War in the Eyes of an Engineer

Amid the remarkable rise of China, a great deal of analysis, theory, technology, and planning has been generated within the United States defense establishment relating to potential future security challenges in the Pacific. From area access/area denial (A2AD) concepts like Air-Sea Battle, to the current National Security Strategy’s calls for more Asian venues for multilateral discussion, seemingly every aspect of the future U.S. role in the region, militarily and otherwise, has been accounted for.

One space that has not been sufficiently mined for its translatable lessons, however, is the critically important role of engineer support in the vast, geographically diverse operating environment of the Pacific. Looking to previous conflicts as one source of inspiration, one can draw a number of useful lessons from the background and performance of General Douglas MacArthur’s chief engineer, Major General Hugh J. Casey, amid the grueling fight in that theater during WWII. As history records, Casey’s performance in support of a campaign that MacArthur repeatedly referred to as an “Engineer’s war” was undoubtedly superb.

Current doctrinal publications like Army Doctrinal Reference Pamphlet 3-0 (Unified Land Operations) emphasize the linkage between the fruits of educational preparation (creativity and abstract thinking among them) and operational success, something that Casey would have undoubtedly appreciated, notwithstanding the Army’s emphasis on