SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York – Freshly fallen snow covered the historic battlefield in Saratoga Springs as Marines walked through what was known to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War. This visit on April 5, 2016, was part of the Expeditionary Warfare School Enrichment Program, in which military members with the school were afforded the opportunity for personal and professional development.
The school was opened in 1921 as the Amphibious Warfare School. Since then, the school has changed its name to the Expeditionary Warfare School, with the purpose of providing career-level professional military education to military officers in subjects such as combined arms operations, warfighting skills, tactical decision-making and the Marine Air-Ground Task Force in amphibious operations.
“[The] Expeditionary Warfare School is the career-level school for the Marine Corps, sister services and international officers,” said Col. Jason Bohm, the director of the school. “Our student body right now consists of 183 Marines, 22 soldiers, 16 sailors, six airmen and 22 international officers.”
During the visit, the Marines surveyed the site of the Battle of Saratoga and discussed the different types of tactics used during the war and different types of strategies military officers at the time used. The Battle of Saratoga was notable for convincing France to help the Colonial Americans fight against British forces. This alliance between American and France lead to the victory at Yorktown, which ended the Revolutionary War.
“The biggest thing I think I got from this trip is a appreciation for the terrain of Saratoga and that is something that you cannot learn off of a map or a book. It’s something you need to physically walk to really appreciate,” said Capt. Shawn Conner, a student from EWS. “It is important that we learn about the past because it builds our knowledge base and we are essentially able to gain knowledge and experience without having fought the battle ourselves.
“This gives us a better understanding of what questions to ask, what actions possibly to take, and gives us a better idea of how to operate.”
The Marines began their visit with a detailed video of the Battle of Saratoga followed by a miniature display of the battlefield and its battles. After which the Marines hiked the site of the second Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Bemis Heights. Here the Marines observed the strategic layout of the land and how both sides used their occupied spaces to their advantage.
During their hike, they visited strategic points on the battlefield and discussed how and why these points would help ether side win the battle. This gave the Marines insight as to why decisions were made by the military officers of the time.
The second visit was to the site of the first Battle of Saratoga, more commonly know as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm. Here the Marines talked about how the American forces used the battlefield to move the British troops into a less favorable position by using cannon fire and elevated positions.
“Some of the tactical lessons we were able to talk about in Saratoga are just as applicable on today’s battlefield as they were back then,” said Bohm. “For example, the use of terrain, the use of lines of communication, the difference between cover and concealment, and reserve slope defense versus forward slope defense.
“It has often been said that those who do not learn from history are apt to repeat it,” said Bohm. “There are a number of poor lessons that people learned over the years from their tactical actions both good and bad. Ideally what we do is we learn from the mistakes of others. We learn what worked for others in the past so we do not repeat those same bad lesson again.”