U.S. Marine Corps - Small Wars Manual (1940 Edition)
Chapter X. RIVER OPERATIONS.
PREPARATIONS FOR RIVER OPERATIONS
Par. Introduction 10-12 Organizingthe river patrol 10-13 Crews 10-14 Boat procurement 10-15 Armament and equipment 10-16 Loading boats 10-17
10-12. Introduction.-a. When the decision to seize and occupy a river route has been reached, certain preemptive measures, such as the organization of the force to be employed and the assembling of boats and their crews, must be taken. In many respects these preliminary steps closely resemble the organization of infantry patrols discussed in Chapter VI, "The Infantry Patrol."
b. In the majority of cases, the occupation of a river will proceed from the coastline inland. If the situation requires that the occupation begin near the head of navigation and work downstream, the difficulties of preparation are magnified especially in the collection of the necessary boats, boat equipment, and native crews. The measures to be taken, however, are similar in either event.
c. If the river to be occupied is not already held by hostile forces, or no opposition is offered, the problem will be relatively simple, provided suitable and sufficient, boats to handle the personnel and initial supplies are available. If the mouth of the river is held by the enemy, it must be seized as the first step. This operation does not differ from any landing against opposition, which is completely covered in the "Manual for Landing Operations."
d. River operations are relatively unfamiliar to our forces. They utilize types of transportation whose capabilities and care are comparatively unknown to our personnel. The operations are conducted on routes of travel which are seldom accurately indicated on the available map, and they are executed over waterways of constantly changing characteristics. The condition of the water highways varies with the low or flood stage in the river and with the part of the river in which the boat is operating, whether lower, middle, or upper river. Every opportunity should be given the men to become water-wise and boat-wise, in order to build up their boathandling ability and their self-confidence. Preparations for river operations should commence, therefore, as far as possible in advance of the date when such operations are expected to begin.
10-13. Organizing the river patrol. - Many of the same principles apply to organization of a river patrol as apply to that of an infantry patrol. The size of the patrol is determined by the same factors, except that the number and type of boats available must be taken into consideration. Individual armament, the proportion of supporting weapons to be attached, the necessity for additional officers, cooks, medical personnel and signal personnel, native guides, and interpreters are all considered in the estimate of the situation on the same basis as for a land patrol. The principles to be borne in mind are the same; the difference is that a river is used as the avenue of approach to the hostile area instead of a road or trail, and instead of riding animals or marching, boats are used.
10-14. Crews.-a. Whether enlisted or native boat crews, or a proportion of each, are included in the organization of the patrol depends upon the types of boats to be used, the nature of the river, the availability of reliable natives, and the general situation in the theater of operations. Very few natives who are good engineers and mechanics will be found in the usual small wars theater. If the nature of the river is such that only motorboats will be used in the patrol, the crews should consist of enlisted men, with a sufficient number of natives to act as guides in the bow of each boat. Even these can be dispensed with if the patrol is well trained in river work. On the other hand, if the operations are to take place in the middle and upper rivers, where innumerable rapids will be encountered, and boats have to be propelled by hand, natives should comprise the boat crews if they can possibly be obtained. The handling of shallow-draft boats, such as the canoe and sampan, in the upper river is an art not easily or quickly acquired. This is second nature to the native who has been brought up in the upper river country; whereas, only a very few enlisted men will be found who can learn to handle all types of river craft in all kinds of water. Every enlisted man who is detailed as a member of a boat crew depletes the number of effective in the combat personnel. The procedure relative to hiring native boat crews does not differ from the hiring of native muleteers, and the same principles apply as with land patrols. Every situation must be estimated and decided upon its merits.
b. The crew of a boat powered with an inboard motor should consist of a coxswain, an engineer, and a pilot. An outboard motorboat requires an engineer and a pilot only. Boats which are propelled by hand; that is, by poling when going upstream and paddling when going downstream, require a much larger crew in relation to the size of the boat. The smaller, upper river boats, capable of carrying from a half squad to a squad, should have a poling crew of three or four men at the bow, and a boat captain who handles the steering paddle or rudder at the stern. The larger supply and combat boats may require as many as twelve bowmen and two men at the stern. Smaller crews than these can operate, but the speed of the patrol will be adversely affected, and the dangers of capsizing or losing control of the boat in rough water will be increased.
10-15. Boat procurement.-a. After a decision has been made to engage in a river operation, the earlier the necessary boats are procured, the better are the chances for success. If such operations can be foreseen when the expedition is organizing in the United States, lower- and middle-river boats, and a few light-draft boats which may be suitable for use in the upper river, should be carried with the initial equipment, as well as a supply of outboard motors.
b. If suitable boats have not been provided, it will be necessary to purchase or charter local boats. If the supply of available craft exceeds the needs of the patrol, only the best of the various types required as determined by the composition of the patrol should be selected for the initial movement. It is advisable, however, to take possession of at least double that number so that they will be immediately available for supply and replacement purposes in the future. Boats should be inspected and inquiries made as to their riverworthiness before they are purchased. In many cases the supply of boats will be less than the required number or type, and the size of the patrol may have to be curtailed, or some compromise effected in the distribution of personnel, equipment, and supplies among the boats.
10-16. Armament and equipment.-a. Organic-The organic armament and equipment, and the proportion of attached units, will not differ from that of an infantry patrol of comparable strength. For details, see Chapter II, Composition of Forces," and Chapter VI, "The Infantry Patrol."
b. Individual.-The same principles apply to the amount of individual equipment carried in a river patrol as on an infantry land patrol. (See ch. VI, "The Infantry Patrol.") Each man, however, should be provided with a rubber, waterproof bag for carrying his personal equipment. The bag should be securely tied at the throat and distended to create the maximum airspace. If the boat capsizes, as is often the case, the bag will float and support the man in his efforts to reach the shore. Mosquito nets must always be included, especially in operations along the lower and middle rivers. c. Boat.-For the armament of lower- and middle-river boats, see paragraphs 10-6 and 10-7. Each boat should be equipped with the following:
100-foot," stern and bow lines of 1 inch manila rope, in place ready for instant use at all times.
1 paddle for each man required to use it.
1 pole, metal shod, for each man required to use it.
2 long range focusing flashlights.
1 gasoline or makeshift stove for preparing food.
d. Signal.-Patrols operating in the lower river should be equipped with a reliable two-way radio set. Patrols in the middle and upper rivers should carry the light, portable set and establish communication with the base each day. (See ch. 11, "Organization.") Panels, message pick-up set, and pyrotechnics should be carried as with infantry patrols. (See ch. VI, "The Infantry Patrol.")
e. Medical.-Medical supplies should be packed and distributed among several boats in the patrol to reduce the possibilities of loss if one or more of the boats should capsize.
f. Ammunition.-The same principles apply as with an infantry patrol, especially as to the amount of ammunition which should be carried on the person. Because of the comparative ease with which it can be transported with a river patrol, it might be advisable to carry at least one complete unit of fire in the train. Like the medical supplies, the ammunition in reserve sholdd be distributed throughout the entire boat flotilla, except the security units.
g. Rations and galley equipment.-See Chapter VI, "The Infantry Patrol."
10-17. Loading boats.-After all other preparations have been made, the boats, in order to facilitate an early start, should be loaded with as much of the patrol equipment and supplies as possible the day before the patrol is to clear its base. Each man should be required to carry his ammunition belt and similar equipment on his person, properly fastened at all times to avoid its loss if the boat is capsized. Arms should be carried within reach at all times. Individual packs are loaded in the boat the man will occupy; they can be used as seats in boats of the upper-river type. Boats the service of security should be lightly loaded and only the personal gear of the men on that duty. Other boats in the flotilla should carry their proportionate share of the equipment and supplies. Even though a supply train is included in the flotilla, it is necessary to distribute some of the supplies among the other boats as a precautionary measure against their loss if the supply boats are capsized or broken in negotiating rough water. In navigating fast water, boats should be loaded down by the head for work against the current or down by the stern for work with the current, so that the deeper end will always be upcurrent. As the boat tends to pivot on its deeper end, the current will hold the boat parallel to the flow of the current.
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