Urban Combat Tactics
The FMLN began its war and tried to end the war through urban insurrection. Urban insurrection was seen as the way to decisively end the war by taking it into the heart of the enemy stronghold. To the FMLN, the strategic rear guard of the army was the cities. If the rear guard was taken from the enemy, there would be no place to which it could withdraw, and it would be forced to fight to the death, or surrender.
The FMLN conducted two major urban offensives, the first beginning on January 10, 1981 and the second on November 11, 1989. Both offensives failed, but between the first and the second the FMLN learned a lot of lessons and spent a lot of time analyzing the lessons learned, and made vast qualitative improvements in its tactics. Because of this, the experience of the first did not in the least resemble that of the second.
The strategic concept of the urban offensive was the same for both offensives. Guerrilla military action in the cities would provide the catalyst for a popular uprising. Popular rebellion would isolate and immobilize the troops in their barracks. Effectively under siege, they would eventually run out of ammunition or the will to continue fighting and collapse. However, while the general strategic aims were the same, the tactical assumptions behind the techniques used in each were very different.
In 1980, the FMLN was an inexperienced organization and had to rely on foreign experience for its tactical guidelines. The most recent example was the urban uprising of Managua a year earlier by the Sandinistas. The Sandinistas held that the uprising in Managua, and earlier in the city of Masaya, had been the key events that had toppled the Somoza government. Until these uprisings, the Somoza National Guard had kept the Sandinistas bottled up along the southern border with Costa Rica, and