Warfare in Woods and Forests

Warfare in Woods and Forests

Warfare in Woods and Forests

Warfare in Woods and Forests

Synopsis

Fighting in woods and forests is a very special form of war. Avoided by military commanders unless such terrain is to their advantage, for soldiers forest battles are a chaotic mix of dread, determination, and, all too often, death. Adversaries remain in constant fear of concealed ambush, casualties usually must be abandoned, and prisoners who cannot be guarded are killed. Heightened fear can lead to excesses. Too often, armies have been badly prepared and trained for such warfare and have suffered severely for it. In Warfare in Woods and Forests, noted military historian Anthony Clayton describes major events in woods and forest warfare from the first century CE to the 21st. These events involve Roman soldiers in Germany 2,000 years ago; North Americans in 18th- and 19th-century conflicts; invaders of Russia in 1812 and 1941; British, French, and Americans in France in 1916 and 1918; Americans in the Hürtgen Forest in 1944; and modern-day Russian soldiers in Chechnya.

Excerpt

GENERAL CHARLES GUTHRIE, THE LORD GUTHRIE OF CRAIGIEBANK (FORMERLY UNITED KINGDOM CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF)

Anthony Clayton's Warfare in Woods and Forests is a timely reminder of the difficulties facing those who may have to fight in the wooded areas that cover large tracts of the globe. Although some of the great military thinkers such as Clausewitz and Jomini have touched on such operations, and though some of the most decisive battles have been fought in woods and forests, surprisingly little literature and guidance are available compared to that which addresses the tactics and techniques to be employed in other types of warfare. This has much to do with the fact that formed conventional and uniformed armies did not wish to be delayed, ambushed, and constrained by an enemy that they found difficult to identify and place, and whose numbers they could not estimate. The policy, whenever possible, was to bypass, encircle, and maintain the momentum of the advance. The attitude was similar to that adopted toward street fighting and clearing buildings.

Today intelligence and information may be easier to collect because of technical development, and weapon systems may be more devastating, but difficulties remain when engaged in combat in forests. Irregular forces will take advantage afforded to them by wooded country, as the Chechens have demonstrated in the Caucasus. The chances of irregular forces eventually succeeding may not be great, but their opportunities are likely to be far greater than they would be in the open.

Anthony Clayton uses many historical examples to illustrate this book, starting with the annihilation of the Roman army of the Legate Quintilius Varus by Arminius at the Battle of the Teutoberger Wald in . . .

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