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Posted on Mar 28, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101: 025. Urban Operations: Truisms and Nuggets

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

“The Thebans immediately closed up ranks to repel all attacks on them. Twice or thrice they beat back their assailants. But the Plataen men shouted and charged them, the women and slaves screamed and yelled from the houses and pelted them with stones and tiles; besides, it had been raining hard all night, and so at last their courage gave way and they turned and fled through the city. Most of the Theban fugitives were quite ignorant of the right way out, and this, with the mud and the darkness, and the fact that their pursuers knew their way about and could easily stop their escape, proved fatal to many.”


– Thucydides’ description of Theban troops in the city of Plataea

The urban warfare experience has been consistent through the years. The cities are famous: Stalingrad, Berlin, Aachen, Hue, Al Fallujah. Each consumed companies and battalions, some swallowed up divisions and corps, while the worst devoured while armies. The city is not the army’s friend. It’s best to avoid fighting there. If you cannot go around the city then prepare before plunging into it. Failure to be ready for urban fighting can lead to disaster such as what befell the Russians in Grozny in 1994. Tanks and infantry moved independently. Command and control was confused. Artillery and air support was poorly coordinated and killed as many Russians as Chechens. Every mistake was paid for in blood. The only way to reduce the cost is to prepare the force. In the past months, we looked at general offensive and defensive operations and on intelligence preparation of the battlefield as they relate to the urban fight. This month we will concentrate on urban operations truisms and on providing a review of some key urban operations “nuggets." We have also included discussion on some areas not previously touched upon. This includes task organization and control measures. Let’s begin with the ultimate MOUT weapon, the infantry.

URBAN OPERATIONS TRUISMS Infantry. Combat in urban areas relies on small-unit action. It is an infantry fight. Only infantry can move in and out of the built-up environment with relative ease and without easy detection. The restrictive maneuver environment favors infiltration, an infantry specialty. Urban combat requires small-unit leadership and initiative, another infantry specialty. The fragmented battlefield subdivides units and forces decentralized action. It complicates command, control, and communications and magnifies the problems that are typically encountered in battle. Just as the open plain favors the tank, so the city favors the individual soldier. Below we have listed some things to consider when utilizing your infantry in the urban fight.

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