Processing the Lessons of War: Organizational Change and the U.S. Military

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Failing to understand the lessons of war can cause militaries to repeat past failures, leading to increased costs in terms of resources and causalities in future conflicts. Modern Western militaries faced a range of difficulties on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan that they struggled to address, and they need to learn and institutionalize the lessons of their experiences if they are to succeed in future conflicts. This dissertation addresses this by asking: to what extent has the battlefield experience of the U.S. military influenced post-war organizational change? The various service branches of the U.S. military have needed to adapt at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war. However, what remains to be understood is if, and more importantly how, such battlefield adaptations and the lessons of military operations were actually learned and thus influenced the overall organizational changes of the U.S. military. This dissertation examines whether battlefield adaptations of the U.S. Army, Air Force (then the Army Air Force), Navy and Marine Corps during the Second World War influenced the process of post-war organizational change within the military in the aftermath of that conflict. In particular, this dissertation explores the role of junior and midlevel officers in the change process, which is an area of focus that has been largely undervalued by much of the existing literature on military change. Building on archival research, this dissertation develops a framework to explain the process of how the lessons of combat become institutionalized in a post-war period.
strategy, United States, Innovation
Salt, A. G. (2023). Processing the lessons of war: organizational change and the U.S. military (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from