Feeding Victory

Innovative Military Logistics from Lake George to Khe Sanh

Jobie Turner

An army, Lewis Mumford once observed, “is a body of pure consumers”—and it is logistics that feeds this body’s insatiable appetite for men and materiel. Successful logistics—the transportation of supplies and combatants to battle—cannot guarantee victory, but poor logistics portends defeat. In Feeding Victory, Jobie Turner asks how technical innovation has affected this connection over time and whether advances in technology, from the railroad and the airplane to the nuclear weapon and the computer, have altered both the critical relationship between logistics and warfare and, ultimately, geopolitical dynamics.

Covering a span of three hundred years, Feeding Victory focuses on five distinct periods of technological change, from the preindustrial era to the information age. For each era Turner presents a case study: the campaign for Lake George from 1755 to 1759, the Western Front in 1917, the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942 to 1943, and the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968. In each of these cases the logistics of the belligerents were at their limit because of geography or the vast material needs of war. With such limits, the case studies both give a clear accounting of the logistics of the period, particularly with respect to the mode of transportation—whether air, land, or sea—and reveal the inflection points between success and failure.

“Jobie Turner’s findings—developed through five concise case studies that span two centuries—will be valuable to historians and military professionals alike. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Feeding Victory: Innovative Military Logistics from Lake George to Khe Sanh deserves a place next to Martin Van Creveld’s Supplying War.”

—Kevin C. Holzimmer, author of General Walter Krueger: Unsung Hero of the Pacific War

“An innovative approach to the subject. While each case study in itself can be regarded separately, taken all together Turner shows the eternal challenges that logistics poses for the conduct of war in any age.”

—Richard L. DiNardo, author of Mechanized Juggernaut or Military Anachronism? Horses and the German Army of World War II

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What are the continuities between eras, Turner asks, and what can these campaigns tell us about the relationship of technology to logistics and logistics to geopolitics? In doing so, Turner discovers just how critical the biological needs of the soldiers on the battlefield prove to be; in fact, they overwhelm firepower in their importance, even in the modern era. His work shows how logistics aptly represents technological shifts from the enlightenment to the dawn of the twenty-first century and how, in our time, ideas have come to trump the material forces of war.

About the Author

Jobie Turner, a colonel in the US Air Force, is the commander of the 314th Operations Group, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series