differences between the two traditions. The idea of deliberately putting one's own army in a place where retreat is not possible, for example, was well known in both China and the ancient Mediterranean world, but fell from favor in Byzantine times. The paper concludes that the efficacy of particular stratagems is by no means universal but rather is deeply rooted in social and institutional structures that are themselves impermanent. In the final analysis, the key distinction is between different times and not different cultures. To repeat the proverb once cited by Marc Bloch, "Men resemble their times more than they do their fathers."
Xiaobing Li (University of Central Oklahoma), "Chinese Deception and Limitation: CPVF Offensive Campaigns in the Korean War, 1950-51"
One of the most important characteristics of the Chinese military is its emphasis on the human component in war. Shaped by a traditional military culture, the Chinese belief in human superiority over technology suggest their contradictory attitude toward war and combat. They believe that a weak army can win a war against a strong enemy because they are convinced that a man could beat a weapon through a military advantage achieved by deception and stratagem, which could lead them to victory.
During the Korean War (1950-53), the Chinese lacked the air force, the tanks, and the heavy artillery necessary for a successful campaign against more powerful and mechanized UN Forces. But the Chinese high command believed their deception and stratagem would offset their inferior equip- ment and technology and be a decisive factor in their victory.
From November 25 to December 24, 1950, the Chinese People's Volunteer Force (CPVF) fought the Second Offensive Campaign. They lured the United Nations Forces (UNF) into a deep trap, where Chinese troops could encircle and eliminate UNF units one by one. U.S. X Corps had 8,735 battle casualties between November 27 and December 10 and the Marines had suffered 4,418 battle and 7,313 non-battle casualties.
Of all the Chinese offensives against the UNF in Korea, their Fifth Offensive, or the Spring Offensive Campaign, proved the most decisive. Lasting from April 22 though June 2, 1951, it was the largest and longest Communist military operation of the war, as well as the largest battle since World War II. The CPVF deployed more than 700,000 men against 340,000 UNF troops. The CPVF employed deception again, but they failed and suffered 105,000 casualties in the battle.
This paper focuses on the Chinese deception tactics by examining their battle plans, command decision making, tactical flexibility, problem solving methods, and combat effectiveness. Their operational behavior highlights new and penetrating insights into deception and illustrates major issues and the limits of deception in modern warfare.
Harold Tanner (University of North Texas), "Lin Biao's Principles of Tactics vs. the Human Wave: A Disagreement with Edward C. O'Dowd"
In his 2007 book Chinese Military Strategy in the Third Indochina War: The Last Maoist War, Edward C. O'Dowd argues that the People's Liberation Army performed poorly in its 1979 war with Vietnam because the politicization of the military during the Cultural Revolution had led to a return to the use of human wave tactics. O'Dowd attributes the PLA's use of the "human wave" in Vietnam directly to the tactical doctrines that Lin Biao articulated in the 1940s while commanding Communist forces fighting Chiang Kai-shek's armies in Manchuria. A careful reading Lin Biao's talks and writings, as seen in a 1965 collection entitled Lin Biao junshi lunwen xuanji ziliao [Material for the selected military writings of Lin Biao] suggests that Lin Biao's tactical principles were quite different from, and in some respects completely contrary to, the idea of the "human wave." If the PLA forces did use massed "human wave" tactics in Vietnam, it is more likely that this was a result of poor training and lack of tactical sophistication rather than the conscious application of well-thought-out principles.
Eric Setzekorn (George Washington University), "Jiang Baili and China's Search for Military Modernity"
During the first half of the twentieth century, Jiang Baili (蔣百里) was one of China's premier military intellectuals, and wrote widely on issues of strategy, technological change and military organizational structure. After graduating at the top of the class of the prestigious Japanese Imperial Army Academy and becoming commandant of the Baoding Military Academy at the age of thirty, Jiang had a solid foundation for a glittering career but for the remainder of his life never achieved high command positions. Even after a transition into a public intellectual role in the 1920s brought him widespread acclaim, Jiang's military expertise continued to be marginalized by warlord forces and the newly emerging party-armies of the GMD and CCP. Examination of Jiang's personal experience and his intellectual struggles to understand China's military organization in a period of massive technological and political change sheds light on marginalized trends during the pre-1949 era that emphasized military science and military obedience to the nation rather than party control.
Miri Kim (University of California, Irvine), "Patterns of Ordinary and Extraordinary Consumption of the Northeast Military Academy in the 1920s and Early 1930s"
This paper closely analyzes the budgets, inventories, and expenditure reports of the Northeast Military Academy along with other training institutions associated with the forces of Zhang Zuolin and Zhang Xueliang (the Fengtian Army) in the 1920 and the beginning of the 1930s to argue that the school was much more than a place to train officers; it was a consumer of goods such as tea, lamp oil, clothing, and paper products as well as services, employing carpenters and personnel related to the care of horses to keep the school in shape and its instructors and students ready for action. By analyzing budgetary and financial documents related to the operation of the Northeast Military Academy, this paper seeks to portray the school as a living, breathing entity, not simply a site geared toward the production of modern military officers, knowledge, and techniques. Although the information preserved in these documents is fragmentary, the paper will draw upon studies of economic developments in Northeast China/Manchuria to situate the consumption patterns of the school within the context of consumption in the late Qing and Republican periods, to join the growing literature of studies that seek to illuminate how consumption was changing within, and changing, early twentieth
Peter Worthing (Texas Christian University), "'A Force for a Hundred Year War of Resistance': Nationalist Conscription in the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945)"
For most of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945, Chinese Nationalist officials engaged in a strategy of protracted war, trying to stave off defeat, force the enemy to disperse its forces, and exhaust its resources. Yet this strategy would only prove successful if the Nationalists could muster enough manpower to absorb the tremendous casualties that resulted from prolonged exposure to the superior firepower of the Japanese Imperial Army. Conscription therefore played a key role in the Nationalist strategy and had a significant impact on the outcome of the war. Western writings on Nationalist conscription have detailed the system's many shortcomings and popularized images of Chinese peasants coerced into military service, maltreated, ill fed, and poorly trained. In some respects, conscription served as a lens through which to interpret the entire Nationalist regime: callous, corrupt, and incompetent.
This paper examines conscription during the Sino-Japanese War from the perspective of the Ministry of Military Administration and argues that Nationalist military officials at the highest levels had a clear understanding of the problems inherent in the conscription system. Rather than turn a blind eye, they made numerous attempts to improve conscription with new policies, revisions of existing practice, and constant attempts to correct the work habits of conscription officials at all levels. The paper argues that the Nationalists took conscription seriously and succeeded in putting 14 million new soldiers in the field during the war. Despite the many challenges and enduring problems, Nationalist conscription efforts made a significant contribution to the war effort and ultimate victory.
Nathan Ledbetter (United States Army), "Tactical Intelligence, Counter- intelligence, and Deception in 16th Century Japan: The Battle of Nagashino (1575)"
The Battle of Nagashino is often simplistically described as a victory of one force armed with technologically advanced firearms (the Oda and the Tokugawa) against a more "traditional" force (the Takeda). This attention on firearms as the focal point of the battle had made Nagashino an academic "battleground" between proponents and detractors of technological military revolution. Unfortunately, this debate has shifted focus from all other factors that contributed to Oda and Tokugawa victory over the Takeda. This paper asserts that an Oda/Tokugawa victory at Nagashino occurred as the result of a sophisticated and complex tactical plan, and that of central and critical importance to this plan was the control of information.
Oda Nobunaga's information dominance over Takeda Katsuyori set the conditions for a decisive tactical victory. Nobunaga was able to gain an accurate picture of his enemy and the terrain through reconnaissance, forces familiar with the local area, and messages from the besieged Nagashino Castle which detailed Katsuyori's force and actions. Nobunaga then denied Katsuyori the same information by camouflaging his army's movements and deploying counter reconnaissance forces to eliminate the Takeda's ability to gather tactical intelligence. Lastly, Nobunaga actively provided disinformation to Katsuyori in a grand deception effort that led Katsuyori to do exactly what his enemy wanted.
Rather than a technological victory, Nagashino should be viewed as an intelligence victory, and evidence of sophisticated integration of intelligence, deception, and tactics to achieve decisive effect.