Infantry tactics

Infantry tactics

Infantry tactics are the combination of military concepts and methods used by the soldiers fighting predominantly on foot to achieve tactical objectives in a specific Tactical Area of Responsibility, during an engagement. In general, because of the uniqueness and flexibility of the infantry as a Combat Arm, it is able to occupy positions, and take the greatest advantage of battlefield terrain to reduce effects of enemy weapons. However, because of the numerical dominance of the infantry in the armies of the past, and because of the determination required to defend occupied positions, infantry tactics often lead to the larger proportion of casualties.

Infantry tactics are the oldest method of historical warfare, and span all eras. In ancient armies, infantry tactics were used to fight large battles, often involving tens of thousands of troops. Over time, the combat troop density decreased as the infantry were forced to spread out over the terrain to present a less concentrated target for increasingly more effective weapons such as (artillery and, for a time, rifles). By the mid-19th Century, infantry tactics were applied to divisions of 10-20,000, though by the First World War this had been reduced to battalion-size units. With increasing lethality of weapons such as artillery, and the growing use of aircraft in ground combat, the dominant unit of infantry tactics became the company. During the Cold War, European armies fighting post-colonial wars, United States forces fighting in Vietnam, and Soviet and Russian Armies fighting in Afghanistan and Chechnya, all found the platoon to be the basic building block of infantry combat.

At various times in military history, infantry were predicted to be made obsolete by the introduction of armoured knights, artillery, rifles, machine guns, tanks, aircraft, nuclear weapons, and computers. At the dawn of the 21st Century, most warfare is still conducted using infantry. Because no other combat arm can operate independently of the infantry, infantry tactics form the basic body of knowledge for all military officers regardless of the armed services branch they serve in.

Infantry tactics span the entire scope of military operations in all combat environments, including land warfare including subterranean and mountain tunnel tactics, amphibious and riverine operations, airborne warfare, special operations in support of intelligence warfare, and security operations in support of humanitarian relief operations.

Although infantry tactics in the 21st Century rely on a large variety of weapons and equipment using diverse technologies, the primary tool of the trade used in infantry tactics is the rifle of the individual infantryman, and the equipment item infantry tactics most depends on, aside from availability of food, water and ammunition, is the pair of boots used for marching from position to position. In this regard, modern warfare does not differ significantly from the time of Jason of Pherae.

Ancient infantry tactics

The infantry phalanx was a Sumerian tactical formation as far back as the third millennium BC. [Dupuy, p.10.] It was a tightly knit group of "hoplite"s, generally upper and middle class men, typically eight to twelve ranks deep, armored in helmet, breastplate, and greaves, armed with two- to three-meter (6-9 foot) pikes and overlapping round shields. [Dupuy, p.10-11.] . It was most effective in narrow areas, such as Thermopylae, or in large numbers. Although the early Greeks focused on the chariot, because of local geography, the phalanx was well developed in Greece and had superseded most cavalry tactics by the Persian Wars. The brilliant Philip II of Macedon reorganized his army, with emphasis on "phalanges", [Dupuy, p.11.] and the first scientific military research. [Dupuy, p.12.] Theban and Macedonian tactics were variations focused on a concentrated point to break through the enemy phalanx, following the shock of cavalry. [Dupuy, p.13.] Carefully organized (into "tetrarchia" of 64 men, "taxiarchiae" of two "tetrarchiae", "syntagmatae" of two "taxiarchiae", "chilliarchiae" of four "syntagmatae", and "phalanges" of four "chilliarchiae", with two "chilliarchiae" of "peltast"s and one "chilliarchia" each of "psiloi" and cavalry {"epihipparchy"} attached. [Dupuy, p.14. The simple "phalanx" could be combined into a grand "phalanx" of four simple "phalanges", a formation equivalent to a modern army corps.] ) and thoroughly trained, [Dupuy, p.13-14.] these proved exceedingly effective in the hands of Alexander III of Macedon.

However, as effective as the Greek "phalanx" was, it was inflexible. Rome made their army into a complex professional organization, with a developed leadership structure and a rank system. The Romans made it possible for small-unit commanders to receive rewards and medals for valor and advancement in battle. Another major advantage was a new tactical formation, the manipular legion (introduced around 300BCDupuy, p.16.] ), which could operate independently to take advantage of gaps in an enemy line, as at the Battle of Pydna. Perhaps the most important innovation was improving the quality of training to a level not seen before. Although individual methods were used by earlier generations, the Romans were able to combine them into an overwhelmingly successful army, able to defeat any enemy for more than two millennia.

The Roman tactical system

On the infantry level, the Roman Army introduced new weapons: The "pilum" (a heavy spear), the "gladius" (a short thrusting sword), and a new convex shield (for better protection against spears) which unlocked the "phalanx" while still providing its protection. [Dupuy, p.16-17.] Generally, battle opened with a volley of light spears from up to 18m (20yd) (and frequently far less), [Dupuy, p.17.] followed by volleys of heavy spears ("pilae"). Following these volleys, Roman soldiers would close their enemy to engage with "gladiae". As was the case with throwing spears, the Roman soldiers were trained profusely to stab with these swords instead of slashing. Their training was constant and repetitive, to ensure stabbing was used in combat rather than a more natural slashing motion.Fact|date=May 2007 To motivate the Roman soldier to come within two meters (6 ft) of his enemy (as he was required to do with the "gladius") he was made a citizen after a completed term of service. [Dupuy, p.17.]

The manipular legion was a major improvement over the phalanx on which it was based, providing a flexibility and responsiveness unequalled before that time. By increasing dispersal, triple that of a typical phalanx, the manipular legion had the unanticipated benefit of reducing the lethality of opposing weapons. [Dupuy, p.19. Covering a wider area naturally reduces the tendency of any one soldier to be killed.] Coupled with superb training and effective leaders, the Roman army was the finest in the world for centuries. The army's power on the field was such that it's leaders avoided most fortifications, preferring to meet the enemy on open ground. To take an enemy-held fortification, the Roman army would cut off any supply lines, build watchtowers around the perimeter, set up catapults, and force the enemy to attempt to stop them from reducing the fortification's walls to rubble. The Roman army's achievements were carefully carved in stone on Trajan's Column, and are well documented by artifacts strewn about battlefields all over Europe.

Middle Ages infantry tactics

After the fall of the Roman Empire, many of the ingenious tactics they used disappeared. Tribes such as the Visigoths and Vandals preferred to simply rush their enemies in a massive horde. These tribes would often win battles against more advanced enemies by achieving surprise and outnumbering their foes. Born out of the partition of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire created an effective military. Its conscripts were well-paid and led by commanders educated in military tactics and history. However, the army mostly relied on cavalry, making the infantry a smaller portion of its overall force.

The Vikings were able to be effective against stronger enemies through surprise and mobility. Like guerillas in other wars, the Vikings could decide when and where to attack. In part because of their flat bottomed ships, which enabled them to sneak deep into Europe by river before carrying out an attack, the Vikings could frequently catch their enemies by surprise. Monasteries were common targets because they were seldom heavily defended and often contained substantial amounts of valuables. The Vikings were fearsome in battle, but they became even more so when they included Berserkers. Acting like animals, snarling and biting their shields, Berserkers would rush their enemies with unrelenting determination, even against impossible odds. No one is exactly sure what caused these frenzies; some Who|date=November 2007 believe it might have been a ritual or use of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Battles of the Middle Ages were often smaller than those involving the Roman and Grecian armies of Antiquity. Armies (much like nations of the period) were more decentralized. Leaders were often incompetent; their positions of authority often based on birth, not ability. Most soldiers were much more loyal to their feudal lord than to their nations, and insubordination within armies was common. However, the biggest difference between previous wars and those of the Middle Ages was the use of heavy cavalry, particularly knights. Knights could often easily overrun infantry armed with swords, axes, and clubs. Infantry typically outnumbered knights somewhere between five and ten to one. They supported the knights and defended any loot the formation had. Infantry armed with spears could counter the threat posed by enemy cavalry. At other times wood palisades would be used as protection from charging cavalry, while archers pelted the enemy horsemen with arrows; the English used this tactic against French knights during the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

Pikemen often became a substitute for communities and villages who could not afford large forces of heavy cavalry. The pike could be up to convert|18|ft|m long, whereas the spear was only 6 to convert|8|ft|m in length. Archers would be integrated into these forces of spearmen or pikemen to rain down arrows upon an enemy while the spears or pikes held the enemy at bay. Polearms were improved again with creation of the halberd. The halberd could be the length of a spear, but with an axe head which enabled the user to stab or chop the enemy cavalry with either the front of the axe or a thin point on the opposite side. The Japanese also created polearms. The naginata consisted of an approximately convert|6|ft|m|sing=on long shaft and a convert|2.5|ft|m|sing=on blade. The naginata was often used by women to guard a castle in the absence of men.

The crossbow, which did not require trained archers, was frequently used in armies where the extensive training necessary for longbow was not practical. The biggest disadvantage of crossbows was the slow reloading time. With the advent of steel and mechanical drawing aids, crossbows became more powerful than ever. Armor proof against longbows and older crossbows could not stop quarrels from these improved weapons. Pope Innocent II put a ban on them, but the move toward using this lethal weapon had already started.

The first gunpowder weapons usually consisted of metal tubes tied down to wooden staves. Usually, these weapons could only be fired once. These "gonnes", or hand cannons, were not very accurate, and would usually be fired from city walls or in ambush. Like the crossbow, the gonne did not require trained soldiers and could penetrate the armor worn by enemy soldiers. Missiliers (whatever their weapon) were protected by soldiers with melee weapons. Knights would be on either sides of this force and close in on the enemy to destroy them after they had been weakened by volleys. The introduction of firearms presaged a social revolution; even an illiterate peasant could kill a noble knight. This factor led "samurai" to prohibit firearms in Japan.

Renaissance period

As firearms became cheaper and more effective, they grew to widespread use among infantry beginning in the 16th century. Requiring little training, firearms soon began to make swords, maces, bows, and other weapons obsolete. Pikes, as a part of pike and shot formation survived a good deal longer. By the mid-1500s, firearms had become the main weapons in many armies. The main firearm of that period was the arquebus. Although less accurate than the bow, an arquebus could penetrate most armors of the period and required little training. In response, armor thickened, making it very heavy and expensive. As a result, the cuirass replaced the mail hauberk and full suits of armor, and only the most valuable cavalry wore more than a padded shirt.

Soldiers armed with arquebuses were usually placed in three lines so one line would be able to fire, while the other two could reload. This tactic enabled an almost constant flow of gunfire to be maintained, and made up for the inaccuracy of the weapon. In order to hold back cavalry, wooden palisades or pikemen would be in front of arquebusiers. An example of this is the Battle of Nagashino.

The introduction of the bayonet turned all musketeers into pikemen. Generally, in battles, two sides lined up and fired a few volleys at each other before one side charged with bayonets fixed. Due to the high cost of professional armies, a typical battle-line consisted of two or three lines of musketeers. These basic principles dominated warfare in the 18th Century. The drilling of soldiers, introduced by Prince Maurice of Nassau,Fact|date=July 2008 was precisely exercised and documented, each movement involved in loading a musket practiced repeatedly, which proved a great advantage on the battlefield. Later, Gustav II perfected the infantry formations and made good use of the power of volley fire, by adopting (more reliable) wheellocks, [Dyer, p.61.] taking away their armor to make them more mobile, [Dyer, p.61.] and increasing the numbers of musketeers (which the wheellock enabled him to do) [Dupuy, p.131.] by having them do double duty as pikemen (by way of the plug bayonet), [Dyer, p.61; Dupuy, p.131.] well as by adopting the paper cartridge [Dupuy, p.130.] (with a consequent sharp increase in rate and volume of fire) [Dupuy, p.292.] and streamlining the musket reloading procedure.

Battle formations became more and more important, especially where infantry was being attacked by cavalry, thanks to the "carré" (square), where the wounded, provisions, and officers were protected at the center. Cavalry could not break a well-held square.

Napoleon Bonaparte did many things to change the nature of warfare. Entrenching was one of his innovations.Fact|date=January 2008 This meant soldiers did not always have to stand exposed, and could have a large degree of protection from direct fire weapons. The largest problem with entrenching was the time it took. Another infantry tactic Napoleon introduced was a diamond formation, which allowed soldiers to rapidly change directions. He relied heavily on the column, a formation less than a hundred men wide and containing an entire brigade in tight formation. The constant movement and sheer mass of this formation could break through most enemy lines. Napoleon was also a avid user of artillery, he combined the infantry advance with artilley fire to soften up the enemy. The French army was in his day the best trained user of infantry, cavalry and artillery, the use of good training, discipline and experienced officers made France the dominant power in Europe.

His enemies eventually defeated Napoleon, but his tactics were studied well into the 19th Century, even as improved weapons made massed infantry attacks increasingly hazardous.

Columnar tactics contributed significantly to the bloodshed of the American Civil War. By that time, rifles had become common enough and accurate enough to render columnar formations suicidal. Still, many commanders clung to columnar tactics, unable to conceive of anything else, until entrenchment and dispersal began appearing; European powers largely ignored these innovations, though trenches were used in the Battle of Dybbøl, and the Crimean War.

Columns were also used against natives in lands being colonized by Europeans during the late 19th Century, and their use continued until World War I.

Early modern infantry tactics

Countries which have not been major world powers have used many other infantry tactics. In South Africa, the Zulu impis (regiments) were infamous for their bull horn tactic. It involved four groups - two in the front, one on the left, and one on the right. They would surround the enemy unit, close in, and destroy them with short "assegai", or "iklwas". The Zulu warriors surprised and often overwhelmed their enemies, even much better armed and equipped enemies such as the British army.

The Sudanese fought their enemies by using a handful of riflemen to lure enemy riflemen into the range of concealed Sudanese spearmen. In New Zealand the Māori hid in fortified bunkers or that could withstand strikes from even some of the most powerful weapons of the 19th century before luring opposing forces into an ambush. Sometimes the natives would arm themselves with weapons similar or superior to those of the imperialistic country they were fighting. During the Battle of Little Bighorn, Lt. Colonel George Custer and the 7th Cavalry were destroyed by a force of Sioux and Cheyenne. [Custer suffered from insubordinate junior officers as much as superior enemy weapons, as shown in Sklenar, Larry. "To Hell With Honor". Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.]

Unconventional infantry tactics often put a conventional enemy at a disadvantage. During the Second Boer War, the Boers used guerilla tactics to fight the conventional British Army. Boer marksmen would often pick off British soldiers from hundreds of yards away. These constant sniper attacks forced the British infantry to begin wearing khaki uniforms instead of than their traditional red. The Boers were much more mobile than the British infantry and thus could usually choose where a battle would take place. These unconventional tactics forced the British to adopt some unorthodox tactics of their own.

Trench warfare tactics

Because of the increasing lethality of more modern weapons, such as the machine gun and artillery, infantry tactics shifted to trench warfare. Massed infantry charges were now essentially suicide, and the Western Front ground to a standstill.

A common tactic used during World War I was to shell an enemy trench line, at which point friendly infantry would leave the safety of their trenches, advance across no man's land, and seize the enemy trenches. However, this tactic of "preliminary bombardment" was largely unsuccessful. The nature of no man's land (filled with barbed wire and anything else that could be placed to slow down an advancing soldier) was one factor. For a unit to get to an enemy trench line, it had to cross this area, and in the process be slowed by all the obstructions, then face counterattack by enemy reserves. It also depended on the ability of friendly artillery to suppress enemy infantry and artillery, which was frequently limited by "bombproofs" (bunkers), revetments, poor ammunition, or simply inaccurate fire.

An improvement was the "creeping barrage" in which artillery would fire right in front of advancing infantry to clear any enemy in their way. Many important victories (such as Vimy Ridge) relied on the creeping barrage, but it required close coordination in an era before widespread use of radio, and when laying telephone wire under fire was extremely hazardous. New tactics were the key to breaking the deadlock of trench warfare. The Germans devised infiltration tactics in which shock troops quietly infiltrated the enemy's forward trenches, without the heavy bombardment that gave warning and allowed the other side to send reinforcements. The Allies introduced a fearsome new war machine, the tank, enabling them to overrun enemy positions without fear of the ever-present machine guns. While too slow to do more than support infantry, these tanks were enough to break the deadlock.

The Germans used their specially-trained Stormtroopers to great effect in 1918, breaching the Allied trench lines and allowing supporting infantry to pour through a wide breach in the front lines. Even though most of the German forces were on foot, they were soon threatening Paris. Only timely and stiff resistance, the use of reserves, and German logistical and manpower problems prevented disaster. After this Spring offensive, the Allies counterattacked with tank support, and eventually forced the Germans to retreat.

Mobile infantry tactics

Since trench warfare had been rendered obsolete by the tank, new infantry tactics were devised. More than ever, battles consisted of infantry working together with tanks, aircraft, artillery, (see combined arms). One example of this is how infantry would be sent ahead of tanks to search for anti-tank teams, while tanks would provide cover for the infantry. Portable radios allowed field commanders to communicate with their HQs, allowing new orders to be relayed instantly.

Another major difference from any other previous conflict was the means of transportation; no longer did soldiers have to walk (or ride a horse) from location to location. The prevalence of motor transport, however, has been overstated; Germany used more horses for transport in WWII than in WWI, and British troops as late as June 1944 were still not fully motorized. Although there were trucks in World War I, their mobility could never be fully exploited because of the trench warfare stalemate, as well as the terribly torn up terrain at the front and the ineffectiveness of vehicles at the time. During World War II, infantry could be moved from one location to another using half-tracks, trucks, and even aircraft, which left them better rested and able to fight once they reached their objective; this also influenced speed of deployment and casualties. [Moving across a fire zone in a vehicle, especially under armor, dramatically cut casualties.] A new type of infantry, the paratrooper, was deployed as well. These lightly armed soldiers would parachute behind enemy lines, hoping to catch the enemy off-guard. They were first used by the Germans to seize key bridges in the Netherlands, and prevented their destruction long enough for additional forces to arrive. They required prompt support from regulars, however; First British Airborne was decimated at Arnhem after being left essentially cut off.

To counter the tank threat, WWII infantry initially had few options other than the so-called "Molotov cocktail" (first used by Chinese troops against Japanese tanks around Shanghai in 1937 [Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Weapons and Warfare" (London: Phoebus, 1978), Volume 18, p.1929-20, "Molotov Cocktail".] ) and anti-tank rifle. Neither was particularly effective, especially if armor was accompanied by supporting infantry. These, and later anti-tank mines, some of which could be magnetically attached to the tank, required the user to get closer than was prudent. Later developments, such as the Bazooka, PIAT, and "Panzerfaust", allowed a more effective attack against armor from a distance. Thus, especially in the ruined urban zones, tanks were forced to enter accompanied by squads of infantry.

Marines became prominent during the Pacific War. These soldiers were capable of amphibious warfare on a scale not previously known. As Naval Infantry, both Japanese and American Marines enjoyed the support of naval craft such as battleships, cruisers, and the newly-developed aircraft carriers. As with conventional infantry, the Marines used radios to communicate with their supporting elements. They could call in sea and air bombardment very quickly.

quad tactics

Offensive tactics

Aggressive squad tactics were similar for both sides, though specifics in arms, numbers, and the subtleties of the doctrine differed. The main goal was to advance by means of fire and movement with minimal casualties while maintaining unit effectiveness and control.

The German squad would win the "Feuerkampf" (fire fight), then occupy key positions. The rifle and machine gun teams were not separate, but part of the "Gruppe", though men were often firing at will. Victory went to the side able to concentrate the most fire on target most quickly. Generally, soldiers were ordered to hold fire until the enemy was 600 metres (660 yards) or closer, when troops opened fire on mainly large targets; individuals were fired upon only from 400 meters (440yd) or below.

The German squad had two main formations while moving on the battlefield. When advancing in the "Reihe", or single file, formation, the commander took the lead, followed by the machine gunner and his assistants, then riflemen, with the assistant squad commander moving on the rear. The "Reihe" moved mostly on tracks and it presented a small target on the front. In some cases, the machinegun could be deployed while the rest of the squad held back. In most cases, the soldiers took advantage of the terrain, keeping behind contours and cover, and running out into the open when there were none to be found.

A "Reihe" could easily be formed into "Schützenkette", or skirmish line. The machinegun deployed on the spot, while riflemen came up on the right, left or both sides. The result was a ragged line with men about five paces apart, taking cover whenever available. In areas where resistance was serious, the squad executed "fire and movement". This was used either with the entire squad, or the machinegun team down while riflemen advanced. Commanders were often cautioned not to fire the machinegun until forced to do so by enemy fire. The object of the firefight was to not necessarily to destroy the enemy, but "Niederkampfen" - to beat down, silence, or neutralize them.

The final phases of an offensive squad action were the fire fight, advance, assault, and occupation of position:

"The Fire Fight" was the fire unit section. The section commander usually only commanded the light machine gunner (LMG) to open fire upon the enemy. If much cover existed and good fire effect was possible, riflemen took part early. Most riflemen had to be on the front later to prepare for the assault. Usually, they fired individually unless their commander ordered them to focus on one target.

"The Advance" was the section that worked its way forward in a loose formation. Usually, the LMG formed the front of the attack. The farther the riflemen followed behind the LMG, the more easily the rear machine guns could shoot past them.

"The Assault" was the main offensive in the squad action. The commander made an assault whenever he was given the opportunity rather than being ordered to do so. The whole section was rushed into the assault while the commander lead the way. Throughout the assault, the enemy had to be engaged with the maximum rate of fire. The LMG took part in the assault, firing on the move. Using hand grenades, machine pistols, rifles, pistols, and entrenching tools, the squad tried to break the enemy resistance. The squad had to reorganize quickly once the assault was over.

When occupying a position ("The Occupation of Position"), the riflemen group up into twos or threes around the LMG so they could hear the section commander.

The American squad's basic formations were very similar to that of the Germans. The U.S. "squad column" had the men strung out with the squad leader and BAR man in front with riflemen in a line behind them roughly 60 paces long. This formation was easily controlled and maneuvered and it was suitable for crossing areas open to artillery fire, moving through narrow covered routes, and for fast movement in woods, fog, smoke, and darkness.

The "skirmish line" was very similar to the "Schützenkette" formation. In it, the squad was deployed in a line roughly 60 paces long. It was suitable for short rapid dashes but was not easy to control. The "squad wedge" was an alternative to the skirmish line and was suitable for ready movement in any direction or for emerging from cover. Wedges were often used away from the riflemen's range of fire as it was much more vulnerable than the skirmish line.

In some instances, especially when a squad was working independently to seize an enemy position, the commander ordered the squad to attack in sub-teams. "Team Able", made up of two riflemen scouts, would locate the enemy; "Team Baker", comprised of a BAR man and three riflemen, would open fire. "Team Charlie", made up of the squad leader and the last five riflemen, would make the assault. The assault is given whenever possible and without regard to the progress of the other squads. After the assault, the squad advanced, dodging for cover, and the bayonets were fixed. They would move rapidly toward the enemy, firing and advancing in areas occupied by hostile soldiers. Such fire would usually be delivered in a standing position at a rapid rate. After taking the enemy's position, the commander would either order his squad to defend or continue the advance.

The British method formations depended chiefly on the ground and the type of enemy fire that was encountered. Five squad formations were primarily used: "blobs", single file, loose file, irregular arrowhead, and the extended line. The "blob" formation, first used in 1917, referred to "ad hoc" gatherings of 2 to 4 men, hidden as well as possible. The regular single file formation was only used in certain circumstances, such as when the squad was advancing behind a hedgerow. The loose file formation was a slightly more scattered line suitable for rapid movement, but vulnerable to enemy fire. Arrowheads could deploy rapidly from either flank and were hard to stop from the air. The Extended Line was perfect for the final assault, but it was vulnerable if fired upon from the flank.

The British squad would commonly break up into two groups for the attack. The "Bren group" consisted of the two-man Bren gun team and second in command that formed one element, while the main body of the riflemen with the squad commander formed another. The larger group that contained the commander was responsible for closing in on the enemy and advancing promptly when under fire. When under effective fire, riflemen went to fully fledged "fire and movement". The riflemen were ordered to fall to the ground as if they had been shot, and then crawl to a good firing position. They took rapid aim and fired independently until the squad commander called for cease fire. On some occasions the Bren group advanced by bounds, to a position where it could effectively commence fire, preferably at 90 degrees to the main assault. In this case both the groups would give each other cover fire. The final attack was made by the riflemen who were ordered to fire at the hip as they went in.

Defensive tactics

German defensive squad tactics stressed the importance of integration with larger plans and principles in posts scattered in depth. A "Gruppe" was expected to dig in at 30 to 40 meters (33-45yd) (the maximum that a squad leader could effectively oversee). Other cover such as single trees and crests were said to attract too much enemy fire and were rarely used. While digging, one member of the squad was to stand sentry. Gaps between dug-in squads may be left, but covered by fire. The placing of the machine gun was key to the German squad defence, which was given several alternative positions, usually being placed 50 meters (55yd) apart.

Pairs of soldiers were deployed in foxholes, trenches, or ditches. The pair stood close together in order to communicate with each other. The small sub-sections would be slightly separated, thus decreasing the effect of enemy fire. If the enemy did not immediately mobilize, the second stage of defense, entrenching, was employed. These trenches were constructed behind the main line where soldiers could be kept back under cover until they were needed.

The defensive firefight was conducted by the machine gun at an effective range while riflemen were concealed in their foxholes until the enemy assault. Enemy grenades falling on the squad's position were avoided by diving away from the blast or by simply throwing or kicking the grenade back. This tactic was very dangerous and U.S. sources report American soldiers losing hands and feet this way.

In the latter part of the war, emphasis was put on defense against armored vehicles. Defensive positions were built on a "tank-proof obstacle" composed of at least one anti-tank weapon as well as artillery support directed by an observer. To intercept enemy tanks probing a defensive position, squads often patrolled with an anti-tank weapon.

Platoon tactics

This is a sub-unit of a company, comprised of three sections with a platoon headquarters. The strength of standard infantry platoon varies between twenty five and thirty.

Infantry entrenchment

During the Second World War, trenches, ditches, foxholes and dragon's teeth were used extensively.

Infantry tactics after 1945

The Korean War was the first major conflict following World War II. During the Korean War, the human wave tactic was used by Chinese forces. Human wave tactics emphasized overwhelming an enemy by sending large numbers of soldiers against fortified positions. This tactic, first seen as early as the Russo-Japanese War, was used extensively by the Soviets and Japanese during World War II. Generally, it was employed by a poorly trained force against a more disciplined one. It proved very costly, but could achieve the desired result. New devices, including smaller radios and the helicopter were also introduced. Parachute drops, which tended to scatter a large number of men over the battlefield, were replaced by airmobile operations using helicopters to deliver men in a precise manner. Helicopters also provided fire support in many cases, and could be rushed to deliver precision strikes on the enemy. Thus, infantry were free to range far beyond the conventional fixed artillery positions. They could even operate behind enemy lines, and later be extracted by air. This led to the concept of vertical envelopment (originally conceived for airborne), in which the enemy is not flanked to the left or right, but rather from above.

Jungle infantry tactics

Guerrilla tactics became very popular with the post-colonial revolutionary movements among the many developing nations, with many located in the equatorial, densely forested and jungle-covered regions. Many of these tactics revolved around the "hit and run" attacks, involving a small group ambushing a larger force, only to withdraw minutes later. This reduced the advantages of the conventional force's more advanced weapon systems, denying them the ability to request an artillery or air strike, and rendering vehicles a liability in the difficult terrain.

Booby traps were another common tactic used by the guerrillas. The punji stick or the concealed punji stick pit, were a common example of booby traps used in Vietnam. Grenade traps, positioned and primed with the pin removed, were also used. Moving the grenade would take the pressure off the lever, causing the grenade to explode.

One of the defining characteristics of a guerrilla tactic, however, was camouflage and deception. The Viet Cong would travel in small groups, often wearing civilian clothes to making enemy combatant identification difficult for American soldiers. Often, the Viet Cong would hide in tunnels. Some of these tunnel complex networks were so advanced that they included field headquarters, field hospitals and sleeping quarters. When American soldiers had to enter the subterranean tunnels, they had to be lightly armed and negotiate the network through the dark.

Tunnels and "spider holes" were often used to spring ambushes on American troops. The Vietcong would wait for part of an American formation to pass before coming out of the concealed positions to commence firing. Before the Americans had the chance to identify the source, the Vietcong would slip back into their trenches and tunnels. This often caused fratricide because inexperienced ambushed soldiers would reflexively return fire, inflicting casualties on friendly troops.

American troops, usually assigned to Vietnam for a one-year tour of duty, found themselves ill-trained to counter enemy tactics based on evasion of sustained combat; by the time the "cherry" learned the necessary lessons of jungle warfare, he was "short" to be rotated out. Also, due to the increased use of air mobility, the average infantryman in Vietnam participated in five times more combat in one year than his World War Two counterpart experienced in that entire war. [The average U.S. Army combat soldier during the Second World War served only 3-4 months in the combat zone, and the entire US Army period in combat after D-Day amounted to less than 11 months. On the other hand in Vietnam the US infantryman remained in a combat zone for 12 months due to the nature of the warfare] Lessons learned during this conflict led to the creation of such specialized units as Special Forces and Recon.

Mountain infantry tactics

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Army and Air Force fought forces called the "Mujahideen". Although the Soviet Army had greater fire power and modern equipment than the "Mujahideen", they were not able to completely destroy them because of the difficulty of countering guerrilla tactics in the mountains. The "Mujahideen" often attacked Soviet convoys in the mountain passes from a high ground position in the valleys. Like the Vietcong, the "Mujahideen" would often withdraw soon after ambushing the Soviet troops.

When the Stinger missile was supplied to the "Mujahideen", they began to ambush Soviet helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in proximity of the military airfields. This was because the Stinger was only effective at a range of convert|15000|ft|m, requiring the "Mujahideen" to attack the aircraft as they were landing or taking off. The Stinger, however, was not the "weapon that won the war". Although it did have a significant effect on the conduct of war, it was not used to shoot down very many aircraft. It did force the Soviets to modify their helicopter tactics. Helicopters begun to cooperate more closely with the ground forces, fixed wing aircraft began flying at higher altitudes, and armor and anti-missile electronic defense systems were added to aircraft to help protect them from the Stinger.

The Soviets countered the "Mujahideen" tactics in various ways. The "Spetsnaz" were used extensively in special operations by being deployed by helicopter into areas identified as arear often transited by the "Mujahideen" , or sites of ambushes. "Spetsnaz" tactics were effective against "Mujahideen" because they employed tactics similar to those used by the "Mujahideen"; tanks and aircraft were comparatively less effective due to terrain and enemy mobility in it. The only technology with a significant impact on "Mujahideen" were land mines and helicopters, although over time "Mujahideen" were able to find ways to avoid and evade both.

As the Soviet operations stalled, they began retaliating against the civilian population for supporting the "Mujahideen". It was not uncommon for Soviet helicopters to raze an Afghan village in retaliation for an attack against Soviet soldiers. At other times they dropped mines from aircraft in the fields and pastures, or shooting the livestock with helicopter weapons. Without the support of the villagers, forcing the "Mujahideen" to carry their own food in addition to weapons and military supplies. Another common tactic was to cordon off and search villages for "Mujahideen". These tactics were not unlike those used by the United States in Vietnam, or by the Germans against Soviet partisans in World War Two.

Modern infantry tactics

Tactics of the Russo-Chechen conflicts

The conflict between Russia and the Chechens has been mostly characterised as a guerilla war. Most fighting is done with the support of armored vehicles, artillery, or aircraft, rather than just infantry. Russian infantry were important for fighting in Grozny during the mid 1990s although they were not prepared for the urban warfare that occurred. The Chechen fighters would hide on the top floors and basements of buildings armed with small arms and anti-tank weapons. The Russians came in with convoys of armored vehicles which were unprepared for the tactics the Chechens would use.

Chechen ambush tactics were planned, and involved destroying the first and the last vehicle in the column. This was done by either rocket propelled grenade (RPG) or improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. Under Russian military doctrine, these would be armoured personnel carriers (APCs) or tanks. If the initial attack was successful, the rest of the convoy would be trapped in between. This tactic was developed by the Soviet army in Stalingrad ironically, and used all over the world.

In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia adopted many tactics used by the West.Fact|date=June 2007 During the second conflict, learning from the lessons of the first, artillery and airstrikes were used much more extensively. Despite the civilian loss of life, these were not the carpet bombings of the World Wars, but quite precise strikes. The second siege of Grozny was an exception to this, as the whole city was extensively damaged by both artillery and air attacks.

Chechens also fought in a different formation during urban combat. These tactics employed fireteams of three fighters: a machine gunner, a sniper and a fighter armed with an RPG. In the conditions of urban combat this proved effective, as a very small and mobile fireteam could meet any potential sizable threat with great effectiveness.

Chechen snipers were known for wounding soldiers and picking off their rescuers. A favorite tactic used by Chechen snipers during the first battle of Grozny was to shoot off the antennas from the moving APCs. Since this was often the only means of communication with the command center, the troops inside would end up isolated. The troops would then be attacked with RPGs or by the sniper as they tried to repair the antenna.

As Russia controlled more and more area, ambushes gave way to roadside bombings. These usually involved modified mines and improvised explosive devices (IED).

Experience gained by Arabs in guerrilla and urban combat in Chechnya was successfully imported into Iraq after the invasion.

U.S. - Iraq conflict (2003-present)

Before and during the insurgency many unconventional tactics were used. Human shields were common during the war and in the ensuing insurgency in places like Fallujah. Suicide bombers have attacked soldiers at checkpoints, on patrols, on their bases, and in convoys. Consequently, soldiers use more caution, and treat everyone who comes to a checkpoint as a potential suicide bomber; explosives can be hidden under clothes or in something being carried.

Infantry carrying small arms and RPGs have aided in ambushes with improvised explosive devices. Several times convoys have been stopped with IEDs and Iraqi fighters armed with RPGs and small arms attacked them.

There have been several occasions in which infantry have met with angry crowds.

Armored units and infantry units have been combined in urban environments to great effect in places like Fallujah. The use of armor in cities was once thought to be a tactical mistake.


Aim of advance

Before we analyse the categories of this operation of war, it is imperative that the aim of this operation is clearly understood. It is to move a particular force in the combat zone in such a manner so as to relocate it in a position of advantage vis-a-vis the enemy so as to be able to destroy the latter by generating combat force from within the elements executing the advance. This manoeuvre therefore implies the following:-

# Traversing over a piece of terrain with all components of the force.
# Overcome/contain all hostile elements encountered during the advance without compromising the force required at the destination to execute the offensive plan.
# Security of the follow up logistics and combat support essential for subsequent operations.
# Adherence to a time frame as dictated by subsequent operations to achieve the overall goal.
# The need to execute this operation successfully in an environment where the enemy will utilize all his combat power and resources available with him.

See also

* Suppressive fire
* Reconnaissance by fire
* Spray and pray



17th Century

* Dupuy, Trevor N., Colonel, U.S. Army. "Evolution of Weapons and Warfare". Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980. ISBN 0-672-52050-8
*Dyer, Gwynne. "War". New York: Crown Publishers, 1985. ISBN 0-517-55615-4

World War II

*"World War II Infantry Tactics: Squad and Platoon", Dr Steven Bull, 2004 Osprey Ltd.
* Dupuy, Trevor N., Colonel, U.S. Army. "Evolution of Weapons and Warfare". Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980. ISBN 0-672-52050-8

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