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Combat In The Jungle
AUTHOR LtCol. Nicasio Roman, Mexican Marine Corps
CSC 1985
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
                   COMBAT IN THE JUNGLE. 
    INTRODUCTION. Some time ago, in Africa, a Veteran jungle
soldier revealed a principal of jungle warfare that merits an
appearance in the introduction of every manual of the  jungle
combat: Who sees to the jungle as an enemy, finishes defeated
for it. Who sees it as an allied, survives and conquers.It is
possible that in this phrase is the clue, the  operative  ABC
for success in this kind of scenario. From the "Chinditas" of
Wingate, and the Maraunders, of Merril, in the distance times
of the war of Burma, up to the operations that now take place
in Latin America, Africa or Asia, passing by those whocarried
out, formerly, the British Troops in Malasia or the French or
Northamerican special forces in Indochina, Those   who  lived
the combat in such extreme situations share in the  same view
the jungle is neutral; it does not have either   friends  nor
enemies, it marries nobody. It benefits or damages one   band
as well as the other, offering the opposors identical posibi-
lities, and identical dangers. Because of this, only the best
trained can live in it; he who is most capable   of  adapting
himself best to its surroundings, making the best of  it  and
evenoccasionally, converting it into a weapon to  use  againt
his rival.
    Modern Schools of war and survival in the jungle ,   and
among them, put particular emphasis to this aspect.  A man who
is  technically  trained,  physic  and  phychologically has a
better chance of survival; a man without  the proper training
ends up being devoured by the hostile environment.
    We can take as an example a region such as  the amazonia,
that represents the 3/5 parts of the Brazilian territory, and
that on it's most part is covered by thick jungle: 1/3 of the
natural woods of  the planet are there,  and the rivers  that
cross it pour out in the sea, the fifth part of the masses of
potable  water of the earth.  It deals with  courses of water
covered with humus,  that have created around it,an intricate
world  of  Igapos  -flooded woods-,Igarapes -narrow  channels
among islands-, and swamps where, frequently, the only  means
of transportation is by canoe or by fluvial craft.  All  this
water was the cause of an exuberant vegetation  that   has  a
botanic variety  superrior  to the thousand different species
of trees and plants.  In it develops  one of the richest  and
more  dangerous  faunas of the planet: crocodiles,  poisonous
snakes,  gigantic  boas,  spiders and thousands ofinsects and
parasites that are in the water,  in the vegetation and  also
in the air. A panorama that one must add is a humidity higher
to 95% in some zones,a suffocating sticky and maddening heat.
    That is the scenario where sometimes, a military force  -
must carry  out combat missions in  spite of  the  very  hard
limitations imposed to human life in that green hell.   It is
evident that only in units highly trained,  inured,  can move
throughout such a land, support long and draining marches for
the vegetation, to ford courses of water,  to  ignore  sudden
changes of climate and of surrounding fauna,and  nevertheless
continue to be at the time of action an operativesatisfactory
    THE TERRAIN. In order to establish the tactical   and
human aspects of the combat in tropical jungle, first  it  is
necessary to determine the active and passive    difficulties
that the setting establishes.   The Terrain is characterized,
as already mentioned, by an extreme humid environment   that
affects the equipment as well as the state  of the   soldier.
That humid  heat causes  problems of  physical  exhaustionand
also physic malfunctions  such  as fatigue, apathy, etc.  The
natural weariness produced by the climate is additionalto the
exhaustion that  supposely moves  in  a land  extraordinarily
luxuriant, in which  it is  often necessary to break through
it with an  ax and which the distances that  may be walked by
during one journey, are, often minimum.  If to that we  still
add the frequent partial immersion -specially of the feet- in
water,the constant tropical rain that seems impossble to take
refuge from, plus the constant hounding of the insects, it is
not difficult  to infer  that the morale of the  combatant is
seriously affected by the environment.
    In the jungle,  the visibility is very low,or almost nit,
that is  when ever it is there.  It can frequently  fluctuate
between  two  and  ten metres,  depending  on the   type   of
vegetation, be it primary or secondary, being delayed,  apart
fromthe trees, by the plants and bushes that grow  in heights
greater than men, and that creep up the trunks of  the trees,
sometimes forming impenetrable barriers.  The  rain  and  the
humidity mantain the clothes constantly wet,whilebeing normal
that the tree tops with and altitude that can vary from 10 to
30 metres,will form a vault of vegetation so tick that it pre
vents the sun rays from passing through. In  reference to the
hygiene,the conditions are absolutely adverse: the  dirtiness
is constant, the clothes  that never dry up completely   feel
like  wet rags against  the body;  the  most minimum  scratch
produces an infection, the big wounds can gangrene  easily...
one must continously move  around  an environment of  organic
decay  that ends up extending to the body itself. The statis-
tical  operations  in  the jungle  have  a high level  of gas
trointestinal and cutaneous  diseases;  the damp skin  ulcers
with the rags  rubbing against it, even with  simple clothes.
Also damp feet,  can  be a real  pain. Diseases caused by the
bite of  the insects are many;  the  fever is also frquently-
present. And we can not ignore the animal bites,   some times
poisonous, from  spiders  to snakes, as well  as all  type of
parasites,  that immigrate  internally and  externally in the
human organism.
    With regard to this combination of facts,  we must add an
additional  type of tension -by all means, not insignificant-
that assumes the presence more or less proximate of the human
enemy, it is not unusual  that the combatant suffer sometimes
a serious psychic crumbling, caused by the combined result of
fatigue, the tension,  the diseases, the lack  of hygiene and
fear. The extension  of this conditions during long periodsof
time  -weeks,  sometimes  months-  make it  bearable  only by
specially selected  and trained men  to face such a challenge
with success.  Only this training permits men to conquer that
terrible and demoralizing sensation of physical abandoning of
danger,  loneliness and isolation  that his presence faces in
the green jungle.
    TACTICAL ASPECTS.The tactical difficulties that the combat
carries out in  the jungle make the situation even worse. The
scarse visibility hinders  the observation and the inspection
noticeably,  aerially  as  well  as  terrestrial,  making  it
necessary to resort to the constant tactic inspection through
fire. The transmissions are also limited  in the environment,
and to  that limitation,  one must add  the damages  that the
atmospheric characteristics,  particularly  the humidity  and
dirtiness,  cause to the radio equipment.  The problem of the
dirtiness is extended, of course,  to the armament because it
is not always  possible to  find ways of maintaining it in a
complete  operative  state.  Because  of  the latter,  it  is
advisable to  use simple strong weapons,  of a quick and easy
form of scattering to pieces,  utilized in extreme cases, and
which cleaning wouldn't cause excessive problems to the user.
    Normally, the combat in the jungle takes place at a short
distance,  for which  somebody,  when  leaving  their  weapon
overthrown in crucial moments can be considered dead.A battle
such as   this calls  for inmediate reactions  and an adequate
response  to the  material,  translating to great  density of
fire  generally  with  violent and  brief  clashes,  that can
occasionally continue  on body to body.  This discipline must
therefore carefully  contemplate all of the  modalities  of a
proximal combat,  including knife fights  or even without the
use of a weapon. It can  frequently occur that  the combatant
remain isolated  during the  course of a clash,  or at  least
psychologically isolated,without distinguishing his comrades,
even  if they are  close by.  The psychic  preparation of the
combatant,  his  ingenuity,  astuteness  and  cold  blood are
essentially revealed herewith.
    The jungle favours the  infiltration and the ambush,  and
this shows a distant  and peculiar  similarity with  a street
combat in urban centres of population.  The combatant must be
trained to detect  traps as well as to install  them himself.
Sometimes,  the jungle itself supplies the material, of which
its  exploitation can  result in  deadly effects  against the
enemy.  With  a few  feet of cord,  wire,  and  ax and  sharp
branches  resistant  to fire,  it is possible  to build  some
creative devices of fatal precision.The use of anti-personnel
mines in  paths and trail zones,  as well as the  use of hand
grenades  adapted  to  camouflaged  strings ,  become  highly
profitable if they are used in an adequate form.
    The combat  in the  jungle  is  essentially a  combat of
individual arm,  in which man and his wit,  his training  and
personal  qualities  tend to decide  the matter.  The use  of
artillery is subject  to serious restrictions,  on account of
the difficulties of observation,location and direction of the
shooting, as well as with the grenade launcher and other type
of long range heavy weapons.  The struggle in this atmosphere
is characterized by  a quick discoordination  and division of
the units  during the course  of the combat,  finding it very
difficult to control the elements  that are in contact on the
part of superior commands.
    For this reason, specific instructions should be given to
the troops before  the action takes place,  so that theformer
decentralization can not be confused  or obstruct the success
of the objective. In this type of actions,it is inevitable to
leave a  margin of  behaviour to personal  initiative  of the
small units involved in the action.
    In the jungle,  one of the most serious problems that the
combatant must face is orientation.In the denseness there are
no points  of reference,  the trees  very often  prevent  the
spotting of the sun and stars. The compass and the map are of
very limited help,  and on their march,  the units often find
themselves many miles away from their original destiny. These
problems  are  difficult  to solve,  and  only  with  a  good
knowledge  of the  terrain and  a thorough  study of  traces,
courses  of water and  especially  the intensive  training so
that  the  men  can  move  with  ease  through  this  hostile
environment,  will permit  to  palliate  to some  degree  the
difficulties.In any case,even for the exports,the orientation
frequently states  problems almost unsolvable  in the jungle.
It has sometimes  happened that a man  who was  isolated from
the rest of the unit, with whom they were able to communicate
with aloud,  would disappear forever because he was incapable
of orienting himself.  The prolongation  of the  sound is not
the same in the thickness  of the jungle as it would be in an
open field,  and it often occurs that a voice  can sound in a
different direction fron the place it is really coming from.
    LOGISTICAL COMPLICATIONS.  In modern armies,  the soldier
that  fights under  normal conditions  knows  that,  if he is
injured,  he has a good chance of being  taken to a first-aid
station  in  a  short  while,  especially  if  the  means  of
communication are  yielding or if they  count with appropiate
facilities such as  a helicopter.  But in  the jungle  it is
different.  A sick or injured man inmediately faces a problem
of  infection   because  of   the   environmental   unhealthy
conditions.  And to that we must still add  the fact that his
evacuation  becomes very difficult.  In the jungle  the units
tend to operate far from  their basis the roads  and feasible
tracks for vehicles are practically non-existant,  and only a
perfect localization  by the proper force with  the existance
of clearing free from enemy threats and previously determined
makes the evacuation  by helicopter possible under reasonable
conditions. Witout doubt, the awareness of the fact that  the
combatant can get hurt and spend hours and even days or weeks
without the  necessary assistance,  and all  the above  under
precarious  conditions of  commodity and hygiene ,  evidently
causes a strong psychological impact on him with a consequent
loss of morale.
    An other  difficulty that  a unit operating  in a  jungle
encounters,  is the provisioning which powerfully  falls upon
the  morale  of  the  group.  The  dropping  of  supplies  by
parachutes is not very effective in a jungle,  partly because
it can  easily fall into the  hands of the enemy or in a zone
attacked by fire,  partly because the material  spreads   out
or it gets  destroyed between the  trees.The provisioning  by
helicopter faces the same difficulties of those described for
the  recuperation  of the  injured and  only the  visiting of
these   determined  places  or  the   existance  of  deposits
previously   installed,   permit  the  palliation   of  these
difficulties.  Nevertheless,  when small units  operate under
extreme conditions,  they must often  supply themselves  with
food,  and this is when  all the intensive  instructions take
place on survival techniques.
    The combatant must be  capable of extracting  from around
all of  those elements  necessary  for  subsistence  with  no
outside help. A fishing line,a fishhook, a knife and a box of
matches are enough  elements for a trained  man to assure his
survival, in which fish, apes, and even bugs,snakes and roots
of edible plants are included.
    A way of solving  the logistical problems,  besides rein-
forcing  the  coordination  of  the  units,  consists  in the
establishment of a regional basis,  by areas, that constitute
as much  command post  as points of  supplies for  units that
operate  in a specific sector.  When the  force  is not  very
powerful numerically,  this system works out fine, especially
if one resorts  to the sending of helicopters  of small units
to different points,  carrying out upon  their return  to the
base,  active patrol missions.  When  there are means  and an
existing  possibility  of  sending  reinforcements  by  heli-
transportation to the area the action  of the patrols by ways
of a trap in order  to secure the enemy  until the arrival of
reinforcements works out well.  When the enemy has a powerful
force,  the situation tends  to lead to a circle of  the base
with frquent disastrous results.Probably because of that  the
military schools seem to differ with this sistem with some of
their specialists  more inclined  towards a  decentralization
that  avoids a  setting at  one point  of all  the  operative
network with the vulnerability that such implicates.
    THE EQUIPMENT. The jungle is a peculiar world, and in it,
the sketch of the combat  under normal conditions  falls into
pieces. Even the samallest detail such as the thread thatgoes
along the  seam of a  uniform can  be very important  because
common thread in the long run can rot under the conditions of
humidity  in  the  jungle  and  because   of  the  effect  of
perspiration.  The destruction of the seam  line consequently
makes the use of a uniform in rags very troublesome.  For the
jungle  the  clothes  of the  combatant  must  be  light  and
resistant, permitting the evaporation of perspiration, and of
a fabric that can dry as quick as possible. Shoes are another
important aspect when the men have to spend days in the dense
and humid environment. The use of leather is not recommended
as well as those fabricated with the exclusive use of canvas.
A mixture that can protect the foot and allow it to transpire
is recommended. Combinations of canvas and rubber or canvas
and a special type of leather can be effective.
    In the jungle,  the use of a steel helmet  or one that is
fabricated with more  updated material  made to protect  the
head is not worth the discomfort that it causes.Nevertheless,
a jungle  hat that is made out  of canvas with  openings that
permit transpiration, that protects from the sun and rain and
from  the falling  of insects is indispensable.  It must be a
widebrimmed hat, but not up to a point as to convert the head
garment into a nuisance  because of its dimensions. Among the
accesories,mosquito nets and hammocks are important, so that,
when bivouacking,  the combatant  may remain at  an  adequate
altitude from the  ground to avoid the humidity, water in its
case,  animals and  snakes that  move at a ground level.  The
water-proof poncho,  together with others, can be transformed
into a basic tent,  also of extreme utility, specially during
the rainy season. An other useful accessory during the combat
is a green  camouflage cream  for the face and hands  used to
disguise with in the thickness of the jungle.
    The sanitary  equipment must be complete  with particular
emphasis  to the individual  case that each man  carries with
him.  The pack must be light  and confortable so that it will
not damage the  skin already  extremely sensitive  because of
skin disease,the irritation of the humidity, perspiration and
rubbing of the clothes and outfits. By all means,the equipmnt
will include  a canteen  made out of  a light  and  resistant
material,pills to potabilize the water, alcohol pills to warm
up portions.
    For units operating   under   precarious  conditions  and
during long periods of isolation,a good provisions of vitamin
and stimulants is recommendable.Specially the latter that can
be extremely  useful when  after exhausting  marches or  long
periods without sleep the combatant  has to establish contact
with the enemy under favorable physical conditions.
    The armament  must be  of easy  and quick cleaning,  with
great power  of fire and  efficiency  during the  combat at a
short distance.  The  ammunition  supplies  must  be  raised,
because of the high consumption rate during the combat in the
jungle and in the difficulties already expressed in reference
to the  resuppling.   The  hand  grenades  also constitute  an
essential auxiliary,as well as the knife.In respect to an ax,
this is a vital utensil in the jungle: from the building of a
cabins the making of traps,  cutting wood; opening way in the
thickness,  the skinning of animals,  as far as to attack the
enemy in combat body to body.
    CONCLUSIONS. Of everything expressed, it is easy to infer
that a combatant destined to act within that framework, under
conditions  such as those described,  making the best  of the
situation and using in an  efficient manner the material that
he  has available,  he does not improvise.  To forge him,  an
exhaustive   selection  is  necessary  followed  by  a  tough
training,  that only  gifted specialists  can bear.  Physical
resistance,   psychological   equilibrium,    and   technical
preparation are indispensable conditions for the combatant in
the jungle.  Only  in possession  of those  factors  can  one
survive,and defeat, which means a double victory. The victory
of men over the hostile  surroundings and  the victory of men
over himself.

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