Section I:

Main purpose:

This section talks about how historical military logistics, as a field of study, has changed since Supplying War was published.

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Summary:

Van Creveld begins by describing the state of logistics as a field of study when the book was written. He says that it was absolutely terrible. Most discussions of warfare centered on the capabilities of weapons systems, and the remainder talked about strategy and tactics as if they were somehow magically unaffected by logistical concerns. Van Creveld thinks this may have been B.H. Liddell Hartís fault, since his extremely popular military writing didnít treat logistics seriously.

One thing van Creveld finds incredible is how little was said about logistics by people who clearly had plenty they could have said if they wanted to. His most glaring example is Field Marshal Montgomery, who must have known at least something about logistics from operating in Africa, yet said essentially nothing about it in his Concise History of Warfare. As a result of this inexplicable silence from people who could have spoken authoritatively had they chosen to, van Creveld recalls his research for Supplying War as being a process of poring slowly over dusty, obscure books by forgotten authors, or reviewing archives of bureaucratic military records trying to figure out which might give some insight into logistics.

Having described the lack of books on (and interest in) logistics when Supplying War was first written, van Creveld describes the incredible transformation that has taken place. He talks about how the field of logistics has exploded, so much so that itís possible to forget that war involves fighting and not just endless logistics.

To give an example of this amazing new proliferation of logistics books, van Creveld lists a number of them written specifically on a period of historical military logistics that he didnít even discuss...Ancient Rome. He also notes that his list of books doesnít even get into much more specialized articles in scholarly journals that treat the field with amazingly narrow detail (e.g., how Roman legions requisitioned food, etc.). Van Creveld also happily notes that even outside the confines of military history, logistics has become its own academic discipline, encompassing the sciences of both civil and military logistics. This has caused the number of institutes and centers dedicated to the study of logistics to skyrocket.

Finally, van Creveld describes the extreme diversity of publications that have sprung up on logistics (many of them online), so many that one person canít possibly read all of them, or even glance over all of them. He laughingly reflects that when he began to write Supplying War, his only academic background in logistics was reading one or two obscure books that made him want to learn a bit more about how armies supplied themselves, and his only practical experience in logistics was moving his family from one country to another. He closes by soberly reflecting that he never in a million years could have realized the scope of the project he was starting on, or the immensity of the field that would eventually be uncovered.

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Capt Palmer's favorite quote:

"...the term Ďlogisticsí itself has acquired a sophisticated ring that is part of the subjectís attraction. Tell people you are a logistician...and they will think you are very clever if perhaps, on the boring side. In German one can even speak of Ďthe logistics of perceptioní (Logistik der Wahrnemung); what that may mean I have not the slightest idea."