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Posted on Apr 16, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Rear Area Security in the Operational Art of War

By Mark Dabbs

Rail Lines, Roads and Bridges. The best roads and rail lines are usually the ones with the fewest bridges as they are subject to being blown by enemy bombers. An engineer battalion should be garrisoned on each bridge along these routes for as long as it remains a vital link in your logistics network. Partisan, commando and airborne activities can break non-bridge rail sections. Fixing such damage is almost solely the domain of rail repair engineers and a small per turn "inherent repair capacity". Keep your rail engineers building new rails, fixing or available to fix broken ones. Putting them at risk them for security or front line duty squanders a unique and critical asset. Many games can be won or lost on the rail lines.

Airfields. It is usually not a good idea to stack your air units together unless you have only a few safe air bases and/or have virtually guaranteed air supremacy. Even so, it is a good idea to garrison airfields if there is any risk of insurgent activity in the area. A partisan dislodging a few air units can have a significant impact on local air superiority and that can translate to other calamities (like airborne operations). More important than any of this is keeping your air units well outside the range of any potential artillery or naval bombardment. There is no advantage of having your aircraft immediately behind your front line.


Combat Support Elements. Protect your headquarters and artillery to the fullest extent necessary and without exception. If the front line is having difficulties, you can be guaranteed it will be even more hard pressed if unit proficiencies are reduced by 50% for losing its HQ, not to mention reduced supply, and less artillery support. Heavy Rifle AT Squads have an anti-personnel strength of 6, a 150mm Howitzer has an AP of 33 and supports everything within range. Shorten your perimeter, call up a security regiment or engineer battalion, do anything but expose your HQ and artillery assets to the enemy. There are a few exceptions beyond the scope of this article, invariably they involve relatively extreme situations.

III. Garrisons and Area Defense Networks

The difficulties of rear area security really arise when you need to coordinate security for entire theaters and fronts with numerous cities, objective areas, and rail lines, compounded by the potential for guerilla, airborne and amphibious operations. The security system you apply should consider regional density of assets (of all types), the potential for exposure to insurgency (of any type), your response capabilities, special factors as related in scenario notes and briefings…and terrain. Having secured all the ground behind your front lines, you can easily determine which areas are and are not "mission/victory critical". It follows that you would concentrate b security assets in mission critical areas, but forces should be available to counter threats elsewhere, too.

In Gotterdammerung by Daniel McBride, Yugoslavia is (as was historically the case) a hotbed of guerilla activity. Yugoslavia, however, is not particularly important to the broad scheme of things (at least initially). It is a sideshow of attrition, constantly plagued by partisans able to move before Axis forces can respond. The Pripet marsh region is another area subject to marauding partisans.

In such cases, remember, proper security engages in three activities: a) preventing threats from developing, b) detecting threats quickly, and c) eliminating threats efficiently – not necessarily eliminating threats quickly. This is the basis for an "area defense network" – constraining enemy activity to non-mission critical areas. Containment. It contemplates reducing the number of enemy access points to a minimum. Important terrain features represent your best ally with regards to containment – alpine mountain ranges, super rivers, lakes, flooded marshes and the like can significantly reduce the number of units you need to provide security to an entire region (at least in TOAW).

We have an ideal example of area security above. This depicts a security regiment, its HQ and a rail engineer regiment providing security along a 100 km stretch of a vital rail link to Army Group Center in the early stages of Operation Bagration. Partisan activity exists to the south, the HQ can provide support from eight 75mm howitzers to two of its battalions without risk of engagement. The likelihood of any partisan getting through this arrangement is minimal owing to the cost of swamp movement, and the security battalion zones of control coupled with the inability to move through flooded marshes.

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