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U.S. Marine Corps - Small Wars Manual (1940 Edition)

Chapter VI. Infantry Patrols

Section XII
Special Operations

Trail Cutting						6-98
Night Operations					6-99

6-98.Trail Cutting.-a. Some situations will require the cutting of trails through wooded terrain. Once cutter at the head of a small column will suffice. When it is desirable to open a trail for pack animals, there should be three or four cutters.

b. The leading cutter is charged with direction. In genearal the trail will follow a compass azimuth, with necessary variations to the right and left as determined by the terrain features, the ease of cutting, etc. As a prerequisite to trail cutting, the patrol leader must have a general knowledge of the area, the direction of flow of the more important stream lines and the intervening ridge lines, the distance to his objective and its general direction from the point of origin. A fairly accurate map, an airplane mosaic or a previous air reconnaissance over the route would be inestimable value, but probably none of them will be available. Native cutters should be employed, if possible, and they can usually be relied upon to select the best and shortest route. This does not relieve the patrol leader of his responsibility of checking the general direction of the trail from compass bearings.

c. The second cutter widens to the right, the third to the left, and so on depending upon the number of cutters and width desired. If the trail is to be used by mounted men, a second group of cutters should follow the first, increasing the height of cut. All cutters should be equipped with suitable machetes. The cutters have a fatiguing task and should be relieved after from, 10 to 30 minutes, depending upon the speed of movement desired, the thickness of the underbrush, and whether native or enlisted cutters are employed. The speed of cutting will vary from all eight of a mile per hour for a large trail through the worst sort of jungle, to a mile or more an hour for a hasty trail through lighter growth. The heaviest brush will be found in the river bottoms, while the ridge lines will usually be comparatively open.

6-99.Night Operations.- a. General- Night operations present, in genearl, the same problems that are associated with such operations in major warfare.

b.Night Marches Night marches me extremely exhausting for both men and animals. The rate of march is approximately half that of a day march. The distances between men and subdivisions in the column will have to be less than during day operations. In heavily wooded terrain, a night march is impossible on a dark night unless artificial lights are used. When marching over bad trails on clear or moonlight nights in such terrain, it will be necessary to march slowly and with only comfortable walking distance between men and subdivisions. Nigh marches are practicable, and desirable under some circumstances, when conducted over known trails. They are of very doubtful value if made over routes which are being traversed for the first time.

c. Nigth attacks.- A night attack, to be successful, implies an accurate knowledge of the location and dispositions of the enemy, of the routes of approach, and of the terrain in the vicinity of the hostile position. Each man participtiting in the operation should wear a distinctive white arm band, or other identification marker. A night attack should be an assault only, with the bayonet. Indiscriminate firing by the attacking force is fully as dangerous to friendly personnel as it is to the enemy. The problems of control are greatly increased. The favorable outcome of an attack is so doubtful that this operation should be attempted only after the most careful consideration. These remarks do not apply to attacks that are launched at dawn, but only to those that are made during the hours of darkness.

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