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Ambush Patrols

Section I. General

C-1. Purpose of ambushes.

The ambush patrols discussed in this appendix are combat patrols with missions to establish and execute ambushes to harass or destroy targets and/or capture personnel and equipment. Ambushes generally are executed to reduce the guerrilla's overall combat effectiveness. Destruction is the primary purpose of an ambush since guerrillas killed and/or captured, and equipment and/or supplies destroyed or captured, critically affect the guerrilla force. Harassment, the secondary purpose, diverts guerrillas from other missions. A series of successful ambushes causes the guerrilla force to be less aggressive and more defensive; to be apprehensive and overly cautious; and to be reluctant to go on patrols and move in convoys or in small groups.

C-2. Types of ambushes.

a. There are two types of ambushes. A point ambush involves patrol elements deployed to support the attack of a single killing zone. An area ambush involves patrol elements deployed as multiple, related, point ambushes.

b. An ambush is categorized as either hasty or deliberate. A hasty ambush is an immediate action drill, an action of a combat patrol wilth little or no information. When information does not permit detailed planning required for a deliberate ambush, a hasty ambush is planned. In this case, the ambush patrol plans and prepares to attack the first suitable guerrilla force. A deliberate ambush is planned as a specific action against a specific target. Detailed information of the guerrilla force is required: size, nature, organization, armament, equipment, route and direction of movement, and times the force will reach or pass certain points on its route. Deliberate ambushes are planned when:

(1) Reliable information is received on the intended movement of a specific force.

(2) Patrols, convoys, carrying parties, or similar forces establish patterns of size, time, and movement sufficient to permit detailed planning for the ambush.

c. A unit conducting a combat patrol, before departing, plans and rehearses the ambush of the type of guerrilla force it may encounter. It establishes and executes ambushes as opportunities arise.

Section II. Attack Fundamentals

C-3. Three elements.

Surprise, coordinated fires, and control are basic to a successful ambush.

C-4. Surprise.

Surprise must be achieved or else the attack is not an ambush. Surprise, which distinguishes an ambush from other forms of attack, allows the ambush force to seize and retain control of the situation. Surprise is achieved by careful planning, preparation, and execution. Guerrillas are attacked in a manner they least expect.

C-5. Coordinated fires.

All weapons, including mines and demolitions, are positioned, and all direct and indirect fires are coordinated to achieve:

a. Isolation of the kill zone to prevent escape or reinforcement.

b. Surprise delivery of a large volume of concentrated fires into the kill zone to inflict maximum damage so the target can be assaulted and destroyed.

C-6. Control.

a. Close control is maintained during movement to, occupation of, and withdrawal from the ambush site.

b. The ambush commander's control of all elements is critical at the time of target approach. Control measures provide for:

(1) Early warning of target approach.

(2) Withholding fire until the target moves into the kill zone.

(3) Opening fire at the proper time.

(4) Initiating appropriate actions if the ambush is prematurely detected.

(5) Lifting or shifting supporting fires when the ambush includes assault of the target.

(6) Timely and orderly withdrawal to an easily recognized rallying point.

c. Personnel conducting the ambush remain still and quiet while waiting for the target to appear. They may have to forgo smoking; endure insect bites and thirst in silence; and resist sleeping, easing cramped muscles, and performing normal body functions. (Ambushes should have a rest plan and a mess plan.) When the target approaches, they do not open fire before the signal is given.

Section III. Planning

C-7. Flexibility.

a. An ambush is planned and prepared using troop leading procedures. Planning considerations include whether the ambush is to be a deliberate ambush or a hasty ambush. In a deliberate ambush, more target intelligence is available to permit planning for every course of action at the target. Planning for a hasty ambush includes tentative plans both for the types of targets that may be ambushed and for varying situations. Both plans are flexible enough to allow modifying, as appropriate, at the ambush site. All plans are rehearsed in detail.

b. Planning provides for the following:

(1) Simplicity. Every soldier must thoroughly understand what he is to do at every stage of the operation. In an ambush, more so than in other operations, the failure of even one soldier to perform exactly as planned can cause failure.

(2) Type of ambush. The type of ambush affects the organization, number of men, and amount of equipment and communications required.

(3) Deployment. Each possible formation is considered for its advantages and disadvantages.

C-8. Manner of attack.

The attack may be by fire only (harassing ambush) or may include assault of the target (destruction ambush).

C-9. Size of ambush force.

The force is tailored for its mission. Two men may be adequate for a harassing ambush. A destruction ambush may require the entire unit (squad, platoon, company).

a. Organization. An ambush patrol is organized in the same manner as other combat patrols to include a headquarters, an assault element, a support element, and a security element. The assault and support elements are the attack force; the security element is the security force. When appropriate, the attack force is further organized to provide a reserve force. When an ambush site is to be occupied for an extended period, double ambush forces may be organized. One ambush force occupies the site while the other rests, eats, and tends to personal needs at the objective rallying point or other concealed location. They alternate after a given time, which is usually 8 hours. If the waiting period is over 24 hours, three ambush forces maybe organized.

b. Equipment. The selection of equipment and supplies is based on the:

(1) Mission.

(2) Size of the guerrilla force.

(3) Means of transportation.

(4) Distance and terrain.

(5) Weight and bulk of equipment.

c. Routes. A primary route is planned which allows the unit to enter the ambush site from the rear. The kill zone is not entered if entry can be avoided. If the kill zone must be entered to place mines or explosives, care is taken to remove any tracks or signs that might alert the guerrillas and compromise the ambush. If mines, mantraps, or explosives are to be placed on the far side, or if the appearance of the site might cause the guerrillas to check it, then a wide detour around the kill zone is made. Here, too, care is taken to remove any traces which might reveal the ambush. Also, an alternate route from the ambush site is planned.

d. Site. Maps and aerial photographs are used to analyze the terrain. When possible, anon-the-ground reconnaissance is made. As far as possible, so-called "ideal" ambush sites are avoided. Alert guerrillas are suspicious of these areas, avoid them if possible, and increase vigilance and security when they must be entered; surprise is even more difficult to achieve in these areas. Instead, apparently unlikely sites are chosen, when possible. Considering this, an ambush site must provide:

(1) Fields of fire.

(2) Concealed positions.

(3) Canalization of the guerrillas into the killing zone.

(4) Covered routes of withdrawal (to enable the ambush force to break contact and avoid pursuit).

(5) No exit route for the guerrilla force.

e. Occupation of the site. As a rule, the ambush force occupies the ambush site at the latest possible time permitted by the tactical situation and the amount of site preparation required. This not only reduces the risk of discovery but also reduces the time that soldiers must remain still and quiet in position.

f. Positions. The unit moves into the ambush site from the rear. Security elements are positioned first to prevent surprise while the ambush is being established. Automatic weapons are then positioned so that each can fire along the entire killing zone. If this is not possible, they are given overlapping sectors of fire so that the entire killing zone is covered. The unit leader then selects his position, located where he can see when to initiate the ambush. Claymore mines, explosives, and M203 grenade launchers maybe used to cover any dead space left by the automatic weapons. All weapons are assigned sectors of fire to provide mutual support. The unit leader sets a time by which positions are to be prepared. The degree of preparation depends on the time allowed. All men work at top speed during the allotted time.

g. Camouflage. Camouflage is important. Each soldier must be hidden from the target. During preparation for the patrol, each soldier camouflages himself and his equipment and secures his equipment to prevent noise. At the ambush site, positions are prepared with minimal change in the natural appearance of the site. All debris resulting from preparation of positions is concealed.

h. Movement, noise, and light discipline. Movement is kept to a minimum and the number of men moving at a time is closely controlled. Every man is as quiet as possible, especially at night. Light discipline is rigidly enforced at night. Smoking is forbidden at night and is closely controlled in the day.

C-10. Execution.

a. Three signals, often four, are needed to execute the ambush. Audible and visual signals, such as whistles and pyrotechnics, must be changed often to avoid establishing patterns. Too frequently, use of the same signals may result in their becoming known to the enemy. A guerrilla might recognize a signal and be able to react in time to avoid the full effects of an ambush. For example, if white star cluster is habitually used to signal withdrawal in a night ambush, an alert guerrilla might fire one and cause premature withdrawal.

b. A signal by the security force to alert the patrol leader to the guerrilla's approach may be given by:

(1) Arm-and-hand signals.

(2) Radio, as a quiet voice message, by transmitting a prearranged number of taps, or by signaling with the push-to-talk switch.

(3) Field telephone, when there is no danger that wire between positions will compromise the ambush.

c. A signal to initiate the ambush, given by the patrol leader or a designated individual, may be a shot or the detonation of mines or explosives. The ambush should be initiated with a mass casualty producing weapon (Claymore antipersonnel mine or M60 machine gun).

d. A signal for lifting or shifting fires, if the guerrilla force is to be assaulted, may be given by voice command, whistles, or pyrotechnics. All fire stops immediately so that the assault can be made before the guerrilla can react.

e. A signal for withdrawal may also be by voice command, whistles, or pyrotechnics.

C-11. Fire discipline.

This is a key part of the ambush. Fire is withheld until the signal is given, then immediately delivered with the heaviest, most accurate volume possible. Properly timed and delivered fires contribute to the achievement of surprise as well as to destruction of the guerrilla force. When the guerrillas are to be assaulted, the lifting or shifting of fires is equally precise. Otherwise, the assault is delayed, and the guerrillas have an opportunity to recover and react.

C-12. Withdrawal to the objective rallying point.

a. The objective rallying point is far enough from the ambush site so that it will not be overrun if the guerrilla force attacks the ambush. Routes of withdrawal to the objective rallying point are reconnoitered. If possible, each person walks the route he is to use and picks out checkpoints. When the ambush is to be executed at night, each person must be able to follow his route in the dark.

b. On signal, the unit quickly but quietly withdraws to the objective rallying point, reorganizes, and begins its return march.

c. If the ambush was not successful and the unit is pursued, withdrawal may be by bounds. The last group may arm mines, previously placed along the withdrawal route, to further delay pursuit.

C-13. Four ambush techniques.

a. A near ambush is a point ambush with the assault element within reasonable assaulting distance of the kill zone (less than 50 meters). Close terrain, such as jungle and heavy woods, may require this positioning. It may also be appropriate in open terrain in a "rise from the ground" ambush.

b. A far ambush is a point ambush with the assault element beyond reasonable assaulting distance of the kill zone (beyond 50 meters). This location may be appropriate in open terrain offering good fields of fire or when attack is by fire for a harassing ambush.

c. A harassing ambush is an ambush in which attack is by fire only.

d. A destruction ambush is an ambush which includes assault to close with and decisively engage the guerrilla force.

Section IV. Point Ambush Formations

C-14. Positions.

a. A point ambush, whether independent or part of an area ambush, is positioned along the expected route of approach of the guerrilla force. Formation is important because, to a great extent, it determines whether a point ambush can deliver the heavy volume of highly concentrated fire necessary to isolate, trap, and destroy the guerrillas.

b. The formation to be used is determined by carefully considering possible formations and the advantages and disadvantages of each in relation to terrain; conditions of visibility, forces, weapons, and equipment ease or difficulty of control; force to be attacked; and overall combat situation.

c. This section discusses formations developed for the deployment of point ambushes. The formations are identified with names that correspond to the general pattern formed on the ground by deployment of the attack element. They include:

(1) Line formation (two techniques, Paragraph C-15).

(2) L-formation (two techniques with variations, Paragraph C-16).

(3) Z-formation (Paragraph C-17).

(4) T-formation (two techniques, Paragraph C-18).

(5) V-formation (two techniques, Paragraph C-19).

(6) Triangle formation (closed; open with variations, Paragraph C-20).

(7) Box formation (two techniques, Paragraph C-21).

C-15. Line formation.

a. The attack element is deployed generally parallel to the guerrilla force's route of movement (road, trail, stream). This positions the attack element parallel to the long axis of the kill zone and subjects the guerrilla force to heavy flanking fire. The size of the force that can be trapped in the kill zone is limited by the area which the attack element can effectively cover with highly concentrated fire. The force is trapped in the kill zone by natural obstacles. mines (Claymore, antivehicular, antipersonnel), demolition's, and direct and indirect fires (Figure C-1).

b. A disadvantage of the line formation is the chance that lateral dispersion of the force maybe too great for effective coverage. The line formation is appropriate in close terrain that restricts guerrilla maneuver and in open terrain where one flank is restricted by mines, demolitions, or mantraps. Similar obstacles can be placed between the attack element and the kill zone to provide protection from guerrilla counterambush measures. When a destruction ambush is deployed in this manner, access lanes are left so that the force in the killing zone can be assaulted. The line formation can be effectively used by a "rise from the ground" ambush in terrain seemingly unsuitable for ambush (Figure C-2).

c. An advantage of the line formation is its relative ease of control under all conditions of visibility.

C-16. L-formation.

a. The L-shaped formation is a variation of the line formation. The long side of the attack element is parallel to the kill zone and delivers flanking fire. The short side of the attack element is at the end of, and at right angles to, the kill zone and delivers enfilading fire that interlocks with fire from the other leg (Figure C-3).

b. This formation is flexible. It can be established on a straight stretch of a trail or stream or at a sharp bend in a trail or stream (Figure C-4).

c. When appropriate, fire from the short leg can be shifted to parallel the long leg if the guerrilla force attempts to assault or escape in the opposite direction. In addition, the short leg prevents escape in that direction or reinforcement from that direction (Figure C-5).

C-17. Z-formation.

The Z-shaped formation is another variation of the L-formation. The attack force is deployed as in the L-formation but with an additional side so that the formation resembles the letter Z. The additional side may serve to (Figure C-6):

  • Engage a force attempting to relieve or reinforce the guerrillas.
  • Restrict a flank.
  • Prevent envelopment (of the ambush force).
  • Seal the end of the kill zone.

C-18. T-formation.

a. In the T-shaped formation, the attack element is deployed across, and at right angles to, the route of movement of the hostile force so that the attack element and the target form the letter T. This formation can be used day or night to establish a purely harassing ambush, and at night to establish an ambush to interdict movement through open, hard-to-seal areas (such as rice paddies).

b. A small unit can use the T-formation to harass, slow, and disorganize a larger force. When the lead guerrilla elements are engaged, they will normally attempt to maneuver right or left to close with the ambush force. Mines, mantraps, and other obstacles placed to the flanks of the kill zone slow the guerrilla's movement and permit the unit to deliver heavy fire and then withdraw without becoming decisively engaged. (Figure C-7).

c. The T-formation can be used to interdict small groups attempting night movement across open areas. For example, the attack element may be deployed along a rice paddy dike with every second member facing in the opposite direction. The attack of a force approaching from either direction requires only that every second member shift to the opposite side of the dike. Each member fires only to his front and only when the target is at close range. Attack is by fire only, and each member keeps the guerrilla force under fire as long as it remains to his front. If the force attempts to escape in either direction along the dike, each member takes it under fire as it comes into his vicinity. The T-formation is effective at halting infiltration. (Figure C-8).

d. It has one chief disadvantage: there is a possibility that while spread out the ambush will engage a superior force. Use of this formation must, therefore, fit the local enemy situation.

C-19. V-formation.

a. The V-shaped attack element is deployed along both sides of the guerrilla route of movement so that it forms a V. Care is taken to ensure that neither group (or leg) fires into the other. This formation subjects the guerrilla to both enfilading and interlocking fire (Figure C-9).

b. The V-formation is suited for fairly open terrain but can also be used in the jungle. When established in the jungle, the legs of the V close in as the lead elements of the guerrilla force approach the apex of the V; elements then open fire from close range. Here, even more than in open terrain, all movement and fire is carefully coordinated and controlled to ensure that the fire of one leg does not endanger the other. Wider separation of the elements makes this formation difficult to control, and there are fewer sites that favor its use. Its main advantage is that it is difficult for the guerrilla to detect the ambush until well into the kill zone (Figure C-10).

C-20. Triangle formation.

This is a variation of the V-formation and can be employed in three ways:

a. Closed triangle. The attack element is deployed in three groups, positioned so that they form a triangle (or closed V). An automatic weapon is placed at each point of the triangle and positioned so that it can be shifted quickly to interlock with either of the others. Elements are positioned so that their fields of fire overlap. Mortars may be positioned inside the triangle. When deployed in this manner, the triangle ambush becomes a small unit strongpoint which is used to interdict night movement through open areas, when guerrilla approach is likely to be from any direction. The formation provides all-round security, and security elements are deployed only when they can be positioned so that, if detected by an approaching target, they will not compromise the ambush. Attack is by fire only, and the target is allowed to approach within close range before the ambush force opens fire (Figure C-11).

(1) Advantages include ease of control, all-round security, and guerrillas approaching from any direction can be fired on by at least two automatic weapons.

(2) Disadvantages include the requirement for an ambush force of platoon size or larger to reduce the danger of being overrun by a large guerrilla force; one or more legs of the triangle may come under guerrilla enfilade fire; and lack of dispersion, particularly at the points, increases danger from guerrilla mortar fire.

b. Open triangle (harassing ambush). This variation of the triangle ambush is designed to enable a small unit to harass, slow, and inflict heavy casualties upon a larger force without being decisively engaged. The attack group is deployed in three elements, positioned so that each element becomes a corner of a triangle containing the kill zone. When the guerrillas enter the kill zone, the element to the guerrillas' front opens fire on the lead guerrillas. When the guerrillas counterattack, the element withdraws and an assault element to the flank opens fire. When this group is attacked, the element to the opposite flank opens fire. This process is repeated until the guerrillas are pulled apart. Each element reoccupies its position, if possible, and continues to inflict maximum damage without becoming decisively engaged (Figure C-12).

c. Open triangle (destruction ambush). The attack group is again deployed in three elements, positioned so that each element is a point of the triangle, 200 to 300 meters apart. The kill zone is the area within the triangle. The guerrillas are allowed to enter the killing zone; the nearest element attacks by fire. As the guerrillas attempt to maneuver or withdraw, the other elements open fire. One or more assault elements, as directed, assault or maneuver to envelop or destroy the guerrillas (Figure C-13).

(1) As a destruction ambush, this formation is suitable for platoon-size or larger units; a unit smaller than a platoon would be in danger of being overrun.

(2) Also, control, in assaulting or maneuvering, is difficult. Close coordination and control are necessary to ensure that assaulting or maneuvering assault elements are not fired on by another party; and the ambush site must be a fairly level, open area that provides (around its border) concealment for the ambush elements (unless it is a "rise from the ground" ambush).

C-21. Box formation.

a. This formation is similar in purpose to the open triangle ambush. The unit is deployed in four elements positioned so that each element becomes a corner of a square or rectangle containing the kill zone (Figure C-14).

b. It can be used as a harassing ambush or a destruction ambush in the same manner as the two variations of the open triangle ambush (Figure C-15).

Section V. Area Ambush Formations

C-22. Kill zone.

A point ambush is established at a site having several trails or other escape routes leading away from it. The site may be a water hole, guerrilla campsite, or known rendezvous point, or a frequently traveled trail. This site is the central kill zone.

C-23. Area ambush: multiple point

a. Point ambushes are established along the trails or other escape routes leading away from the central kill zone (Figure C-16).

b. The guerrilla force, whether a single group or several parties approaching from different directions, is permitted to move to the central kill zone. Outlying ambushes do not attack (unless discovered).

c. The ambush is initiated when the guerrillas move into the central kill zone.

d. When the guerrillas break contact and attempt to disperse, escaping portions are intercepted and destroyed by the outlying ambushes.

e. The multiple point ambush increases casualties and harassment and produces confusion.

f. This version of the area ambush is best suited in terrain where movement is largely restricted to trails. It provides best results when established as a deliberate ambush. When there is not sufficient intelligence for a deliberate ambush, an area ambush of opportunity (hasty ambush) may be established. The outlying ambushes are permitted to attack guerrillas approaching the central kill zone, if the guerrilla force is small. If it is too large for the particular outlying ambush, the guerrillas are allowed to continue and they are attacked in the central kill zone.

C-24. Area ambush: baited trap

a. A variation of the area ambush is the "baited trap" ambush.

b. A central kill zone is established along the guerrilla's route of approach.

c. Point ambushes are established along the routes over which units relieving or reinforcing the guerrilla will have to approach.

d. The guerrilla force in the central kill zone serves as "bait" to lure relieving or reinforcing guerrilla units into the kill zones of the outlying ambushes. A friendly force can also be used as the "bait."

e. The outlying point ambushes need not be strong enough to destroy their targets. They may be small harassing ambushes that delay, disorganize, and cause casualties by successive contacts.

f. This version can be varied by using a fixed installation as "bait" to lure relieving or reinforcing guerrilla units into the kill zone of one or more of the outlying ambushes. The installation replaces the central kill zone and is attacked. The attack may intend to overcome the installation or may use it as a ruse.

g. These variations are best suited for situations where routes of approach for relieving or reinforcing guerrilla units are limited to those favorable for ambush (Figure C-17).

Section VI. Unusual Ambush Techniques

C-25. Spider hole ambush.

a. This point ambush is designed for open areas that lack the cover and concealment and other features normally desirable in a "good" ambush site. The attack element is deployed in the formation best suited to the overall situation (Figure C-18).

b. The attack element is concealed in the "spider hole" type of covered foxhole. Soil is carefully removed and positions expertly camouflaged.

c. When the ambush is initiated, the attack element members throw back the covers and literally "rise from the ground" to attack.

d. This ambush takes advantage of the tendency of patrols, and other units, to relax in areas that do not appear to favor ambush.

e. The chief disadvantage is that the ambush element is vulnerable if detected prematurely.

C-26. Demolition ambush.

a. Dual primed, electrically detonated mines or demolition charges are planted in an area over which a guerrilla force is expected to pass. This may be a portion of a road or trail, an open field, or any area that can be observed from a distance. Activating wires are run to a concealed observation point sufficiently distant to ensure safety of the ambush element.

b. As large a force as desired or necessary can be used to mine the area. The ambush element remains to fire the charges; other personnel return to the unit.

c. When a guerrilla force enters the mined area (kill zone), the element on site detonates the explosives and withdraws immediately to avoid detection and pursuit (Figure C-19).

C-27. Special ambush situation.

Attacks against columns protected by armored vehicles depend on the type and location of armored vehicles in a column, and the weapons of the ambush force. If possible, armored vehicles are destroyed or disabled by fire of antitank weapons, landmines, and Molotov cocktails, or by throwing hand grenades into open hatches. An effort is made to immobilize armored vehicles at a point where they are unable to give protection to the rest of the convoy and where they will block the route of other supporting vehicles.

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