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One More Bridge to Cross: Lowering the Cost of War

One More Bridge


Without "boots on the ground" that are tactically proficient enough to survive as tiny well-dispersed elements without any help from supporting arms, America should not plan to win any more wars.  This book shows how the Pentagon could--with some "truly light" infantrymen and more self-sufficient commandos--project more overseas power at less cost in money and lives. Since Korea, America's foes  haven't needed as much preparatory fire or technology, nor have they  caused as much collateral damage. This makes them more appealing to local populations. "One More Bridge to Cross" takes a closer look at what  happened at Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, and later battles. Then, it  shows how to defend against (and acquire) advanced surprise assault technique. Semi-autonomous U.S. squads will not be possible until control over training has been decentralized. Too little tactical  experimentation at the company/school level has been the problem. Since  the Vietnam War, it has become increasingly clear that America's  defense establishment cannot defeat any "bottom-up-operating" (criminal-or-Asian-oriented) foe without first allowing more initiative from its  own lowest echelons.

What People Are Saying

"Poole puts together the ingredients of how to fight and win in the 21st Century." — Infantry Magazine (Fall 2003) 

"Small unit leaders would do well to read this... book... [It] is great. It addresses the squad not as a subset of the platoon, but as a team that makes everything happen. " — ArmyBasic.org (November 2003) 

One More Bridge to Cross looks at one battle in each war this century through the eyes of the enemy soldier (to better understand his techniques). Overemphasis on rank, technology, and long-range warfare have created a deficiency in individual and small-unit skills in the U.S. military.” — Command Magazine (September 1999)

“Every grunt leader — from squad to division — should read this book and then keep it in their pack to be thumbed through regularly until they hang up their rifles.” — Col. David H. Hackworth U.S. Army (Ret.), one of the most highly decorated Vietnam War veterans

“John Poole’s work . . . can do a great deal to save Marine lives. The combat techniques and training methods he offers are greatly advanced over those in the official Marine Corps technique manuals.” — William S. Lind, author of Maneuver Warfare Handbook and advisor to 29th Marine commandant

"[A] must for all those who have to meet the reality of the battlefields of the 21st Century." — Fort Myers Pentagram, 30 November 2001

"Well illustrated and colorfully bound, One More Bridge to Cross: Lowering the Cost of War is a ‘must’ read for all Americans. To discover seldom-acknowledged enemy capabilities, this book takes an in-depth look at one battle in each U.S. war this century. At one point, the reader is transported through time to the steamy jungles of Guadalcanal, where the highly deceptive squad tactics of the Japanese are examined. But, this book offers more than just exciting reading, it shows U.S. military leaders how to operate more effectively, while taking fewer casualties, in war. To be the world’s peace keepers of the 21st century, U.S. infantry units must learn to deploy smaller maneuver elements that rely on maximum surprise and minimal force." — Military Illustrated (November 1999)

Table of Contents
Maps and Tables                                   
Part One:  A Heritage Worth Preserving
Chapter 1:  Land of the Free                           
Chapter 2:  Home of the Brave                           
Chapter 3:  With Liberty and Justice for All           
Part Two:  How Wars Are Won
Chapter 4:  One Nation under God                   
Chapter 5:  A Closer Look at History               
Chapter 6:  Were Ideals Followed?                   
Chapter 7:  U.S. Warfare Style in Perspective        
Chapter 8:  The Winds of Change                     
Part Three:  For Those Who Still Serve
Chapter 9:  A Job for the Tactical Technicians         
Chapter 10:  A Different View of the World              
Chapter 11:  Preserving Limited Assets in Wartime   
Chapter 12:  Doing More with Less in Peacetime         
Chapter 13:  An Interim Solution for Units             
Chapter 14:  The Real Need:  Military Reform         
Chapter 15:  Decentralizing Control Works                    
About the Author                                       
Name Index           

Excerpt from the Foreword

John Poole’s immensely influential previous book, The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO’s Contribution to Warfare, filled a gaping hole in Marine Corps literature. It gave Marines, for the first time, a book about modern combat techniques.

This book, One More Bridge to Cross, is in effect a prequel to The Last Hundred Yards. It places the combat techniques offered in the first book in a larger context. That context is saving lives.

Nothing hits Marines harder than the death of another Marine. The tightly bound nature of the Marine “band of brothers” ensures that every casualty is felt personally by every other Marine. It is not merely for tradition’s sake that Marines always recover their dead. Even in death, a Marine is still a Marine, and he is not abandoned to the enemy.

John Poole’s work, in this book and in its predecessor, can do a great deal to save Marine lives. The combat techniques and training methods he offers are greatly advanced over those in the official Marine Corps technique manuals. Sadly, the latter often reflect a battlefield devoid of both machineguns and indirect artillery fire. One former Marine officer, now a noted military historian, told me the techniques he learned at The Basic School in the 1980’s were straight from the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. I have observed the same myself in Marine Corps field exercises, including on-line attacks similar to the Somme, defenses fully visible to enemy observation and thus doomed to be artillery targets, even on one occasion an attack by a company in column. The only things missing were the shakos [plumed dress hats] and white crossbelts.

But it is not only Marine lives John Poole is concerned about. He wants Marines to wage war in such a way as to spare enemy lives as well, military and civilian.

Some may view this as unmilitary softness. In fact, it reflects a profound understanding of the art of war. Colonel John Boyd, the greatest American military theorist of the 20th century, observed that war is waged at three levels: the physical, the mental and the moral. The physical level — killing people and blowing things up — is the least powerful level. The mental level, where maneuver warfare is largely waged — getting inside the other guy’s head — is more powerful than the physical. But the moral level is the most powerful level of all. It is here that guerrilla war is waged, and it is here that sparing enemy lives can pay great dividends. An enemy whose homes are bombed, families killed and soldiers slaughtered gets angry. He wants revenge. The conflict becomes a blood feud, and it cannot be settled until our blood is spilled along with his.

In contrast, a war of maneuver that is relatively bloodless makes peace easier. After the 1940 campaign, the Germans found the French population [to be] largely indifferent and seldom hostile. Part of the reason is that the German Blitzkrieg inflicted little physical damage on France. In contrast, the Allied campaign to retake France in 1944, with its typical American emphasis on bombing and mass firepower, inflicted tremendous damage. Not infrequently, German troops had to protect shot-down Allied aircrews from enraged French civilians — a point which German propaganda used to good effect.

In this book, the theme of saving lives has an important subtext: a small unit, a squad or even a fire team, that is properly trained in modern, post-machinegun techniques can be just as effective as a much larger unit, while offering the enemy fewer targets. The German Army, which excelled in drawing lessons from its combat experiences, found as early as World War I that the only difference between a squad attacking a machinegun position and a company doing so was in the number of casualties suffered. Not surprisingly, by 1918 the Stosstrupp, a squad-sized unit, was the basic German tactical building block. In contrast, in most Marine infantry units today, the squad is regarded as merely a subset of the platoon, seldom trained for independent action. The result, in combat, is likely to be a lot of dead Marines, Marines whose deaths could have been avoided if tasks were assigned to smaller units.

Those who read One More Bridge to Cross merely to discover more combat or training techniques will have missed the point. This is a book about something more, about waging war morally. The God of battles respects those who in turn respect His laws. He also favors those who fight smart. On both counts, John Poole has done the Marine Corps an immense service.

— William S. Lind, author of Maneuver Warfare Handbook and personal advisor to 29th Marine commandant

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ISBN 0963869531

Paperback: 166 pages, and 27 illustrations