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

Chapter VI. Infantry Patrols

Section VII

Definition								6-69
Selection of position							6-70
Usual characteristics of an ambush					6-71
Occupying the position 							6-72
The ambush engagement 							6-73		44

6-69.Definition- An ambush is the legitimate disposition of troops in concealment for the purpose of attacking an enemy by surprise. The laying of a sucessful ambush in hostile territory in a smal war is a difficult operation.

6-70.Selection of position- a. Offensive ambush- An offensive ambush should be so located as to facilitate the assault after the initial burst of fire.

b. Defensive ambush.- A defensive ambush presupposes an inability to assault and the probable necessity of a rapid withdrawl. It should be so located as to facilitate defense, whith natural obstacles between the position and the enemy, and routes of withdrawl should be carefully planned, reconnoitered, and prepared, if necessary. These requirements usually limit the location of a defensive ambush to the military or geographical crest, where the withdrawl will be protected by the reverse slope.

c. Direction of wind.- The ambush site should be selected so that the odor and noises of the men will be carried away from the enemy's route of approach.

d. Obstacles.- Stream crossings, large mudholes, or fallen trees across the trail are all useful obstacles. They generally casue the ambushed troops to bunch up before the firing starts, and hinder their movements afterwards. Intersecting stream beds and trail at the position should be enfiladed by fire.

6-71.Usual characteristics of an ambush- Every ambush must provide suitable firing positions and concealment in close proximity to the hostile route of march. The usual position is located on the forward slope and at a bend in the trail. Automatic weapous or machine guns are placed in prolongation of the probable direction of march at the bend in order to trike the enemy in enfilade. The main body of the ambuscade is placecd parallel to the hostile route of march to facilitate the assault after the initial burst of fire. The security elements of the enemy should be permitted to pass by the position in order to secure the maximum effect against the hostile main force. A position that permits engaging the enemy column from both flanks simultaneously is possible only if the trail lies in a deep ravine. Even then there is considerable danger that ricochets and wild shots from one flank will cause casualties to the other flank.

6-72.Occuyping the position- a. To ambush a pursuing force.- In the event a combat patrol wishes to ambush a hostile force known to be following over the same trail, it must proceed well beyond the ambush position selected. At a, suitable point, such as a stream, it is led off the trail and counter-marched, parallel to, but clear of the trail, until it reaches the reverse slope immediately in rear of the" selected ambush. The men then move individually, as carefully as possible, into their firing positions and remain motionless.

b. To ambush a meeting force.- It is more difficult to lay a successful ambush against a meeting force than one which is pursuing. unless the patrol leader is thoroughly familiar with the terrain and has definite information of the approach of the hostile party. The ambuscade must leave the trail some distance in advance of the selected position. It then moves into firing position as before and awaits the approach of the enemy. Any movement along the trail in advance of the ambush will disclose its location by footprints. or other tell-tale signs.

c. Night ambush.-In some situations it may be desirable to occupy an ambush position at night. This maneuver requires a definite knowledge of the terrain, and good guides.

d. Ambush outposts.- An outpost must be established at the point the patrol leaves the main trail to intercept and capture any person traveling the trail who might inform the hostile force of the location of the ambush.

e. Observation post.- An observation post should be established in a position that will enable the observer to give timely warning of the enemy's appearance. The most desirable position is some distance from the ambush and in the direction of the enemy's approach.

f. Firing positions. -Each man should select a good firing position as close to the trail as is consistent with complete concealment.

g. Tell-tale signs.-Every effort must be made to avoid moving foliage or earth for purposes of cover, shelter, or camouflage. The keen eyes of the enemy may detect the turning of a leaf, the breaking of a twig, or the, appearance of a handful of new dirt.

6-73.The ambush engagement- a. The enemy apProaches. As the enemy approaches the ambush, the men lie face downward and remain motionless until the signal to "commence firing" is given. If they raise their heads, the position will usually be disclosed by the outline of the heads or headgear, by movement, or by the reflection of light from their eyes and faces. Too often, some man will become so excited that he cannot resist firing prematurely at the first enemy he sees.

b. The signal to commence firing.- The patrol leader should give the signal to commence firing. An excellent method of doing this is by opening fire with an automatic weapon. He should be on the flank toward the enemy, or in a commanding position that will enable him to observe the entire enemy force.

c. Action after opening fire. - Depending upon the situation, the heavy initial fire will be followed by an assault, a defense, or a withdrawal.

6-74.Employment of infantry weapons- Machine guns should he sited to enfilade a portion of the trail. Trench mortars, hand grenades, and rifle grenades are difficult to employ in an offensive ambush because of the danger of such projectiles falling among friendly assaulting troops. They are of value in defensive ambushes.

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