Learning under fire: a combat unit in the Southwest Pacific

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Title: Learning under fire: a combat unit in the Southwest Pacific
Author: Powell, James Scott
Abstract: Engaging a determined enemy across a broad range of conditions , the U .S . Army in World War II's Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA ) played an important role in the defeat of Japan . How units fought and learned in SWPA and how they adapted to the evolving challenges of their environment is the focus of this dissertation . The subject remains largely unexplored , especially in contrast to the attention the European theater has received . An examination of the 112th's performance not only illuminates an understudied area in the historiography of World War II but also offers relevant lessons for contemporary military organizations . Mining a rich collection of primary sources , this study analyzes the development of the 112th Cavalry Regiment and sheds light on how American units in SWPA prepared for and conducted combat operations . A National Guard unit federalized in 1940 and sent to the Pacific theater in 1942 , the 112th performed garrison duties on New Caledonia and Woodlark Island and eventually fought in New Britain , New Guinea , and the Philippines . Before deactivating , the regiment also served in Japan during the first months of the occupation . Concentrating on one unit illustrates the extent to which ground forces in SWPA were driven to learn and adapt . The 112th had mixed success when it came to carrying out its assigned missions effectively . The same was true of its efforts to learn and improve . The unit's gradual introduction to combat worked to its advantage , but learning was not simply a matter of building on experience . It also involved responding to unexpected challenges . Experience tended to help , but the variety of circumstances in which the cavalrymen fought imposed limits on the applicability of that experience . Different situations demanded that learning occur in different ways . Learning also occurred differently across the organization's multiple levels . Moreover , failure to learn in one area did not , as a matter of course , undermine advancement in all . Much depended on the presence of conditions that facilitated or disrupted the learning process , such as the intricacy of the tasks involved , the part higher headquarters played , and the enemy's own responses to the changing environment .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /4237
Date: 2006-10-30

Citation

Learning under fire: a combat unit in the Southwest Pacific. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /4237 .

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