Trevor Dupuy

Col. Trevor Nevitt Dupuy

Arlington, Virginia, 2 June 1995
Col. Dupuy passed away the following day.
Photograph by New Zealand artist Gary S. Schofield.

My personal feeling is that if I have done anything worthwhile, it is in military theory and the relationship of the elements of historical experience to theory.
Trevor N. Dupuy

by Susan Rich

Trevor Nevitt Dupuy was born in New York on May 3, 1916. He attended the US Military Academy in West Point, graduating in the class of 1938. During WWII he commanded a US artillery battalion, a Chinese artillery group, and artillery from the British 36th Division. He was always proud of the fact that he had more combat time in Burma than any other American, and received decorations for service or valor from the US, British, and Chinese governments. After the war Trevor served on the War Department General Staff, OPD from 1945 to 1947, and as military assistant to the Under Secretary of the Army from 1947 to 1948. He was a member of the original SHAPE staff in Paris under Generals Eisenhower and Ridgway from 1950 to 1952. Between 1952 and 1956 Trevor was a member of the founding faculty of the Harvard Defense Studies Program. In 1956 he became Director of the Ohio State Military Studies Program. In 1958, after retiring from active military duty, he served as a visiting professor in the International Relations Program at Rangoon University in Burma.

Trevor came by his interest in military history through his father, R. Ernest Dupuy, who was a prominent military historian and a career army officer. Trevor wrote, “I was brought up by my father to be both a soldier and a military historian. To him the two were inseparable, and that is the way it has always been for me.” His writing career began in 1952, when the Army reinstated the teaching of military history in ROTC courses, and Trevor received a faculty appointment at Harvard University as a professor of Military Science and Tactics. Because there was no text, Trevor asked his father to help him write a textbook to be used by his students. They each wrote a chapter every two weeks, and each week Trevor mimeographed the new chapter to distribute to his students. By the end of the academic year, the father and son had completed the two–volume textbook, Military Heritage of America, the first of many such endeavors. From 1960 to 1962 Trevor worked for the Institute of Defense Analysis.

In 1962 he formed the first of his research companies, Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO), of which he remained President and Executive Director until 1983. From 1967 to 1983 he was also President of T. N. Dupuy Associates Inc. (TNDA), which became the parent organization for HERO. In 1983, TNDA sold its assets (including HERO) to a new corporation he formed called Data Memory Systems, Inc. (DMSI). Trevor was the president and largest stockholder in DMSI. In 1990, he resigned from DMSI, sold his stock and reactivated TNDA. In 1992 TNDA was closed out, and Trevor established the non–profit corporation The Dupuy Institute (TDI). The non–profit status was merely recognizing what had been the financial status of all his companies over the last 30 years.

During these years he became a prolific author and lecturer on many subjects, giving lectures at war colleges and official and private defense analysis agencies in more than 20 countries on five continents. His combat experience in the far East gave him a practical outlook, which tempered his theoretical orientation. He was a reflective and independent thinker who was enthralled by the political aspects of military power and who possessed unique energy, creativity, concentration and perseverance. He also had the uncanny ability to take some data and instantly derive a new meaning or relationship that was not obvious, but almost always turned out to be correct. He challenged conventional wisdom with a completely new outlook for the empirical study of combat.

Through the years his interest in military history analysis grew as he discovered continuous trends and patterns in the historical accounts he read and wrote. He believed the lessons of previous combat could and should be used as a basis for winning the next war. But he also recognized that analysis of military history was ignored in the US approach to almost all issues of national security and military problems, although it was relevant to most. He perceived that the current methodology and models used in the US failed because they lacked realism; they attempted to evaluate human behavior in combat according to theoretical design characteristics without consideration of how human beings actually behaved in real combat. He saw that it was futile to do accurate combat experiments in any controlled peacetime environment because it was impossible to recreate the very pervasive aspect of fear in a lethal environment. Therefore, he often said, military history must instead be considered the only real laboratory of the soldier.

The development of the Quantified Judgment Method of Analysis began in 1964, when HERO performed a study for the Army’s Combat Developments Command called “Historical Trends Related to Weapons Lethality.” The study involved developing a process to compare the lethality of weapons over the course of history. This resulted in a measurement scale providing “theoretical lethality indices.” Awareness of the dynamic interrelationship among dispersion, mobility, and firepower led to the development of further measurement scales, and subsequently to the QJM model, and later the TNDM.

In most fields of human endeavor, new developments are unlikely to receive immediate endorsement by the authorities in that field, and the QJM was no exception. One of Trevor’s greatest frustrations was his inability to get the US Defense establishment to pay more attention to the results of his historical analysis. He was impatient with people who did not recognize the wisdom of his insights, and his criticism tended to be explicit. In Europe and the Middle East he was considered an eminent person and became the confidant of chiefs of staff and defense ministers. In the US, while many agencies valued his research and insights, they often downplayed the value of his analysis, as it was not based on “traditional” operations research methods. In fact, he was often prevented from following his frequent creative urges by the pressure of meeting payrolls and deadlines. Yet although he could easily have sold out for the comfort of a stable job, he believed that his independence was a prerequisite for pursuing his work. Besides, he was not really interested in making money; what he really wanted was recognition of the validity of his theories about the historical analysis of combat. For over 30 years he persevered in this cause despite indifference, opposition and lack of reward, hoping to advance the use of history to protect both national and global security.

When Trevor died on June 5, 1995, he left many projects unfinished, but there were four that he had especially hoped to complete. These included a critical and comprehensive biography of Douglas MacArthur, and a book entitled The Fighting Generals, about the interaction of Stilwell and Chennault in East Asia in WWII. Another book project, The Documented History of the US Armed Forces was 90% complete when he died, and the manuscript now occupies four and a half linear feet of file cabinets in the office at TDI. The fourth unfinished project was his own autobiography, which he thought could be interesting in light of his very unusual combat experience in Burma during WWII, his work as a staff officer in high–level staffs which involved significant critical matters during the Cold War, and his travels and adventures as an author, lecturer and military analyst in later years. He had planned to call this book A Footnote to History.

Trevor has been characterized as a genius and a prophet. His contributions to the store of human knowledge in terms of the derivation of a theory of combat and philosophy of war are of outstanding value. He is the author or co–author of more than 80 books and more than 100 articles published in professional and military journals in many countries. The Departments of State and Defense sought his viewpoint when war broke out in the Persian Gulf, and he was asked to give his advice to the US Congress on several occasions. The media also sought him, and he appeared on more than 30 television and radio shows, including the “Today Show,” the “Larry King Show,” the major networks, C–Span and Cable News Network. He was recognized as one of the very few people who was truly qualified to interpret international crises while they developed, and at the time of his death, was considered one of the world’s leading military historians. Those of us here at TDI, his loyal friends and employees, are continually aware of his influence. We retain a keen respect for the intricate quality and amazing quantity of catalogued historical knowledge he left under our care. We are challenged by what he left for us to fathom without him.