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




General discussion			9-23
Fighting aviation			9-24
Attack aviation				9-25
Bombing aviation 			9-26
Attackson troop columns and trains	9-27
Support of marching column		9-28
Attacks on hostile positions		9-29
Attackson towns				9-30
Aviation as a mobile reserve 		9-31

9-23. General discussion.-The primary mission of combat aviation in a small war is the direct support of the ground forces. This implies generally that all combat aviation will be used for ground attack. Air opposition will usually be nonexistent or weak, and friendly aviation should be able to operate against hostile ground troops at will. Fighting squadrons, if included in the force, may be employed as light bombers; while the bombing squadrons will find more use for their lighter bombs and offensive machine guns than they will for their major weapon-the heavy demolition bomb. Attack aviation, or its substitute, the dual-purpose scout, is the best type to cope with the targets likely to be encountered in small wars Troop columns, pack trains, groups of riverboats, occupied villages of flimsy construction, mountain strongholds, and hostile bivouac areas are all vulnerable to the weapons of the attack airplane-the light bomb and machine gun. Occasionally, targets of a more substantial nature rnay require the use of medium demolition bombs. As the type of campaign approaches the proportions of a major conflict, so will the employment of the different types of combat aviation approach that prescribed for major warfare. For the typical jungle country small war, the division of missions between the different types is not so clearly marked.

9-24. Fighting aviation.-This class of combat aviation will be included in the small wars air force when there exists a possibility that opposition will be provided with military aircraft. The fighting squadrons should be used to neutralize the hostile air force early in the campaign. Thereafter, the fighting units could be made available as a part of the general air reserve to be employed for ground attack against particularly favorable targets.

9-25. Attack aviation.-The employment of attack aviation (or dual-purpose scouts acting as such) differs little in tactics or technique from the doctrine prescribed for major operations. Such units as are available should be held in central reserve to be dispatched only against definitely located targets. The six-plane division, instead of the squadron, will usually be ample force to employ against the average small wars objective.

9-26. Bombing aviation.-The medium dive bomber is a versatile weapon, and although there will probably be little call for the employment of the 1,000-pound bomb against small wars objectives, this type of aircraft can also carry the lighter demolition and fragmentation bombs, and is armed with offensive machine guns. Bombing units may thus be employed against personnel and the lighter material targets usually assigned to attack aviation. Legitimate targets for bombing units include forts, village strongholds, railroad rolling stock, motor trains, and the larger supply boats; secondary targets are troop columns and pack trains. When attack units are available for strafing missions, the bombing squadrons should, like the fighters, be considered as part of the general air reserve, and their use against unsuitable targets avoided.

9-27. Attacks on troop columns and trains.-a. Troops and animal trains marching in close formations on roads or trails are extremely vulnerable to surprise air attack. Such attacks should be carefully timed to hit columns as they pass through narrow defiles formed by the hills or jungle growth. If the terrain permits, a low altitude strafing attack is preferable, as it favors surprise, and permits a more effective employment of air weapons. An attempt should be made to enfilade the column with machine-gun fire and with fragmentation bombs droppecl in trail, repeating the attack as required. Should the hostile column be encountered in very mountainous country it may be necessary to employ the diving attack, each airplane in the column selecting a part of the target, in order to cover the whole effectively on the first assault. Surprise will be more difficult to obtain when the diving approach must be used, although a skilled leader should be able to launch an effective assault without giving the enemy more than a few seconds warning. Repeated diving assaults are made as required, although the objective may be much less vulnerable after the first surprise attack. In the attack of a long column which cannot be covered in one assault by the air force available, the head of the column should always be chosen as the initial objective, regardless of the method of attack employed. This will ensure the maximum of delay and confusion, and facilitate repeated assaults.

b. The successful attack of a column by an organized air unit is dependent upon the prompt transmission of information by the reconnaissance agency which makes the discovery. Small columns of mobile troops will usually be attacked on the spot when discovered by reconnaissance patrols. If the importance of the target and the nature of the terrain appears to warrant the delay necessary to launch a concentrated attack, the hostile column should be kept under surveillance, if it can be done without sacrifice of surprise, and a full report be made by radio to the air commander. Upon the receipt of such a message the air commander should communicate with the Force Commander while airplanes are being prepared, advising him of the contemplated action. Speed of movement and surprise of execution will be the essence of success in the air attack of a column.

9-28. Support of a marching column.-a. When the size of a column, or the hazardous nature of its advance makes the assignment of combat aviation advisable, two methods of general support are possible. A division of airplanes can be kept continuously in the air over the column; or the column can be contacted at short intervals by a combat patrol of appropriate size. In most cases the latter form of support will suffice, bearing in mind that the column would normally have a pair of infantry planes with it at all times. The reconnaissance airplanes seek out ambushes and enemy positions along the route of march; the air combat units assist the ground forces in routing hostile opposition. Air attacks may be coordinated with the ground attacks if communication facilities and the tactical situation permit, or they may be launched independently to prevent hostile interference with the march of the supported column.

b. Ground commanders supported by aviation should be careful when in action to mark the position of their advanced elements by panels, and where the force is held up by fire from a given locality they should also indicate by the proper panel signal the direction and estimated distance to the enemy position. The ground commander should also indicate, by whatever means is expedient, just when and where he wishes the fire of aviation to be concentrated. In short, he requests fire support in the same manner as he would from artillery. In addition to complying with these requests, the air commander will be constantly on the lookout for the location and movement of any enemy forces in the vicinity, and will be prepared to exploit any success of the ground forces by the immediate pursuit of retreating hostile troops.

9-29. Attack on hostile positions.-Combat aviation may be used as a substitute for artillery in the organized attacks of hostile strongholds. As such it provides for the preliminary reduction of the hostile defenses by bombing, for the interdiction of lines of communication and supply, and for the direct close-in support of the attacking infantry by lying down a barrage of machine-gun bullets and fragmentation bombs on the enemy front lines. All these missions cannot of course be performed by one air unit; schedules of fire must be worked out, timed with the infantry advance, and executed by successive waves of aircraft. Details of this form of air support are worked out by the air commander, using such numbers and types of air units as are available and necessary. The ground commander must submit a definite plan if air attack is to be coordinated; otherwise, the air commander on the spot must use his force as opportunity offers. In minor attacks the latter procedure will probably be the rule.

9-30. Attacks on towns.-When hostile forces seek the shelter of occupied towns and villages, air combat support cannot be given the attacking troops without endangering the lives of noncombatants. However, it may be feasible to drop warning messages to the inhabitants, and allow them sufficient time to evacuate before initiating an attack. Once the attack is decided upon, aviation again performs the role of artillery. One bomb, penetrating the roof of a small house before exploding will effectively neutralize all occupants; those not being killed or wounded will immediately escape to the streets to become targets for machine guns. Continuous bombing forces the defenders from their shelters and facilitates their capture or defeat by the ground forces. The tactics and technique involved in the air attack of a town do not differ materially from those used against any defended position, except that medium dive bombers may be used here to better advantage than they could be in most small wars situations. Care must be taken not to endanger advancing friendly troops.

9-31. Aviation as a mobile reserve.-The employment of aviation as a reserve for infantry in battle is merely an application of the principle of quick concentration of superior force at the decisive point. The mobility and striking power of combat aviation favors such employment in minor operations.

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