8 TERRAIN AND TACTICS

The last two chapters considered battles and generals' stratagems. Now we come down to the earth itself and the military exploitation of the features of the landscape. The basic fighting handbook of the U.S. Army, FM 100-- 5, says:

Weather and terrain have more impact on battle than any other physical factor, including weapons, equipment, or supplies . . . Indeed most battles have been won by the side that used terrain to protect itself and to reinforce fires to destroy the enemy. To be effectual, commanders must understand the nature, uses and reinforcement of terrain.

Fighting consists of moving, hiding and shooting. Or as J.F.C. Fuller, one of the apostles of mobility, put it: "In the abstract, tactical warfare may be considered as a combination of three elements: mobility, protection and offensive power." The improvements in vehicles and weapons over the last century and a half have expanded the size of the battlefield and have placed a premium on detailed geographical knowledge of the battlefield. We introduced the elements of terrain analysis in Chapter 2. In the context of selected recent wars, we reviewed the notions of key terrain, avenues of approach, points of observation, fields of fire, and cover and concealment. In the light of the three elements of warfare--moving, hiding and shooting-- these reduce to two basic considerations. Mobility requires an assessment of the going over a piece of landscape, the ease with which men and vehicles can move. Shooting and avoiding being shot call for an assessment of sight lines. Questions of fields of fire, observation and cover and concealment all come down to the measurement of how far one can see or range weapons from various places.

With these two characteristics of the battlefield in mind--the going and

-113-

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Terrain and Tactics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Tides in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • 1 - Military Geography 1
  • References 3
  • 2 - Some Third World Wars 5
  • References 30
  • 3 - The Lie of the Land 31
  • Reference 39
  • 4 - The World at War 41
  • References 68
  • 5 - Geography of Revolution 71
  • References 85
  • 6 - The Geography of Battles 87
  • References 103
  • 7 - Classic Spatial Ploys 105
  • References 111
  • 8 - Terrain and Tactics 113
  • References 123
  • 9 - Guerrillas and Counterinsurgency 125
  • Conclusion 134
  • References 135
  • 10 - War in Cities 137
  • References 148
  • 11 - Northern Ireland 149
  • References 161
  • 12 - Fighting in the Landscape and Fighting for a Place 163
  • References 167
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 175
  • About the Author 183
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