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Comments by YACCS
Friday, July 28, 2006

Artillery and bunkers

Look at this building. How many men can you hide,
how many mines can you toss around?

A lot of men could die trying to take this
one building.

The IDF is facing a brutal dilemma.

They are faced with trying to destroy an enemy with bunkers and tunnels and that can be a costly, brutal business.


Although Okinawa was strongly defended by more than 100,000 troops, the Japanese chose not to defend the beaches. The uncontested landings of 01 April were part of the overall Japanese strategy to avoid casualties defending the beach against overwhelming Allied firepower. A system of defense in depth, especially in the southern portion of the island, would permit the 100,000-man-strong Japanese 32nd Army under General Ushijima to fight a protracted battle that would put both the attacking amphibious forces and naval armada at risk. The Japanese dug into caves and tunnels on the high ground away from the beaches in an attempt to negate the Allies' superior sea and air power.

The battle proceeded in four phases: first, the advance to the eastern coast (April 1-4); second, the clearing of the northern part of the island (April 5-18); third, the occupation of the outlying islands (April 10 - June 26); and fourth, the main battle against the dug in elements of the 32nd Army which began on 06 April and did not end until 21 June. Although the first three phases encountered only mild opposition, the final phase proved extremely difficult because the Japanese were well entrenched in and naval gunfire support was ineffective.


By 19 April soldiers and marines of the US Tenth Army under LGEN Buckner USA were engaged in a fierce battle along a fortified front which represented the outer ring of the Shuri Line. This fighting contrasted dramatically with the unopposed landings and initial rapid advances of the previous weeks. The Shuri defenses were deeply dug into the limestone cliffs and boasted mutually supporting positions as well as a wealth of artillery of various calibers. As the battle dragged on, American casualties mounted. This delay in securing the island caused great consternation among the naval commanders since the fleet of almost 1,600 ships was exposed to heavy enemy air attacks. The most damage from the Japanese attacks came from operation Ten-Go (Heavenly Operation) which employed mass deployment of the fearsome kamikaze.

American losses mounted as soldiers and marines assaulted points on the Shuri line with the deceptive names of Sugar Loaf, Chocolate Drop, Conical Hill, Strawberry Hill, and Sugar Hill. During the course of the battle American forces were informed of two pieces of dramatic news, one tragic and the other joyous. The first was the death of president Franklin Roosevelt on 12 April and the latter the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May.

By the end of May monsoon rains which turned contested slopes and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield as troops became mired in mud and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese bodies decayed, sank in the mud, and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey.

Heavy pressure on the Shuri Line finally convinced GEN Ushijima to withdraw southward to his final defensive positions on the Kiyamu Peninsula. His troops began moving out on the night of 23 May but were careful to leave behind rear guard elements that continued to slow the American advance. Japanese soldiers too wounded to travel were given lethal injections of morphine or simply left behind to die. By the first week of June, US forces had captured only 465 enemy troops while claiming 62,548 killed. It would take 2 more weeks of hard fighting and an additional 2 weeks of "mopping up " operations pitting explosives and flamethrowers against determined pockets of resistance before the battle would finally be over. The so called "mopping up" fighting between 23 and 29 June netted an additional 9,000 enemy dead and 3,800 captured. Among the Japanese, the incidence of suicide soared during the final days. An examination of enemy dead revealed that, rather than surrender, many had held grenades against their stomachs, ending their personal war in that manner. General Ushijima committed ritual suicide (hara-kiri) on 16 June, convinced that he done his duty in service to the Emperor.

Does the IDF want to do this? Because Hezbollah certainly has them lined up to fight bunker to bunker for weeks, if not months.

The Israelis have never met a competent Arab army and Hezbollah knew this. And instead of running special ops and maping the towns with long range obseration teams, they just assumed that they would roll over Hezbollah like Hamas.

But I think the first time I saw Hezbollah soldiers with helmets, I would have spent a half hour puking. Guerrillas don't use helmets, soldiers do. And Israel should have realized that this was a cat of a different color.

Hezbollah has studied the Japanese, the Vietnamese and the Iranians on how to fortify towns and hide bunkers. This was not just thunk up and done, this took a military mind. For all the hype about the Mossad, they didn't perform their primary function and give the IDF accurate intel on Hezbollah capabilities. When IDF commanders say they were surprised by a network of bunkers in a town they have a million pictures of, someone failed.

A Lebanese border town should hold no secrets for the IDF. The fact that it did, much less the fighting style of Hezbollah shows a fatal level of arrogance on the part of the IDF.

Not one thing Hezbollah did should have been a surprise.

And it was.

Now, they want to shell and bomb buildings designed to withstand this, and even better create rubble. Well, defenders love rubble

Stalingrad Academy of Street-fighting

General Vasily Chuikov came up with this name to describe a soldier's adaptation to the tactics that led to survival in the Battle of Stalingrad. Graduates stood a chance of surviving one of the most brutal and grinding battles in history; slow learners all died. The Germans called the style of battle Rattenkrieg, or rat war. All told, the battle cost an estimated 1.5 million lives.


Use wreckage to your advantage

Self-propelled artillery (big guns on treads) and, particularly, tanks were key to Nazi Germany's early successes in World War II. They could mount fast-moving, devastating attacks on less agile enemy units, breaking through the opposing lines and encircling the soldiers who manned them. Such tactics worked best in fields and on the open steppe of the western Soviet Union; they were almost useless amid the collapsed walls and blocked roads inside Stalingrad.

When defending against an attack by German armour, Chuikov ordered his troops, stay hidden behind rubble until the enemy tanks are right in front of you. If possible, booby-trap tank routes to seal them off once enemy tanks are already committed to the battle, so they can't move or retreat.

The Soviets learned to attack tanks from above, on building floors higher than their turrets could aim. They blew holes in the walls of cellars for added manouvrability. They threw grenades onto the floors above German defenders, bringing stone ceilings down upon them.

Dig in close to enemy positions

Another of the Germans' major technological advantages was the Luftwaffe, which could swoop in with dozens or hundreds of planes to "soften up" targets with bombs and strafing attacks long before a German infantryman even put his boots on.

Chuikov ordered his soldiers to set up as close to the Germans as possible, sometimes mere yards away, so any German air attack would kill as many Germans as Soviets.

Keep moving

German soldiers' gear -- steel helmets, steel-shod boots -- was heavy; the Wehrmacht depended on vehicles when it needed to move quickly. Chuikov's troops could turn their relative lack of equipment to their advantage by staying on the move at all times, attacking from unexpected angles and denying German guns stationary targets. He also advised his troops to move on all fours most of the time and on their bellies if necessary, both for cover and for stability in the rubble.

Shoot first and constantly

The Soviets had no shortage of ammunition and Chuikov told his troops to use whatever they needed. He issued as many submachine guns as he could get, hoping to get one in the hands of every soldier (instead of into one out of every five or six as had been standard). The Soviets threw grenades into any room, cellar, or rubble-cave of which they were even slightly suspicious, since gratuitous rubble worked to their advantage. Chuikov's "hand-grenade rule" held that no soldier should move without throwing a grenade first, and never move farther at a time than he could throw another one. His troops used flamethrowers without hesitation.

They also attacked at night, when the Luftwaffe was of even less use to the Germans. The Soviets aimed to deny the Germans sleep and comfort, in addition to the tactical advantage.

Forget conventional units

Chuikov dispensed with conventional notions of platoons and companies, creating a unit called a "shock group." One shock group included three sub-units: a storm group, a reinforcement group, and a reserve group, in a structure intended to take advantage of the tactics already described. The storm group had eight to ten soldiers, armed with machine guns, grenades, daggers and shovels (used as axes or clubs as necessary). Its task -- usually starting from a very close position -- was to hit the enemy hard and fast, attacking silently and with no artillery salvo. Once the advantage of surprise was used up, they'd use a flare to signal for the reinforcements to mop up the survivors, and bring in the reserve as necessary.

The key was speed. The entire attack, from first assault to consolidation of the position, was supposed to take only three minutes.

* * *

These days, such urban-warfare tactics seem almost trivial, but World War II was the first war to feature both explosive munitions and large-scale fighting in city streets. In 1942, this was all new. Given the importance of the Battle of Stalingrad in turning the tide, it's no exaggeration to say that the training at Chuikov's Stalingrad Academy of Street-fighting was vital to the Allies' defeat of the Germans in World War II.

Chuikov was also on the scene as the Soviets blasted their way into Berlin in the early spring of 1945, and veterans of the Battle of Stalingrad were instrumental in taking the German capital.

Back in Stalingrad, it wasn't long before the academy metaphor had achieved a certain grim literalness: soldiers on launches crossing the Volga into perhaps the closest thing to Hell yet seen on Earth were given a physical piece of paper with the lessons summarized on it. This was their training, these green officer cadets, these boys drafted from hardscrabble farms in Kazakhstan, these sailors transferred from their ships in Vladivostok. Crawl fast, shoot whenever possible, sneak up and club with a shovel when necessary. Not one step back. Now go.

Don't you think Hezbollah has learned these lessons, and of course, had it amplified by their trainers experience in the Iran-Iraq war?

Israel is in towns and valleys, perfect places for ambushes. Every road sited, mines planned for years, mortars and machineguns covering every approach from a concealed position. The more Israel bombs, the more they shell and rocket, the better Hezbollah's cover gets.

War is the last, worst solution.

posted by Steve @ 1:47:00 AM

1:47:00 AM

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