Wednesday, January 23, 2013


  The Commandant in his 2010 Planning Guidance explicitly states his goals for the Marine Corps University.  He wants to: “develop [the] Marine Corps university (MCU) into a World Class institution.”

If our MCU is to be world class, then we must recognize the excellence of those who teach at our University.  To accomplish this we need to place books written by the MCU faculty on the Commandant’s reading list.  This was done recently for a short period of time in 2012, several books from one particular faculty member did appear on the list: Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson’s Stormtroop Tactics and his updated edition of John English’s On Infantry.  Neither, however, made the cut on 2 January, 2013, and that is an absolute travesty.

Though I have not read On Infantry , I have read Stormtroop Tactics.  A fascinating read!  You must read it in conjunction with Ernst Junger’s Storm of Steel, and Rommel’s Attacks. Both Junger’s and Rommel’s books are on the CMC’s Reading list, and are incredibly engaging personal accounts of their experiences in WWI.  They describe experiences of battles where good ol’ Ernst & Erwin used the Stormtroop tactics that would provide the basis for the blitzkrieg in WWII.  Dr. Gudmundsson’s book contextualizes and explains the details of these Stormtroop, or “assault,” tactics described by the two German Officers. Without Dr. G’s book to frame the narratives of Junger & Rommel, Storm of Steel, and Attacks are merely good yarns that provide little more than a suggestion of the attitude one might take toward war.

Stormtroop Tactics provides a professional account of the practical beginnings of our maneuver warfare heritage.  It details the initial movements toward a more mobile mindset in the German Army, a mindset that ultimately created the conditions that allowed them to sweep through Europe like a knife cuts through butter.  The Germans accomplished in six weeks (much thanks to aggressive Generals like Rommel) a land grab that the Allies took five years to reverse.  The underpinnings of this significant feat are well worth understanding.  Stormtroop Tactics paints the picture, describing the practical application of their lessons.  It is the answer key to what are otherwise a handful of anecdotes, free to be misinterpreted or misapplied at will.

As LtGen Breckenridge, USMC, said in 1934, “I want our officers to be original, and to confidently assert themselves by speech and pen.  To stand up and speak, and to sit down and write; and in between times to read and reason.  As a result of that activity they will speak and write.  Someday a Mahan will emerge from the [Marine Corps] crowd.”  Am I saying Dr. G is the next Mahan?  Maybe not, but what I am saying is that by supporting our own, marketing our thinkers to both the Marine Corps and the world, we are getting ever closer to creating an environment that can and will produce that next Clausewitz, that next Mahan, that next Boyd.


  1. I've read both "On Infantry" and "Stormtroop Tactics." All Marines should read them several times over for the simple fact that, taken together, they explain how modern infantry tactics got to be where they are, and, as Mazzara points out, where much of our maneuver warfare roots come from. If those aren't reason enough to keep them on the list, well, we're

  2. Sir,

    Thank you for your feedback. MCU values feedback like this and will consider your input during the next review. For your reference and convenience, the following is a link to the new Commandant’s Professional Reading List (CPRL) website:

    Marines (or anyone for that matter) can provide input to the selection process. You can recommend a new addition to the Reading List using the CPRL Book Idea Nomination Form: (note instructions on the form). Other comments are welcome anytime via email to

    MCU encourages and welcomes any and all feedback on the CPRL. Not just feedback regarding what books Marines should, need or must read (and why), but ideas about how to get Marines reading….and encouraging them to read more books, entertain fresh ideas, and continuing to tax their minds beyond what is minimally required. These last words were inspired by a commencement speech made by Mr. James Lehrer at Southern Methodist University in 1989. A portion reads: “I urge you to please keep in mind what the diploma you are about to receive does not mean. It does not mean you are educated. Quite the contrary. It means, I hope, that you have been opened up to a perpetual state of ignorance…and thus a lifelong hunger for more—more ideas, more information, more good thoughts, more challenges, more of everything. I must tell you that some of the dumbest people I know when to great prestigious colleges and universities like SMU…They walked across a stage as you are going to do, and with diplomas in their hot little hands, pronounced themselves well-educated…and proceeded to never read another book, entertain another fresh idea or tax their minds in any way beyond what was minimally required to make a living or make it socially, or both.”

    My apology for not being able to cite the newspaper from which this was taken. I do not remember where it came from (my dad gave me the clipping in 1989).

    Again, thank you for your feedback sir. If you (or anyone) wish to provide additional comments regarding the CPRL, they may be summitted to:

    All the best and Semper Fidelis.

  3. I would like to thank the people who made the comments above. As indicated immediately above, we welcome any and all comments. In preparing the recommendation to CMC regarding his list, there is no shortage of books that should absolutely be on that list. There are so many just as good, if not better than the ones currently on the list, or the ones recommended above. The list is not intended to be exclusive - it is a starting point to get people interested in reading. It should whet their appetite and make them "hungry for more knowledge", so that professionals who do read a great deal more than just the CPRL titles can then steer our younger Marines towards other titles that are of value to developing professionals. Stormtroop Tactics and On Infantry, both of which I have read, are perfect examples and there are many, many more. Lastly, we tried to cut the list back some so as to not overwhelm those getting started on the reading process. We kept the number of titles down to what is expected of someone at each rank - three titles a year.

    Thank you again for your comments and please do get involved in recommending additions or deletions to the list during the next review process.

    Semper Fi.

  4. I believe that Captain Mazzara's point was not as much about Dr. Gudmundsson's books being on the CMC Reading List, as it was about the Marine Corps University attaining "world class" status per the Commandant's intention. To achieve that recognition and reputation, a professional military academic institution should have lecturers/authors/staff that are routinely identified on such lists as the CMC Reading List. The Marine Corps University's "world class" status should be reflected in the List. It is a subtle difference, but one worth considering. Semper Fi!

  5. I think the CPRL has more to do with MCU attaining world class status than just about any other factor, because when you get down to it, personal professional reading is the foundation of all PME. It does a lot to determine where a student will mentally be at when they start one of MCU's courses. In that way, it also dictates how much MCU's instructors will be able to accomplish in the brief time they have available with those students. And I'm only guessing, but I suspect if you asked anyone putting an article in The Gazette about their own professional reading, then asked non-submitting officers of the same rank about their reading, you'd find that professional reading generally correlates with publication. Bottom line, the importance of the CPRL in creating the conditions necessary to meet the CMC's goal for MCU cannot be overstated.

    The problem with the CPRL is that it's really not the Commandant's reading list. It's more of a high school summer reading list, and it's only about as effective at getting Marines to take charge of their own professional military education as a high school reading list is at producing graduates who read literature for the rest of their lives. This also produces the kind of dumbed down list we're worried about in this post.

    If each Commandant actually published his own personal reading list of books that blew his hair back, or an explanation of how he broke up his reading or integrated it into his work week, that would do a lot more to advance our culture of PME than the current incarnation of the CPRL. A change like that would also undermine Marines' ability to turn the reading list into a check in the box for promotion, since the shifting nature of the list would help counter things like this (which have become a plague):

    Right now, not only is the CPRL a more or less static list of books (though I applaud the decision to change it, even if some of Dr. G's stuff got caught in the crossfire), it also doesn't help that half of it is broken out artificially by rank. We need to shift more of it into the format of the categories farther down the list than the high school reading list rank breakout. As far as why we might do this, a few months ago I had a lance corporal who was looking beat down because we'd started leaning on the Marines to read more of the CPRL, and he didn't like the stuff on the E3 list. I asked him what kind of stuff he read that blew his hair back, and among the books he listed was one of the E7 books. While we were badgering him to read Rifleman Dodd, he was reading LtCol Grossman's stuff. We have junior Marines who read as much as some of our field grades, and we need to think about how we can better recognize and develop that human capital instead of telling them not to bother with certain books until they're a higher rank.

    So, from my perspective, in a perfect world we'd 1. Split the professional reading list into a separate thing from the Commandant's reading list (in a perfect world, every commander would publish a short personal reading list), and 2. Divide the professional reading list up by category and, within those categories, reading level. I wish we lived in a world where just being a higher rank meant you read at a higher level, but that's just not always the reality. Additionally, a reading level breakout would mean we wouldn't feel capped as far as what could make the list, so we'd probably be able to get back some of these books we're worried about losing. Also, in the spirit of Gen Gray, it can't possibly hurt us to send out a message saying that we see nothing unusual about it when our young Marines read thicker books.