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Some terminology – “Joint” v. “Combined”

If the dialogue between students of history and the military is to be smooth and productive, it is highly useful–if not absolutely essential–for both to use a common language.

To help us all get on the same page going forward, I provide here some definitions from Joint Publication 1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (8 November 2010; as amended through 15 July 2012).

Joint – Connotes activities, operations, organizations, etc., in which elements of two or more Military Departments participate. (p. 165)

Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Task Force, Joint Professional Military Education, etc. The American Civil War saw, for instance, numerous examples of “joint” operations, such as Fort Henry and Donelson, Yorktown, Vicksburg, and Fort Fisher.

Combined – Between two or more forces or agencies of two or more allies. (When all allies or services are not involved, the participating nations and services shall be identified, e.g., combined navies.) (p. 55)

Combined Chiefs of Staff, Combined Bomber Offensive, Combined Forces Command-Korea, etc. Since, unlike at Yorktown in 1781 or Market-Garden in 1944, there were no instances of “two or more allies” cooperating together, it is inaccurate according to the defintion above to speak of any Civil War military operation as “combined”–that is, unless one takes a truly extreme state rights perspective on matters. (The term more in vogue today is actually “multi-national”; thus, what was once known as the Department of Joint and Combined Operations [DJCO] at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College became the Department of Joint and Multinational Operations [DJMO], and has since been expanded to be the Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations [DJIMO].)

To further confuse matters, there is also something called “combined arms”. The Joint Pub defines the “combined arms team” as “The full integration and application of two or more arms or elements of one Military Service into an operation.” [p. 56] Examples of this would be the Army of the Potomac and Army of Northern Virginia integrating and applying artillery, infantry, and cavalry at Gettysburg, or the Marine Corps integrating and applying tactical air elements and ground elements at Tarawa.

Comments (2) to “Some terminology – “Joint” v. “Combined””

  1. So Ms Reeds use of Combined in the title “Combined Operations in the Civil War” is incorrect? Or would her usage be correct for the time she wrote it?

  2. Reed stated she was using the traditional British term “combined”. Why she chose to do so is beyond me. The term “joint” has been around for decades, though not as ubiquitous as it would be after the passage of Goldwater-Nichols. Still it has been over two decades since 1986 and it would seem to me that at some point during that time the professional military and historians could get on the same page.