Marines have long been mythologized as an elite fighting force. Richard Harding Davis’s famously understated dispatch—“The Marines have landed and have the situation well in hand”—speaks to this mythology and the notion that there is no challenge that a Marine force can’t handle, and handle easily. Much of this fame, echoed in histories, recruiting pitches, and catchphrases, comes from popular recognition that the amphibious assaults that Marines the world over are known for are exceptionally difficult operations. Classic examples like the assaults on the shores of Gallipoli, Normandy, Iwo Jima, or Inchon involved thousands or tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines emptying out of ships and landing craft in the face of fierce enemy fire. And these landings were coordinated with awesome amounts of seapower and, in the latter cases, airpower.

General Douglas MacArthur, in planning for the successful landings at Inchon in 1950, remarked, “The amphibious landing is the most powerful tool we have.” That remains true today as amphibious forces remain the cornerstone of joint forcible entry concepts and capability in the United States. The concepts of amphibious operations—whether a raid, a demonstration, an assault, a withdrawal, or support to crisis response—continue to play a role nearly seventy-five years after Inchon. MacArthur’s force at Inchon was spearheaded by elements of the 1st Marine Division, but amphibious operations are not limited to the Marine Corps.

The National Security Act of 1947 tasked the Marine Corps “to develop . . . those phases of amphibious operations which pertain to the tactics, technique, and equipment employed by landing forces,” with the implication that the Marine Corps is responsible for executing amphibious operations but also developing the means for other services to carry them out. For its own part, Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1, Warfighting only uses the word amphibious four times in its 106 pages, instead focusing on maneuver warfare as the core concept for employment of Marines. Marines are a force capable of amphibious operations, but not incapable of other operations.

Any landing by Marines, or any amphibious force, is a decidedly more complex process than just crossing the beach. Operation Overlord, the scale of which necessitated the use of many regular infantry and other units not accustomed to amphibious operations, required over a year of planning and nearly a full year of training. To be successful amphibious forces need to be recruited, trained in amphibious tactics and doctrine, equipped with specialized equipment, and then coordinated with effective naval and air support. These forces need to carry out shaping operations like reconnaissance and fires. And then after storming the beach or shoreline they need to be quickly reinforced so that they can hold their lodgment and continue operations inland. Singly, these are no small feats; the capability to accomplish all of them together is among the crown jewels of a nation’s military power. But for nearly as long as forces have been raised for the purpose of carrying out amphibious operations, they have faced difficulties and naysayers.

One does not need to look far to find critics of amphibious operations even in the US military. In 2010 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates questioned the future of amphibious operations in a changing security environment: “Looking ahead, I do think it is proper to ask whether large-scale amphibious assault landings . . . are feasible.” His line of questioning was not new. Just a year before the successful landings at Inchon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Omar Bradley famously told the House Armed Services Committee that “large-scale amphibious operations will never occur again.” And a few decades earlier, after watching the amphibious debacle at Gallipoli unfold, “the general conclusion [among military professionals] was that large scale amphibious operations against a defended shore, especially conducted in daylight, were almost certain to be suicidal.” Yet after each period of uncertainty, amphibious operations again prove their necessity.

Today, in an increasingly insecure world, amphibious operations should be at the forefront of military thought. Ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza underline the importance of effective amphibious forces, even during wars in which they are not a defining feature. Given the maritime geography of potential conflict zones like Taiwan and the Baltic, there is a clear need not only to have effective amphibious capabilities, but also to develop plans that could blunt or defeat adversary amphibious operations. Additionally, both the US military and the People’s Liberation Army are pursuing new concepts based on multidomain operations. Amphibious operations, which have always been inherently multidomain, offer lessons far beyond their scope.

In that spirit, we have compiled and edited a new volume of essays on amphibious warfare and amphibious operations. We believe that the history of amphibious warfare offers unique perspectives on the current environment and lessons for the future. It is the responsibility of academics, historians, and practitioners to examine the history of amphibious warfare. On Contested Shores: The Evolving Role of Amphibious Operations in the History of Warfare is our effort to facilitate that study. The second volume was just released by Marine Corps University Press and is available online for free download. The first volume was released in 2020 and is also available online for free download. Print copies can be requested through Marine Corps University Press.

The second volume of On Contested Shores is both similar and different to the first volume. We have compiled another collection of essays on amphibious warfare, with a specific focus on case studies and topics that we believe have been understudied or overlooked. We are excited to publish two chapters each on amphibious warfare in twentieth-century China and the Soviet Union, as well as lesser-known case studies about operations ranging from Mexico to Africa. Some chapters are operational case studies. Others are focused on key, individual themes—there is a chapter on post-landing inland maneuver in Arctic environments, for example, and another on the logistics considerations of amphibious operations. Still other chapters are focused on specific developments, like the LST (“landing ship, tank”). We have also altered the organization of the volume compared to the first. Instead of a strictly chronological order, this volume is organized along the lines of the DOTMLPF-P spectrum, which should be familiar to students of military doctrine. However, we have not thoroughly covered all the elements of DOTMLPF-P, instead choosing to include operational case studies and focus more on the areas most relevant to amphibious operations.

We hope that these volumes provide current and future researchers, be they planners, academics, or simply curious parties, with an accessible resource to examine the nature and character of amphibious operations well beyond the beach.

On Contested Shores, Volume 2, Table of Contents

Lt. Gen. (retired) Philip D. Shutler

Timothy Heck, B. A. Friedman, and Walker D. Mills

Doctrine and Logistics

Chapter 1 — The Landing at Collado Beach: The Logistical Importance of the Amphibious Landing near Veracruz during the Mexican-American War
Christopher Menking

Chapter 2 — The Landing Craft Controversy, 1934–1942
Jerry E. Strahan

Chapter 3 — Red Tide over the Beach: Soviet Amphibious Warfare in Theory and Practice
Benjamin Claremont

Chapter 4 — Innovative Amphibious Logistics for the Twenty-first Century
Walker D. Mills

Technology and Innovation

Chapter 5 — Amphibious Juggernaut: How the Landing Ship, Tank, and Landing Vehicle, Tracked Created the Most Powerful Amphibious Assault System of World War II
Douglas E. Nash Sr.

Chapter 6 — The Union Defence Forces’ Amphibious Invasion of German South West Africa, 1914
David Katz

Chapter 7 — Operation Albion: The German Amphibious Landing on the Baltic Islands, 12–17 October 1917
Eric Sibul

Chapter 8 — Beyond Cold Shores: Inland Maneuver in Historical Polar Operations
Lance R. Blyth

Chapter 9 — Soviet Preparations for a Naval Landing against Israel in June 1967 and Their Partial Implementation
Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez

Policy and Implementation

Chapter 10 — Operation Husky: The Challenges of Joint Amphibious Operations
Darren Johnson

Chapter 11 — A New Zealand-led “Commando Raid” in the South Pacific: The Green Islands, 30–31 January 1944
Shaun Mawdsley

Chapter 12 — PLA Amphibious Campaigns and the Origins of the Joint Island Landing Campaign
Xiaobing Li

Military Materiel and Personnel

Chapter 13 — U.S. Geostrategic Deterrence and A2/AD at Work in the American Civil War, 1861–1865
Howard J. Fuller

Chapter 14 — A Groundswell of Support in the Pacific: Deploying Small Wars Doctrine amid the Rise of Amphibious Warfare
Evan Zachary Ota

Chapter 15 — Prelude to Stalin’s Third Crushing Blow: The Kerch-Eltigen Landing, 1943
Timothy Heck

Chapter 16 — Not a Carbon Copy of the U.S. Marine Corps: The Development of the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps since 1979 and What that Means for the Chinese Power Project in the Pacific and Beyond
Edward Salo


Timothy Heck, B. A. Friedman, and Walker D. Mills

Timothy G. Heck, B. A. Friedman, and Walker D. Mills are the editors of the second volume of On Contested Shores: The Evolving Role of Amphibious Operations in the History of Warfare.

Timothy was previously the deputy editorial director of the Modern War Institute at West Point and is a Marine Corps Reserve officer with the Marine Corps History Division and the Joint History and Research Office.

B. A. is strategy analyst and a retired US Marine Corps artillery officer. He is currently enrolled as a PhD student in international affairs at the University of Reading, UK.

Walker a US Marine Corps infantry officer and MQ-9A Reaper student pilot. He is a former nonresident fellow at Marine Corps University’s Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future War and a former nonresident fellow with the Irregular Warfare Initiative.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, Department of the Navy, or Department of Defense.

Image credit: Sgt. Austin Hazard, US Marine Corps