to take Vietcong camps. The screening offered by their brush made hillsides key terrain for the guerrillas; the open hilltop landing zones were key to the air cavalry.

In general, however, the high ground still presents a defensive advantage, providing a platform for observation and fire to dominate the battle zone. With tank guns and antitank weapons that can hit and destroy targets over a mile away, commanding heights to see and fire from are once more at a premium. Modern weapons are so accurate, long ranged and destructive that anything that can be seen on the battlefield can be engaged, and anything that can be engaged can be destroyed.

With the increased accuracy and deadliness of weapons, cover and concealment becomes a primary consideration. Landscape features that limit a tank's line of sight, range of engagement and mobility are highly desirable for infantry. What is attractive to foot soldiers in terms of providing shelter may also be desirable to tank crews trying to avoid antitank weapons. Even helicopters now seek terrain cover by flying "nape" of the earth, just above the ground, below ridge lines and lower than the canopy of forests they fly past.

In the harshness of desert aridity or winter cold, the key to success is survival. Places of refuge in these hostile environments become the greatest geographical prizes. To ancient and modern armies, oases have been key terrain. In the cold of high mountains or on wintery plains, any shelter against the cold of night might mean the difference between life and death, and possession of the meagerest of huts has been hotly contested.

Beyond the tactical level, for corps and army commanders, the key geographical elements are routes. Their primary concern is moving large units around their theater of operations. Junctions and bridges or passes are their key terrain. Since major route intersections, terminals and crossing points are often set in an urbanized landscape, clearly built-up terrain cannot be avoided altogether in the course of war. Inasmuch as towns command transport, communications, economic and political transactions they are the dominant features in the landscape, the chief prizes of war and, thus, the ultimate key terrain. If they are surrendered without contest, one might say that good sense has prevailed. If they are not, the decisive action may be bloody and costly to both sides.


REFERENCES

English J. A. 1981. On Infantry. New York: Praeger.

Fuller J. F.C. 1925. The Foundation of the Science of War. London: Hutchinson, p. 148.

House J. M. 1984. Towards Combined Arms Warfare: A Survey of Twentieth Century Tactics, Doctrine and Organization. Ft. Leavenworth, Kans.: U.S.

-123-

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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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