Military Wiki

US Naval Academy midshipmen taunt US Military Academy cadets before the 2008 Army-Navy college football game

Interservice rivalry is rivalry between different branches of a country's armed forces, such as between a nation's land forces (army), naval and air forces.[1] The term also applies to the rivalries between a country’s intelligence services (e.g. CIA and in the United States), or between the police and fire services of a city, such as the NYPD and FDNY.[2]


Interservice rivalries occur at all levels of the military, from the vying for key posts such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States, Chief of the Defence Staff in the United Kingdom, or Jefe del Estado Mayor de la Defensa in Spain. Interservice rivalry can occur over such topics as the appropriation of the military budget, prestige or the possession of certain types of weapons.[1] The latter case can arise, for example, when the navy operates an aircraft carrier, which may be viewed by the air force as an infringement of its traditional responsibilities. Another case was the dispute between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force erupted when these two branches fought over the ownership of AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters in 2012.[3]

Such rivalries are often seen as negative influences on the effectiveness of a country's armed forces.


United States

The U.S. Department of Defense was originally created to provide overall coordination for the various branches of the U.S. armed services, whose infighting was seen as detrimental to military effectiveness during World War II.

The rivalries are also based on services' individual philosophies for rules and behavior. An author wrote in 2012 about the differing cultures of the United States Navy and United States Air Force's pilots:[4]

There was some truth in the old saying that the Air Force had a book for all the things you were allowed to do in the air, and anything not specifically written down was prohibited; whereas the Navy's rule book contained all the things you were not allowed to do, and anything not written down was perfectly legal.[4]

In some ways rivalries can encourage positive outcomes, such as improving the esprit de corps of a given branch of the military.[citation needed]

Various mechanisms are used to manage or curb interservice rivalries. In the United States military, for example, an officer must complete at least one joint tour in another service to reach the level of Flag or General Officer.[citation needed] Such officers may be described as "wearing purple," a reference to the Army's green, the Marines' navy blue, the Air Force's blue, the Navy's white, and the Coast Guard's blue uniforms.

One well-known encounter was during the first few decades of the 1900s when the United States Marine Corps sparked a controversy between the United States Navy and Army when it first started to explore the permanence of expeditionary and landing force role, known as the advanced base force concept. The concept was responsible for the removal of the Marines' duties as colonial ship guard, into a combined maritime landing force that is known today. Many Navy officers became confused over the matters of duties that Marines were supposed to conduct, arguing that they either serve aboard the ships as guards or act as a shore assault force. Even the United States Army feared that the Marine Corps were overlapping the duties of its more 'land-based' component, which caused a disturbance for fifty more years.

The case of the USMC is unique to the United States since it has always been a fully independent military service, although it is part of the Department of the Navy, compared to other marines of the world. Marines of European countries tend to have a dedicated commando role, such as the Indonesian Marine Corps, British or Dutch Royal Marines and all are subordinate to their respective Navies being commanded by a two-star general.


The long-term discord between Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy was one of the most notorious examples of interservice rivalry. The situation, with its origin traced back to Meiji period, came with geo-political consequences leading to Japan's involvement in World War II. The IJA/IJN rivalry expressed itself in the early 1930s as the “strike north” and “strike south” factions. The strike north faction advocated the conquest of China a scenario in which the prime role would be taken by the Army, the strike south faction advocated the taking of Indonesia a scenario in which the Navy would predominate. In order to further their own faction relatively junior officers resorted to the assassinations of members of the rival faction and their supporters in government. Initially the strike north plan was deemed the more prudent course leading first to the occupation of Manchuria and then the fullscale invasion of China, however, a number of the powerful industrial Zaibatsus were convinced that their interests would be best served fulfilling the needs of the Navy and with their the support the Pacific War was initiated.

The IJA and IJN rivalry also saw both services developing air arms, the Army creating its own amphibious infantry units and running ships and submarines including submarine chasers, the Navy meanwhile would create its own paratroop force.

Other examples of this rivalry include, it is said, the Japanese Navy taking several weeks to inform the Army of the disastrous results of the Battle of Midway.

In his 1991 statement Shōwa Tennō dokuhakuroku (昭和天皇独白録), Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) made a connection between the Army-Navy rivalry and the defeat of Japan.


In Nazi Germany there was constant rivalry between the Wehrmacht (the combined services of the Third Reich) and the Waffen-SS since they were often in parallel order of battle situations, particularly with regard to armored divisions. In part fueled by his own political differences with the Heer, Hermann Göring created the Luftwaffe Field Division a third parallel ground-fighting force under the command of the Luftwaffe. The German Fallschirmjaeger (parachutists) were also part of the Luftwaffe (Air Force) for most of the Second World War until they were finally subordinated to the Heer at the end of 1944. The Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine were also at odds over various issues throughout the war years, with such issues as the format for the Bordfliegergruppe air units that were to be based aboard the embryonic force of German aircraft carriers, with the never-finished twin carriers whose hulls had been laid down before the start of World War II.

United Kingdom

A case in point is the rivalry between the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines, which are part of the Army and the Royal Navy, respectively, in the U.K. Since some of their capabilities overlap, pressure can be put on the political or civilian decision makers to choose one or the other.


The infighting between Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) over armed helicopters has been exist for a decade, which came to light during the Kargil War in 1999.[3]

In response to the request for Army-owned attack helicopters from General Bikram Singh, Chief of Army Staff, the Indian government made an agreement about the transfer of IAF AH-64D Apache Longbows to the Army in 2012. The IAF, however, acted stiff resistance against the decision, and insisted that all attack and medium-lift helicopters be under its control.

In 2013, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, who faced against the Army for the helicopter issue, said that the AH-4Ds would be kept in the Air Force.[5]

Special forces

Interservice rivalries are often played out at divisional or regimental level or between special forces that are part of different services. The rivalry between special-forces units led to the creation of United Kingdom Special Forces in the United Kingdom (andSOCOM in the United States) to put them all under a unified command, putting an end to the "rice-bowl" doctrine which created absurd situations in Iran, Grenada and Panama in the 1980s. In the United Kingdom it has put an end to members of the Special Boat Service being recruited solely from the Royal Marines and it is now a tri-service branch.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Interservice rivalry". The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military. Oxford Reference Online. Berkley Books. 2001. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  2. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2006). 9/11 Commission Report. Barnes & Noble Publishing. p. 310. ISBN 0-7607-8174-5. "During the descent, they reported seeing many firefighters who were resting and did not seem to be in the process of evacuating. They further reported advising these firefighters to evacuate, but said that at times they were not acknowledged. In the opinion of one of the ESU officers, some of these firefighters essentially refused to take orders from cops. At least one firefighter who was in the North Tower has supported that assessment, stating that he was not going to take an evacuation instruction from a cop that morning." 
  3. 3.0 3.1 IAF, not Army, will get Apache attack helicopters: Govt - Times Of India
  4. 4.0 4.1 Davies, Steve (2012). Red Eagles: America's Secret Migs. Osprey Publishing. pp. 205. ISBN 1846039703. 
  5. Army Chief contests IAF’s claims over Apache helicopters Inter Services Rivalry

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