House-to-House Fighting in Syria

In the Syrian Civil War, which has been raging on for almost four years, most battles take place in cities and small towns in the form of urban combat warfare. Ferocious house to house fighting between the Syrian Army and terrorist Islamist rebels of all kind, some of them armed and trained by the CIA, others, like ISIS, are financed by Islamist groups from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. The Kurdish guerrilla are the only insurgent group who fight against the terrorist Islamist groups, like ISIS. They use all type of infantry weapons, from AK-47 assault rifles to hand grenades and anti-tank rocket launchers.

Russian helicopter gunships attacking ISIS ground forces and house to house combat between Kurdish units and ISIS insurgent (video)

WW1 Characteristics

Compared to the 18th and 19th Century armed conflicts, World War I saw new and unique tactical and fighting characteristics, which were staticness, the absence of the cavalry as a fighting force, the presence of deep trenches and a strip of no-man’s land, bristling with barbed wire, spikes and other obstacles, as well as extreme fighting conditions. The initial Imperial German Army westward offensive, established in the Schlieffen Plan, had been stopped in northern France by the Allied armies at the First Battle of the Marne and, from then on, World War I became a stationary yet savage armed conflict. But what made it static and why there was no cavalry? The new weapons, which were the byproducts of the Second Industrial Revolution and were designed to stop the massive cavalry charge.

The machine gun, which was massively and widely used, and modern, breech-loading howitzers fitted with hydro-pneumatic recoil systems that gave them accuracy, wiped out the cavalry from the battlefield and forced the infantry to dig deep trenches to protect themselves from artillery barrage and lethal machine gun fire. On the Western Front, this network of trenches ran in long winding lines for about 420 miles, from northeastern France to Belgium, ending up on the North Sea coast. They were reinforced with pillboxes and fortifications, in which machine guns and field artillery pieces were implaced. Heavy howitzers were fired from save positions behind the lines. The field lying between the opposing lines of trenches was called no-man’s land, which was strewn with barbed wire, posts, and even spikes.

To add to the viciousness of the Great War, both the French and German forces used chemical weapons in the form of mustard gas hurled over across the battlefield in artillery shells, while the infantry used the flamethrower for the first time in military history. This gas was very corrosive to the skin, damaging the respiratory mucous membranes and the cornea. Anxious to break the stalemate and gain enemy-held territory, generals launched massive infantry attacks on the enemy positions. As they ran across no-man’s land, heading towards the enemy trenches to take them, thousands of infantrymen were mown down by machine guns that raked across the field only to gain several hundred yards or a couple of miles, or to be thrown back with heavy losses. Bomber aircraft were small and flimsy flying machines unable to carry enough bombload to destroy fortifications and heavy artillery positions hidden in the forest.

If modern machine guns and howitzers forced the advancing armies into the stalemate of trench warfare, another new weapon was needed to overcome the barbed wire and enemy trenches and protect soldiers from the withering machine gun fire; the tank. The first WWI tanks were lumbering and faulty, but, by mid 1918, English and French tanks had been improved and became effective war machines, with which the Allied armies overcame the German trenches, punching holes in their lines as they went.

WW2 Air Supremacy

Air supremacy is an air force capacity to control the sky over a battlefield or a war zone, allowing its bombers and ground-attack aircraft to operate and carry out their bombing missions almost withouth hindrance. For that, it is necessary to possess fast, maneuverable, and powerful fighter and interceptor aircraft in great numbers in order to be able to secure that air space, shooting down any intruder, in the form of an enemy fighter or bomber, that flies in. During the first three years of World War II, the German Luftwaffe had air supremacy in Europe, being able to implement, along with the Wehrmacht, its Blitzkrieg warfare, with the Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka” providing, without hindrance, fire support to ground troops. Having the industrial capacity to manufacture a large number of advanced and fast fighter aircraft, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf FW 190, and flown by excellent pilots allowed Germany to control the skies over most of Europe. With air supremacy, the Third Reich was able to successfully carry out the invasion of Poland in September 1939, to defeat Allied troops and conquer French territory in 1940, and to invade large tracts of the Soviet Unions, with the German divisions at the gates of Moscow, in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa).

However, the Luftwaffe failed to achieve air superiority in the air space over the Channel and the British Isles, since the Germans could not defeat the RAF. It was the Supermarine Spitfire aircraft  and the radars set up in the coastal regions that helped the British avoid defeat. Not only was it as fast as the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, but it was also more maneuverable than the German fighter, thanks to its elliptical wing design and powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin supercharged V12 engine. The Spitfire had also been designed as an interceptor, which became a real threat to the German bombers, whose main problem was not having enough range to carry bombs beyond London’s countryside area. By June 1944, with the introduction and mass production of the British Hawker Tempest and the North American P-51 Mustang, the Luftwaffe had lost the air supremacy in Europe. Under constant attack of Allied bombers, the German industry was unable to catch up with the Allied aircraft production.

In the Pacific Theater of Operations, it was the Japanese who enjoyed air superiority at the beginning of the war. Maintained until 1942, it was exerted through the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier force, whose most important aircraft was the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”. This fast and maneuverable aircraft was the best fighter in the Pacific until the arrival of the US F6F Hellcat and, specially, the F4U Corsair in 1943. Since it was through the carriers that the Japanese exerted air superiority, the first blow to this war capacity took place in the Battle of Midway in 1942, when the Americans were able to sink four Japanese aircraft carriers: Hiryu, Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. By June 1944, with the Corsairs and Hellcats on the US Navy’s ship flight decks, the Allies had already acquired air supremacy in the Pacific; this was proved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, during which the US Navy’s F6Fs and F4Us wiped more than 600 Japanese planes out of the sky and its dive bombers sank three more Japanese carriers.

Schlieffen Plan

Devised by the German Chief of Staff Alfred von Schlieffen, the Schlieffen Plan was the German early 20th century strategic plan for a two-front war in Europe, on the Western Front against France and on the Eastern Front against Russian Army, taking advantage of expected differences in the three countries’ speed in preparing for war. In modified form, it was executed to near victory in the first month of World War I. But the modifications to the original plan, a French counterattack, and speedy Russian offensives, ended the German offensive and resulted in years of trench warfare.

The Schlieffen Plan strategy was to win a two-front war by quickly beating France first in the west, as had been done before in the Franco-Russian War of 1870-1871, then concentrate all the military resources to defeat Russia in the east. To win a fast victory over France, the Schlieffen Plan involved a Germany invasion of Belgium and a right-wing flanking movement through Holland and then southwards, to cut off Paris from the sea; a scythe-like sweeping attack through these countries to surround Paris.

Australian Counter-Insurgency Tactics in Vietnam

Australian troops entered the Vietnam War with their own counter-insurgency tactics, which they had learned fighting in the jungles of Malaysia during the Malayan Emergency guerrilla war (1948-1960), and this was often in conflict with US concepts of a counter-insurgency war. The 1ATF light infantry tactics such as patrolling, searching villages without destroying them, and ambush and counter ambush drew criticism from some US commanders. General William Westmoreland is reported to have complained to Major General Tim Vincent that 1ATF was not being aggressive enough. By comparison, US forces sought to flush out the enemy and achieve rapid and decisive victory through brazen scrub bashing and the use of massive firepower. Australians acknowledged they had much to learn from the US forces about heliborne assault and joint armor and infantry assaults. However, the Australians seemed to be more effective in fighting deep in the jungle, without the fire power from helicopter gunships, silently organizing ambushes that killed entire companies of Vietcong troops, without suffering heavy casualties. Thus, the US measure of success—the body count—was apparently held in contempt by many 1ATF and battalion commanders. Australian tactics characterized by stealth and surprise, for the Aussies were calm and phlegmatic soldiers.

In 1966 journalist Gerald Stone described tactics then being used by Australian soldiers newly arrived in Vietnam:

“The Australian battalion has been described …as the safest combat force in Vietnam… It is widely felt that the Australians have shown themselves able to give chase to the guerillas without exposing themselves to the lethal ambushes that have claimed so many American dead. Australian patrols avoided jungle tracks and clearings… picking their way carefully and quietly through bamboo thickets and tangled foliage…It is a frustrating experience to trek through the jungle with Australians. Patrols have taken as much as nine hours to sweep a mile of terrain. They move forward a few steps at a time, stop, listen, then proceed again.”

AustraliansVietnam

Looking back on ten years of reporting the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, journalist Neil Davis said in 1983, “I was very proud of the Australian troops. They were very professional, very well trained and they fought the people they were sent to fight—the Viet Cong. They tried not to involve civilians and generally there were fewer casualties inflicted by the Australians.” Another perspective on Australian operations was provided by David Hackworth, Vietnam’s most decorated US soldier. “The Aussies used squads to make contact… and brought in reinforcements to do the killing; they planned in the belief that a platoon on the battlefield could do anything.”

For some Viet Cong leaders there was no doubt the Australian jungle warfare approach was effective. One former Viet Cong leader is quoted as saying; “Worse than the Americans were the Australians. The Americans style was to hit us, then call for planes and artillery. Our response was to break contact and disappear if we could… The Australians were more patient than the Americans, better guerilla fighters, better at ambushes. They liked to stay with us instead of calling in the planes. We were more afraid of their style.” However, The American concept of how the war should be fought remained unchallenged and it prevailed almost by default.

The tactics used by the Australian Army in Vietnam were successful. Australian tactics were focused on seeking to engage the Communist forces in battle. Nevertheless, due to political decisions and budgetary limits, the Australians did not devote enough military resources in arms and personnel to disrupting the logistical infrastructure which supported the Communist forces in Phuoc Tuy province and popular support for the Communists remained strong. When 1ATF was withdrawn in 1971, the insurgency in Phuoc Tuy province rapidly expanded.

Australian in Vietnam (footage)

Blitzkrieg

Blitzkrieg is a military tactic conceived and developed by the German Army high-ranking officers and successfully applied during the first years of World War II. Essentially, this innovative military tactic consists of a fast and sudden offensive, in which tanks and other armoured vehicles units concentrates their attacks on a small section of the enemy front to tear out gaps in their lines, in coordination with the use of attack aircraft to wipe out enemy artillery positions and other strong points, rendering the enemy unable to react and counterattack. Then, when the enemy front line is broken through at one point, the assault is concentrated on its flanks. The three essential elements of the Blitzkrieg are 1) tanks, which are organized around independent armoured divisions; 2) ground-attack aircraft, to wipe out strong enemy positions; 3) and self-propelled artillery, to provide fire support to the ground troops. Thus, the ground-attack aircraft, or dive bombers, become the flying howitzers that can attack swiftly, suddenly, and deeply behind enemy lines as they hold the surprise element up their sleeves.

Junkers-Ju_87

Blitzkrieg is a German word which means “lightning war” and was first used by the German Army in World War II. Designed to hit hard and move on instantly, Blitzkrieg is based on speed, surprise, co-ordination and movement, using fast tanks and supported by planes and mechanized infantry units. This tactic is based on Heinz Guderian’s idea of a swift armoured offensive; this German army officer had written a military book which was called “Achtung Panzer,” which got into the hands of Hitler. Having spent four years fighting a static war, Adolf Hitler was spellbound. Guderian told him that he could get to the French coasts in a matter of weeks if they attacked France following the Blitzkrieg tactic, which was summarized by Guderian as “Nicht kleckern, klotzen!,” “Don’t fiddle, hit hard.” In the Blitzkrieg, the Germans referred to a “Schwerpunkt” or focal point, which was a center of gravity upon which all the effort was concentrated, using mechanized ground troops, armored vehicles, and planes.

Blizkrieg_tanks

In Blitzkrieg, a specific target is selected. Then, bombers are sent to soften up the enemy terrain, destroying rail lines and communication centers. This was done in World War II when the German tanks were closing in on the Schwerepunkt and the planes withdrew at the last minute. In this way the enemy did not have time to recover as they were smashed by tanks and infantry.In Blitzkrieg, a specific target is selected. Then, bombers are sent to soften up the enemy terrain, destroying rail lines and communication centers. This was done in World War II when the German tanks were closing in on the Schwerepunkt and the planes withdrew at the last minute. In this way the enemy did not have time to recover as they were smashed by tanks and infantry.