“Corpses in the Grass”: strategic culture and combat effectiveness in the Pacific War; a case study of the U.S. Seventh Infantry Division

Burklund, Richard Allan (2023) “Corpses in the Grass”: strategic culture and combat effectiveness in the Pacific War; a case study of the U.S. Seventh Infantry Division. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Rather than accepting the premise that American industrial capacity and the sheer quantitative advantage that it produced were the only reasons that the U.S. was able to prevail over its qualitatively superior foes during the Second World War, I will demonstrate through the four different Pacific theater campaigns of the 7th Infantry Division the decisive importance of willpower and the less explored influence of strategic culture on the outcome of the war. I will challenge the theory of the supposedly inexorable triumph of American military mass as opposed to its superior combat effectiveness through a case study exploring the performance of the 7th U.S. Infantry Division in the Pacific. This case study contains two principal elements: the first is an analysis of the battles of Attu, Kwajalein, Leyte, and Okinawa and the second is a comparison of the strategic/tactical cultures of Japan and the United States and how they contributed to and influenced the relative combat effectiveness of the opposing forces. My hypothesis is that the 7th Division was comparatively more combat-efficient than its Japanese opponents because of an American “tactical culture” characterized by superior leadership that embodied adaptability and flexibility, informed by continuous learning that resulted in realistic training and highly effective tactical performance. The inspiration for this thesis began with the author’s Master of Arts dissertation, “Hell in the Mist: The Seventh Infantry Division and the Battle of Attu” completed for Southern New Hampshire University in 2015. Significant portions of this thesis borrow from and incorporate elements of that study. By extending the combat effectiveness debate from the European theater to the Pacific theater, I challenge the deterministic assumptions made by other historians about American industrial superiority over Japan by taking a cultural approach to provide new possible explanations of historical events. In this way, the competing hypotheses of how and why one force was more combat effective can be further explored. I will contrast and compare the American and Japanese strategic, operational, tactical, and human dimensions of the Pacific War.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
E History America > E151 United States (General)
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Pollard, Professor Tony and Marshall, Dr. Alexander
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83669
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2023 07:44
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2023 07:47
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83669
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83669

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