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Thread: Leading infantry tactics theoreticians/experts today

  1. #41
    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Do the Right Thing vs. The Next Big Thing

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    There NEEDS to be a new infantry tactics generation in use in the next war against competent and well-equipped enemies (the last one ended in 1945) or we'll see disasters as were seen in 1914-1917.

    Old treatises on infantry tactics from WW2 and Vietnam don't help much. They can still tell us about the psychology of combat and some ruses, but not much about tactics.

    Small war experiences like Afghanistan and Iraq highlighted some shortcomings and added some minor capabilities, but many of the lessons are 180 wrong simply because the enemy is not modern and not competent. A soldier can wear a heavy vest and patrol, day after day, and survive for months. He'd be dead within minutes if he did that in a high intensity conflict against competent enemies. The whole armour protection rally of the past years is probably 180 off.

    So, that's the problem that I see. I can only hope that those people who work and think behind confidentiality barriers (that I cannot penetrate well) are working hard and well on the challenge. I hope they are not working on just incrementally advanced WW2 tactics.

    I fear that's not the case, as the indicators for this are rare.
    I don't disagree with your observations and arguments, but I think there are a couple logic-tripwires somewhere down this trail:

    If your premise is that we're in danger of "fighting the last war," what with all of the current focus on Counterinsurgency and Small Wars and the like, and are in danger of intellectually disarming ourselves for any potential High-Intensity Conflict, roger and amen. (Although, as a user, it seems to run philosophically askance of the SWJ website mission. Perhaps it's more of a question for a notional Big Wars Journal?)

    To say that Low-Intensity Conflict lessons are 180 wrong, "simply because the enemy is not modern and not competent," seems to invite the same criticism, however. The operational military-political realities faced since the 1960s and for the conceivable future (25 years?), dictate that most theory and practice be focused on LIC, not HIC. To this amateur historian, lessons from the likes of Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq prove that: You can pick your friends, and you can usually pick your fights, but you can't pick your enemies--or how they fight.

    That may mean that the infantry now works in a theoretically/tactically topsy-turvy world, but it doesn't mean it's wrong. Consider the following anecdote shared by Schmedlap in a current SWJ thread on defining Information Operations (IO).

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Someone gave an example H&I fires and asked, "is this PSYOP?" I don't know if it is PSYOP, but purely kinetic operations can and do have effects that many normally assume to be IO. My favorite example occurred in OIF III when residents actually complained that we were too soft and weak because we took well-aimed shots, rather than firing indiscriminately at insurgents. They were truly angry with us, claiming that the insurgents were humiliating us and showing their strength. The support for their argument was that Kent the insurgent was slinging an entire magazine at us, while Stan the rifleman was only firing back with 3 well-aimed shots. We explained that we were trying to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage, but this did not resonate with the city-folk.

    Soon thereafter, we adopted a slightly different approach: we returned fire with 40mm, AT-4's, and 25mm, as appropriate. Hellfire strikes became more common, as did the occasional visit from an M-1. The effect was that we killed/captured no more insurgents than we were killing/capturing before, but the PERCEPTION was that we were routing them. Suddenly the city-folk were expressing satisfaction with our work. One man said, "thank you for fighting back." We weren't before? Thereafter, IEDs and direct fire attacks began to plummet and we got significantly more intelligence and cooperation from locals. No IO annex required.
    Bottom-line: We've gotta keep our collective heads in the current fight, stay intellectually flexible, always do the right thing, generate theory from practice*, vaccinate ourselves against next-war-itis, all while keeping the proverbial Big HIC Stick in our back pockets.

    * Yes, got my own intellectual tripwire there. File under "schoolhouse vs. lessons-learned world-views"; cross-reference under "religious conflicts."
    L2I is "Lessons-Learned Integration."
    -- A lesson is knowledge gained through experience.
    -- A lesson is not "learned" until it results in organizational or behavioral change.
    -- A lesson-learned is not "integrated" until shared successfully with others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I would offer that Combined Arms is only relevant in that it is about supporting the infantry. Infantry remains a critical and mostly under studied area of tactical thought.
    Wilf,

    In light of the above, it seems there should be some lessons (pro and con, of course) to be learned from the Boers. Do you see them as worthy of serious study?

    I know they had some artillery, but they were mostly a rifle centric force with great emphasis on marksmanship, mobility, and fieldcraft, correct? Didn't they also have a rather loose (flexible?) organization?
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Wilf,

    In light of the above, it seems there should be some lessons (pro and con, of course) to be learned from the Boers. Do you see them as worthy of serious study?

    I know they had some artillery, but they were mostly a rifle centric force with great emphasis on marksmanship, mobility, and fieldcraft, correct? Didn't they also have a rather loose (flexible?) organization?
    The Boers were really well-studied before 1914, in fact even more so than the Russo-Japanese war 04/05. Their tactics preceded modern (classical) guerilla tactics and light infantry tactics (they ceased to wage conventional war after a while).

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Wilf,

    In light of the above, it seems there should be some lessons (pro and con, of course) to be learned from the Boers. Do you see them as worthy of serious study?

    I know they had some artillery, but they were mostly a rifle centric force with great emphasis on marksmanship, mobility, and fieldcraft, correct? Didn't they also have a rather loose (flexible?) organization?

    Absolutely, and very much so! They kicked our ass and we only beat them by using basically inhumane and barbaric methods.

    However, remember the Boers where secular Europeans with access to a first world arms industry, and lead by a highly educated and very smart cadre of skilled military leaders, who created an almost purely military insurgency, who fought and won, stand up "symmetric" battles. Currently, no such similar organisation exists in the world today .
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Absolutely, and very much so! They kicked our ass and we only beat them by using basically inhumane and barbaric methods.

    However, remember the Boers where secular Europeans with access to a first world arms industry, and lead by a highly educated and very smart cadre of skilled military leaders, who created an almost purely military insurgency, who fought and won, stand up "symmetric" battles. Currently, no such similar organisation exists in the world today .

    Wilf, Rifleman,Anybody, I am not an expert but were they not more like Dragoons (Mounted Rifleman) than anything else??

  6. #46
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Absolutely, and very much so! They kicked our ass and we only beat them by using basically inhumane and barbaric methods.

    However, remember the Boers where secular Europeans with access to a first world arms industry, and lead by a highly educated and very smart cadre of skilled military leaders, who created an almost purely military insurgency, who fought and won, stand up "symmetric" battles. Currently, no such similar organisation exists in the world today .
    Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah?

  7. #47
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default References on Infantry Tactics

    Fuchs,

    My library is light on tactics and heavy on macro issues. I am not aware of a single 'go-to-guy' for the answer that you are looking for.

    "Infanterie Greift An" by Rommel was a fun one. Unlike many here I enjoyed Poole's Tactics of the Crescent Moon. Rommel's Greatest Victory by Mitcham (ISBN 9-780891-417309) was bone dry. Makers of Modern Strategy by Paret (ISBN 0-691-02764-1) is a good reference that I return to often. I have not yet finished Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare (ISBN 0-521-79431-5) but portions of it are useful. The Savage Wars of Peace by Boot (ISBN 780465-0077219) is informative. I am a huge fan of most anything by Robert D. Kaplan; Imperial Grunts (ISBN 1-4000-6132-6), Balkan Ghosts (ISBN 0-679-74981-0), Soldiers of God (ISBN 1-4000-3025-0), & The Coming Anarchy (ISBN 0-375-70759-X). Merchant of Death by Farah & Braun (978-0-470-26196-5), and Licensed to Kill (ISBN 1-4000-9781-9) are light reading. Battle Ready by Zinni/Koltz (ISBN 0-399-15176-1), Imperial Hubris by Scheurer (1-57488-862-5), and Fiasco by Ricks (ISBN 1-59420-103-X) are worth the read.

    The hard lessons I learned from a ranger captain who taught me as a young cadet, long distance running, using MILES gear, reading ARTEP 7-17-10 Drill (Battle Drills for Light Infantry, Infantry, Airborne, & Air Assault Platoon & Squad), negotiation skills, a certain amount of judicious ruthlessness, and a fair amount of luck kept me & my guys alive in Iraq.

    Bottom line, I am not sure that a book can capture what you are looking for. IMHO it has to be more of an apprenticeship and a trial by fire experience.

    Regards,

    Steve
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 07-04-2008 at 09:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Wilf, Rifleman,Anybody, I am not an expert but were they not more like Dragoons (Mounted Rifleman) than anything else??
    slapout9,

    I think that's correct. They were mostly horse mobile but didn't usually fight from horseback like cavalry. That's my understanding, but I've not read extensively on them.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9
    Wilf, Rifleman,Anybody, I am not an expert but were they not more like Dragoons (Mounted Rifleman) than anything else??
    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman
    slapout9,

    I think that's correct. They were mostly horse mobile but didn't usually fight from horseback like cavalry. That's my understanding, but I've not read extensively on them.
    Thomas Pakenham's The Boer War is excellent - highly recommended.

    However, Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War, by Deneys Reitz, was also a very good read - although more of a personal memoir than a history or study. (I've got an old 1930 paperback edition sitting on my shelf, but it was republished just a couple of years ago)
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 07-05-2008 at 12:16 AM.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Wilf, Rifleman,Anybody, I am not an expert but were they not more like Dragoons (Mounted Rifleman) than anything else??
    Well, mounting infantry on horses doesn't not make them infantry. By 1900, the line between infantry and Cavalry had become very blurred. As Rifleman points out Cavalry fight from horse back, and this is an excellent distinction.

    There is also the distinction of role, which is critical and overlooked. For which I suggest you read Ardant Du-Picq, for a one of the best explanations. (sorry don't know where to link - but google away and you'll come up with his posthumous work "Battle Studies.")
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  11. #51
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah?
    I submit they are not even close. Today we'd be looking at someone like Blackwater, able to operate at a formation level. As concerns equipment and training the Boers were almost on a par (and even better than) with the British.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I submit they are not even close. Today we'd be looking at someone like Blackwater, able to operate at a formation level. As concerns equipment and training the Boers were almost on a par (and even better than) with the British.
    Hezbollah fought Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war in a comparable style as the PLA did against the UN forces in the static phase of the Korean War.

    The Tamil Tigers are quite on par with the Sri Lankan military.

    The Boer were never on par with the British Army in terms of artillery, numbers, logistics or organization as well. Their "training" was no training, but hunter's and land folk's civilian experience. IIRC their "large unit" organization wasn't much above typical tribe war band level.
    Their famed superior "marksmanship" was besides civilian shooting practice in large part a result of positional advantage and not so great anyway.
    I remember battle accounts where Boers shot for very long time at exposed (not entrenched, but fully exposed) Englishmen (clearly visible due to uniforms) from a higher altitude position and inflicted depressing, but considering the circumstances quite small casualties.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Hezbollah fought Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war in a comparable style as the PLA did against the UN forces in the static phase of the Korean War.
    Except Hezbollah, never counter-attacked successfully (i know of only one attempt), and can't manoeuvre. The Boer lay siege to Mafking and Ladysmith.

    The Boer were never on par with the British Army in terms of artillery, numbers, logistics or organization as well. Their "training" was no training, but hunter's and land folk's civilian experience. IIRC their "large unit" organization wasn't much above typical tribe war band level.
    No, not in terms of numbers and S4, but as concerns equipment, mobility and S2, they were way ahead. So instead of training, say "skills", and their leadership showed considerable skill.


    Their famed superior "marksmanship" was besides civilian shooting practice in large part a result of positional advantage and not so great anyway.
    I remember battle accounts where Boers shot for very long time at exposed (not entrenched, but fully exposed) Englishmen (clearly visible due to uniforms) from a higher altitude position and inflicted depressing, but considering the circumstances quite small casualties.
    I wouldn't call the casualties in "Black Week" small, in terms of defeating fielded British Formations. Low in numbers and high in results.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    While he is not exactly a theoretician, John A. English's book "On Infantry" is an important read and a good start point
    Reed

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up He does good until he gets to the end and

    wants to stick with the triangular organization.

    (in the original, have not read the revised edition)

    However, you're right, he's more than a theoretician. That, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing...

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    Default Do I hear support

    in my conviction that the span of control is larger then three??
    Reed

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Sure. IMO four to six is easily

    managed at Co / Bn / Bde level. I think the Div should disappear (except for Artillery Divisions for HIC ) and Corps should control (lightly) up to 9-10 Bdes plus the spt package, an Avn Bde and that Arty div.

    Four of every maneuver element is better than three, enables better bounding overwatch and rotation off line. Also allows for mix of 2 Tk Co and 2 Mech Inf Co at Bn. Allows one element for Assault and three for breakthrough and follow up. Four Firing Batteries allow two to be ready to fire no matter how much you move. All sorts of advantages. The triangular setup was a German invention to force unbalanced formations and defense -- same thing can be achieved by better training.

    Span of control as currently defined is engendered more by lack of trust and fear of failure than by practical considerations -- unless you want to count peacetime manning and personnel management problems as practical (which I don't). Better training can overcome that. Not mixing branches is not maintenance or training driven, it's branch parochialism driven (which again is affected by peacetime manning and personnel management practices...).

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    Having four combat/manuever/line/base elements before adding in the combat support elements seems to make good sense. I know that's the organization of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment: four companies of four platoons of four squads, before adding the combat support/heavy weapons units.

    A related question for those in the know: why is it that the pentomic battlegroup proved hard to manage, yet several WWII light infantry/raider type units had six small line companies per battalion and were not unmanagable for their commanders?

    Examples: British Commandos, US Ranger Battalions, 2nd Marine Raider Battalon, and the "regiments" of the First Special Service Force all had six smaller line companies.

    I'm sure that for starters W. O. Darby, Evans Carlson, Lord Lovat, et al, were way more talented as combat commanders than the average battlegroup commander in the late '50s, but was anything else going on that enabled them to be successful with their seemingly "unwieldy" battalions when the pentomic army experienced control problems?
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

  19. #59
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Talking Before my time...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    ...
    A related question for those in the know: why is it that the pentomic battlegroup proved hard to manage, yet several WWII light infantry/raider type units had six small line companies per battalion and were not unmanagable for their commanders?
    . . .
    I'm sure that for starters W. O. Darby, Evans Carlson, Lord Lovat, et al, were way more talented as combat commanders than the average battlegroup commander in the late '50s, but was anything else going on that enabled them to be successful with their seemingly "unwieldy" battalions when the pentomic army experienced control problems?
    Well, maybe not -- I was in the first one that formed, the 327th Abn Inf Cbt Gp, later the 1st Abn BG 327th Inf. Was in another in Korea 59-60 and yet another at Bragg later. ROCID and ROTAD would coulda worked but...

    They weren't that hard to manage though that was one of the ostensible reasons stated for their disappearance. I was fortunate in having several good BG commanders who had no problems with it at all -- the real problem was that the Cdrs were COLs, many but not all of whom believed that commanding five companies (plus HHC and a Mortar Battery) was just commanding a big Battalion, therefor beneath their dignity. A number of them objected strongly and forced the change. A second problem was that the forerunner of todays personnel problems insisted that any Inf COL could effectively command an organization that was (a) different than their experience set catered for; and (b) required real flexibility and trust of subordinates due to the great dispersal envisioned for the Cos. The old Airborne heads had no problem with that last, the standard Inf types did (most of them were also older and really did have problems keeping up physically).

    Two other factors were that the equipment that the BGs were supposed to have did not arrive until about the time they were inactivated and that the log and maintenance systems were not changed to cope with the new requirements.

    It was an idea before its time.

    An interesting follow on is that initially, the ROAD plan of 1964, doing away with the BGs and returning to Bns with three Bns in a Bde, was initially to have rotating Bns working for the Bdes -- the Colonels also killed that, they did not want to chance being held responsible for failures by Bns for which they had not had training oversight. They insisted on permanently assigned Bns. Progress can be stopped dead if the right people want it to be stopped...

    Gonna be interesting to see, in peacetime, how the plug and play BCTs work today. Folks are already complaining about the lack of continuity (read: control; people tread softly when they have OpCom or OpCon of elements from a different Div -- and they don't like that) caused by using the plug and play concept...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Gonna be interesting to see, in peacetime, how the plug and play BCTs work today. Folks are already complaining about the lack of continuity (read: control; people tread softly when they have OpCom or OpCon of elements from a different Div -- and they don't like that) caused by using the plug and play concept...
    Interesting point, Ken. I wonder if the Army can make that change in mindset. On our side of the house, regiments have very little to do with the training of their subordinate battalions, since our battalions are used to working independently or as part of a MEU. Thus, when we went to our OIF arrangement of deploying RCT headquarter and then assigning various battalions from different regiments to those RCTs, it wasn't a big deal. I think it's been good for us, allowing us to better tailor our forces to the needs in each AO; I hope the Army is able to make the modular BCT idea work. It might sacrifice some of our ability to fight as divisions in major "conventional" warfare, but it enhances flexibility for ops like Iraq and A-stan.

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