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

Chapter VI. Infantry Patrols

Section VIII
Attacking Ambushes

Mental preparation									6-75
Prearranged schemes of maneuver								6-76
Spirit of the offensive									6-77
Fire and movement									6-78
Authority of subordinates to act on own initative					6-79

6-75.Mental preparation- The principal objective of an ofensive ambush is to take advantage of surprise. The closeness and suddenness of the attack is supposed to disorganize and demoralize the enemy. A necessary protection against completed disorganization, and possible demoralization, is to prepare the troops mentally for the shock of ambush. They must be steeled to withstand a sudden blast of fire at close quarters and to react to it in a manner that will unnerve the enemy. To accomplish this, the troops must have a thorough understanding of what is likely to happen if they are ambushed.

6-76.Prearranged schemes of maneuver- a. General.- Since the great majority of ambushes have certain similar characteristics, the nature of an ambush attack can be anticipated. Usually there will be a burst of automatic fire from the front that will enfilade the column, combined with an attack from one flank. Both of these attacks will be delivered at short ranges and from positions located in thick cover On commanding ground. With this, situation in mind, the patrol cam be indoctrinated with simple prearranged schemes of maneuver to combat such attacks.

b. Actions of the train and train guard.-

(1) In the event thetrain is not under fire when the engagement commences, it should be closed up on the foward elements in the column. As soon as closed up, or when endangered by hostile fire, the animals are driven into positions affording cover or shelter. When possible, the animals are tied to trees to prevent them from running away. This enables the train guard to use its weapons to protect the train, and assists the native muleteers to control the train. In some situations, particularly where the area is heavily wooded, the animals tired, and the enemy aggressive, the ration and baggage animals are abandoned until after the balttle.
(2) Men leading animals carrying weapons and ammunition retain possession of them. In desperate situations, it may be necessary to shoot these animals to prevent them from bolting into the enemy positions.
(3) If heavy machine guns or 81 mm, mortar units are attached, to the patrol the crews take their loads from the pack animals and, moving "by hand," prepare to go into action.
(4) The train guard keeps the muleteers and animals under control. It is assembled under the train commander and is available to augment the patrol reserve.

c. Patrol reserve.-A patrol reserve should be withheld from the initial action. An alert enemy may fire upon the leading elements from one flank only and, once the patrol has been committed, launch an unexpected attack from the rear or some other direction. As soon as the hostile position has been fully developed however, the reserve may be employed to envelop his flank or as otherwise required by the situation. In many situations the rear guard will constitute the patrol reserve. Certain automatic weapons should be definitely assigned to the patrol reserve.

d. The rear guard.- If the patrol is ambushed from either flank, the rear of the column becomes an exposed flank. The primary function of the rear guard is to protect this flank, and it should not be, committed to action until the situation makes it mandatory. The rear guard commander may; if necessary, send part of his unit to assist the train guard in controlling the animals and native muleteers. If the rear guard constitutes the patrol reserve, it may be employed after the train is secured and the train guard has been assembled to assume the functions of the reserve.

e. Anticipated action against an attack from the front and a forward part of the right (left) flank.- In the majority of an ambush the attack will be delivered against the front and forward part of the right (left) flank of the column. The point (advance guard) and the leading elements of the main body usually are immobilized by the initial burst of fire. They return the fire and act as a holding force, developing the hostile position. The rear elements of the main body immediately maneuver to envelop and overrun the exposed hostile flank and capture the enemy's automatic weapons. As the attack progresses the hostile force will begin to withdraw, and the point (advance guard) and leading units of the main body will be enabled to participate in the final assualt of the position. The patrol reserve may be employed to extend the envelopment in order to intercept the enemy's line of retreat. The action of the rear guard and train guard is outlined above.

f. Anticipated action against an attack from the front and entire lenght of the right (left) flank.-

(l) The point (advance guard) builds up a firing line facing the enemy and makes a holding attack, developing the enemy's position, until able to participate in the assault.
(2) The main body advances the attack as rapidly and aggressively as possible in order to penetrate the hostile position. When the ambush is penetrated, a flank attack is delivered in one or both directions, overrunning and capturing the enemy's automatic weapons.
(3) The train guard builds up a firing line facing the enemy and makes a holding attack developing the hostile position, until able to participate in the assault.
(4) Attached weapons, if present with the patrol, are unpacked and put into action.
(5) Enlisted mule leaders secure their animals under cover and then assemble under command of the train commander as the patrol reserve.
(6) The rear point builds up a firing line facing the enemy and makes a holding attack, developing the hostile position, until able, to participate in the assault.

g. Direction the wind.- When operating along winding trails in hilly country the selection of targets and direction of fire must be well controlled to avoid killing or wounding friendly personnel.

h. The bolo attack.- In certain theaters of small wars operations there is the possibility that a patrol may be ambushed and rushed from both sides of the trail by an enemy armed only with bladed weapons. Such attacks are launched from positions located a few feet from the sides of the trail. The use of rifle fire in the general melee which results is fully as dangerous to friendly personnel as to the enemy. The experience of regular forces which have encountered such tactics in the past has indicated that the bayonet is the most satisfactory weapon to combat an attack of this nature.

6-77.Spirit of the offensive- a. Troops engaged in small wars operations must be thoroughly indoctrinated with a determination to close with the enemy at the earliest possible moment. A rapid, aggressive attack is necessary to overrun the hostile positions and seize his automatic weapons. It often happens that some slight movement, or the reflection of light from hostile wenpons will disclose the location of an enemy ambush before the first shot has been fired. If this occurs, immediate action of some sort is imperative. To stand still, even momentarily, or simply to attract the attention of the person next in column is usually fatal. If the individual or unit, who observes the ambush rushes forward immediately, not in a straight line but in a zigzag course depending upon the nature of the terrain, the enemy may break from his position. In any event his opening burst of fire will be erratic and comparatively ineffective instead of deliberate and well aimed. The rush should be accompanied by a yell to warn the remainder of the patrol, which will also disconcert the enemy. This action is effective even though the bayonet is not carried or fixed to the rifle, nor is it any more dangerous than taking up a firing position near the trail which is almost certain to be within the beaten zone of some hostile weapon. It is analogous to the final assault which is the objective in every combat.

6-78.Fire and movement- a. If an immediate assault is not initiated against the hostile position, the ambushed patrol must seek cover and engage in a fire fight. Even though the patrol is armed with superior weapons and is better trained in combat firing than the enemy, it is at a disadvantage in a purely passive fire fight. The hostile forces have the advantage of commanding ground and concealed positions. So long as they are not forced to disclose their individual positions by actual or threatened personal contact, they are free to break off the engagement at any time. The eventual loss of ground means nothing to the guerilla. If he can withdraw with no casualties or only minor ones after delaying and harassing the patrol, the engagement has been a success. The objective of the patrol must be, therefore, to inflict as many casualties upon the enemy as possible. This can be accomplished in a fire fight only if the spirit of the offensive, with movement, is employed. During the fire fight, members of the patrol must move forward at every opportunity in order to close with the enemy as quickly as possible, or make him disclose his position so that he may become a definite target. The culmination of the action is the assault, to overrun the enemy, capture his weapons, and pursue him by fire to the limit of visibility.

6-79.Authority of subordinates to act on own initative- Considerable authority must be granted all leaders to act independentlv and on their own initiative. In the absence of orders, action on the part of the patrol's subdivision is preferable to inaction. Subordinate leaders must remember that the action which they initiate should furnish mutual support in the action to the hostile force.

b. Leaders must make every effort to gain direction and control of the elements of their own units. They must not hesitate to influence the action of subordinate leaders of nearby elements which have become separated from the control of their normal superiors.

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