Military Geography by COL John M. Collins, US Army (Ret.)

John M. Collins has long been recognized in military and political circles as a strategist and thinker of profound depth. This, his latest offering, is the crown jewel in his intellectual diadem. His subject, military geography, is a discipline that affects everything soldiers do, every day, everywhere. All too often, it has been the difference between victory and defeat, yet no subject has been treated with more benign neglect in institutional and personal military education.

This book is also an effective text for civilian geographers. The author's orientation toward things military in no way distracts from the book's usefulness to professional geographers.
In a short introduction, Collins states that his purpose in writing the book was:
  • To provide a textbook for academic use.

  • To provide a handbook for use by military professionals.

  • To enhance public appreciation for the impact of geography on military affairs.
Few authors have achieved these purposes as well as John Collins. Following a brief overview of the discipline, part one analyzes physical geography. Included in this section are the natural aspects of military geography: spatial relationships, the lay of the land, oceans and seashores, the Earth's atmosphere, regional peculiarities, inner and outer space, and natural resources and raw materials.

Part two describes cultural geography--subjects such as populations, urbanization, lines of communication, military bases, and fortresses and field fortifications. This section of the book is extremely well-organized and should be a useful primer for any politician with aspirations for federal political office.

Part three includes the political-military relationships of geography, such as military service predilections, geopolitical functions and military areas of responsibility. This last subject is particularly interesting. The Unified Command Plan (which delineates these areas) was revised in March for the first time in some 40 years. Now, that is intellectual stability!

Part four, which offers a format for an area analysis and then provides two operations requiring an area analysis, is an essential and useful tool for any considered military effort.

Perhaps the most useful portion of the book is the galaxy of figures, maps, tables and photographs. How many of you have spent countless hours researching some obscure but important geographical point, only to be disappointed with the effort and the result. Collins has made it easy for us with the material he has provided in this book.

Once every decade or so a book appears that fills an immediate requirement. That no one has made such an effort before is further credit to the astute mind of John Collins.