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Operation In Cold Weather
CSC 1987
Author Major Knut Karlsen, USMC
1.   The  paper will,  through an overview over problems in
cold weather operations and special precautions, answer the
question  if there is a need to earmark  units.   The  area
picked  for cold  weather  operations is  Norway  and  the
prestocking   of  equipment  for  one  MAB  size  unit   is
2.   History  has shown through the failure of Napoleon  in
Russia  in  1812,  the  suffering of the  Russians  in  the
Russian-Finnish  War  in 1939-40 and the Germans  in  1941-
1942,  that  forces  which fight in cold  weather  and  are
neither trained nor equipped for such operations, will lose
against the winter.
3.   Cold  weather has a great impact on the individual and
the  unit.   Every  operation takes 2-4  times  longer  and
maintenance takes longer and requires more.
4.   The  threat the USMC will face in Norway,  besides the
weather,  is the Soviet Union.   Her forces are trained and
equipped  for cold weather operations.   But the USMC  will
not fight alone.   Together with forces from Great Britain,
Canada,  the Netherlands and Norway,  which are all trained
and equipped for cold weather operations, it is possible to
fight and win.
5.   In order to do so it is necessary to train under winter
conditions and Norwegian terrain (reverse slope).
6.   The  equipment  must also be adequate,  even  if  each
nation  will differ in choice.   Much attention  should  be
paid  to  logistics  in regard to  nutrition,  heating  and
cover,  and  the  impact  on  personnel.   A  very  special
attention must be paid to medical care.
7.   Since  the USMC has a world wide  commitment,  I  have
concluded  that the best solution to pick and prepare units
for  cold  weather  operations is not  to  earmark  but  to
increase  training  and the number of units which  do  cold
weather  training.   This is based on two  assumptions:   A
standing  MAB headquarters is responsible for all  planning
and the necessary funds are provided.
              "A Need for Earmarked Units"
              (United States Marine Corps)
1.  The purpose of this study is:
    a.  To give an overview of the problems which are
        specific for cold weather operations.
    b.  To describe possible countermeasures to prepare or
        improve a unit's ability to fight in cold weather.
    c.  To discuss if there is a need to earmark units for
        cold weather operations.
Assumptions and Limitations
2.  a.  The area picked for cold weather operations is 
        NATO's northern flank - Norway.
    b.  The prestocking of United States Marine Corps
        equipment in Norway is completed according to the
        bilateral treaty.
    c.  The units are restricted to "known units" which
        will participate in the defense of Norway.
    d.  The study is written from a viewpoint of a 
        Norwegian officer.
3.  The following factors will be discussed:
    a.  History.
    b.  What is cold weather?
    c.  The threat.
    d.  Own forces.
    e.  Training and readiness.
    f.  Tactics.
    g.  Equipment.
    h.  Logistics.
    i.  Leadership. 
    j.  Solutions.
    k.  Conclusions and recommendations.
4.  a.  History has shown that units which have the
        ability to survive in cold weather also have a 
        dual effect.  They have inflicted great losses
        upon their enemy, an enemy which lacked such 
    b.  History also shows that units which were neither
        equipped nor prepared for operations in cold 
        weather had severe losses.  In Norway in 1718,1
        General Armfeldt lost more than 3000 Swedish
        soldiers in the Tydal mountains.
	In 1939-40 Finnish-Russian war,2 the Finnish,
	though outnumbered, destroyed two Russian
	divisions (44th and 163rd) and killed several
	thousand (163rd had more than 5000 killed).  In
	the Aleutians in 1943,3 the American 7th Infantry
	Divisions had, by 30 May, lost 3829 for which the
	weather counted for 56%.  Also the Napoleon
	campaign in Russia in 1812 and the Germans in 
	order to fight.
What is cold weater/Environment/Terrain
5.  a.  Briefly, cold weather consists of the following
	environmental conditions:  Darkness, frozen ground
	without snow and severe cold to thaw with lots of
	snow and rain, wind and tranquilty, and with a
	strong impact on the human mind.
    b.  Norway lies in the subartic/artic zone from
	Troendelag in the south, while the rest of Norway
	lies in the tempered zone.  This figure
	illustrates the highest and lowest average
	temperature in November/February in three
	different places in Norway.4
Click here to view image
	The weather, especially the temperature, varies a
	lot in northern Norway.  The wind can at some 
	places reach storm/hurricane force and the wind
	chill factor can be down between -50oC to -60oC.
	This figure illustrates frost, snow and the 
	average snow depth.4
Click here to view image
    c.  The darkness and the midnight sun are illustrated
Click here to view image
    d.  The challenge5 in cold weather operations is to
	maintain the readiness of the unit.  This requires
	equipment and clothing, but above all "training"
	and the will to survive.  This can only be taught
	"outside".  My rule is:  One hour in classroom is
	100 hours outside in the cold and snow.  The fear
	of winter increases in cold weather.  The soldier
	will fear snow, cold, wind, darkness, and the fear
	of frostbite.  All these can be seen in the
	individual being apathetic, lack of interest in
	himself and his unit, unwillingness to carry out
	orders or simply tries to leave his unit.  The
	only way to overcome the fear is training;
	training under winter conditions.
	But winter also has advantages.  The snow offers
	protection against the cold and effect of enemy
	fire, increased mobility for tracked vehicles on
	marshy ground.  But winter also has disadvantages.
	The snow can reduce mobility and dispersal, the
	temperature and wind can change rapidly and lead
	to extreme conditions, snow makes navigation more
	difficult, the frozen ground and lakes may create
	new avenues of approach, the frozen ground makes
	it much more difficult to make fortifications,
	maintenance of the individual, equipment, vehicles
	and weapons requires the utmost.
	But with realistic and careful training, every
	individual and unit can make winter an ally,
    e.	The Norwegian terrain is mountainous and the
	country is divided into valleys, separated from
	each other by mountains up to 3000 - 5000 feet.
	Travel is mostly limited to the roads or the
	fjords, because to traverse the hillsides is
	mostly very difficult and requires time.
	Helicopter transportation is therefore very
	suitable and flexible, but requires warning and
	protection against enemy attack and warning
	against sudden changes in the weather.  Operations
	in large formations are therefore difficult, and
	most units will therefore need to deploy in
	brigades or lower levels.
The Threat
 6. a.  Why is Norway threatened?  Kola penensula is the
	simple answer.  Kola is the largest naval complex
	in the world, and the homeport of the major Soviet
	nuclear second strike capability.  The Kola
	peninsula  (or the close vicinity) is also the
	homeport of the northern fleet, and together with
	the Baltic fleet,  these two fleets are the main
	threat to the sea lines of communication across
	the Atlantic.
	The need for the Soviet Union to give the fleet
	aircover and to prevent NATO strike fleet to enter
	the North and the Norwegian Sea is clearly shown
	in her exercise pattern since the 1960's.6  The
	main defense line is the GIUK gap.  The only way
	the Soviet Union can extend in aircover or
	disperse the fleet is to seize Norway or parts of
    b.  For northern Norway that means Leningrad Military
	District (LMD) with the 6th Army.7  The 6th Army
	has two standing motorized rifle divisions (Cat
	A), combat support an combat service support
	units co-located.  In addition, two-three
	mobilization divisions.  Air support is obtained
	from at least one helicopter attack regiment and
	an airarmy from the district.
    c.  At Kola there are 16 operational airfields8 with
	hardened facilities and prestocked equipment, and
	with a capability to operate more than 350
	airplanes.  In Pskov, south of Leningrad, one
	airborne division (Cat A) is located.
    d.  At sea, an attack can be supported by two naval
	brigades, one standing and one mobilized, and one
	Spetsnaz brigade.
    e.  From LMD, at least one Spetsnaz brigade can be
	attached to 6th Army.
    f.  All these units are equipment and trained in cold
	weather operations.  The equipment is not as
	modern and good as "NATO equipment", but good
	enough from the russian soldier.  To conclude, I
	think we should realize that we will meet a highly
	trained and equipped enemy for cold weather
	operations.  It  should also be added that his
	tactics have improved due to lessons learned in
Own Forces
7.  a.  Norway,9 of course, plays a major role in the
	defense of northern Norway.  Several brigades out
	of thirteen are committed to the defense of
	northern Norway, in addition, local forces and
	Home Guard units.  Most of the Navy and Airforce
	are also committed to northern Norway.  All
	Norwegian forces are equipped and trained in cold
	weather operations.
    b.  But as a NATO member, Norway is not left alone.
	Four other NATO countries, besides those
	participating in AMF, play a part in the defense
	of Norway.
    c.  Great Britain10 has played and is still playing a
	part in the defense of Norway.  Since the early
	1960's, the Royal Marines have trained in Norway
	every year and have become as good as the
	Norwegians (or better) in cold weather operation.
	Together with units from the Netherlands Marines,
	Great Britain has earmarked one commando brigade
	trained and equipped for cold weather operations.
	Every year, from January to March, the brigade
	trains in Norway.  The equipment is designed for
	winter operations (BV 202/206, skies, snowshoes,
	clothing, heaters and tent).  Some of the
	equipment is prestocked in Norway, but most of it
	is shipped to Norway every year.
    d.  The Canadians11 have committed one brigade and one
	air element to Norway (CAST brigade - Canadian Air
	and Sea Transported Brigade).  The brigade and its
	air element are earmarked for Norway.  The brigade
	is specialized and equipped for cold weather
	operations.  The brigade trains in cold weather
	several months every year in Canada, and
	participates as a brigade or sends a battalion
	size unit to Norway every year.  Some of the
	equipment is prestocked in Norway.
    e.  The United States12 has a bilateral treaty with
	Norway to participate in the defense of Norway
	with a brigade size unit from the United States
	Marine Corps.13  This unit will have some of its
	equipment and supplies prestocked in Norway
	(finished in 1989).  The size of the unit is
	determined, but no unit has been earmarked.  A
	standing headquarters (4th MAB) is responsible for
	all planning for Norway.  Participating units in
	exercises in Norway come all from FMF Atlantic.
	FMF Atlantic also sends units to the Mediterranean
	and Okinawa (MAU) on a permanent basis and also
	units to other parts in Europe, the Middle East,
	Central America/Carribbean Ocean.  FMF Atlantic is
	also responsible for planning of a MPS
	configurate MAB (6th MAB).
	All these deployments mean the unit (MAB) which is
	going to Norway is task-organized prior to the 
	deployment from available ready forces and sent to
	winter training at training bases in CONUS for 4-6
	weeks before they leave for Norway.
Training and Readiness14
 8. a.  The training for operations in cold weather must
	apply for everyone from general to private, for
	infantry and combat service support.  The training
	should aim at why, what, how to dress, eat, how to
	stay warm and how to avoid frostbite/snow
	blindness, and how to tackle the darkness and the
	cold and moisture.  The training should be carried
	out under the most realistic conditions - training
	should be done in Norway.  The individual
	training, including ski and basic winter training, 
	should last for 4-6 weeks, and should be
	terminated with a survival exercise in small tents
	for 6-8 days.
    b.  The second part of the training, small unit
	training (team/section/platoon), is very important
	in order to get "the job done".  The training
	should aim at leadership, survival and the
	execution of small unit tactics.  Live firing,
	movement in the snow, ambush, patrolling and
	fortification should be emphasized.  The training
	should apply to all units, not only infantry
	units.  This training should last 2-4 weeks, based
	on previous experience, and in which 4 days every
	week should be in tents.
    c.  The third part of the training should include
	exercises at company/battalion and brigade level.
	Available time and money will decide the length of
	the training.  The training, however, should
	include tactical movement with helicopter
	(day/night) together with cross country movement,
	and the use and implementation of tactical air
	support and naval gunfire.
	Every commander will soon realize that everything
	in winter demands detailed control and the 
	execution will take 2-4 times longer.
    d.  Readiness is a combination of cold winter
	training, equipment usable in cold weather, and
	physical and psychological fitness.  Expect for
	the training, equipment can be bought and stored
	everywhere, physical and psychological fitness can
	be trained and taught almost everywhere.  But in
	order to be ready for combat in cold weather, the
	training for cold weather must be done in cold
	weather with cold weather equipment.
 9. a.  Without attacking the enemy, you will lose.  This
	is the essential tactics in cold weather
	operations.  The Norwegian terrain and climate
	must be utilized to the utmost.  That means the
	reverse slope tactics, defensive positions must be
	defended at the flanks and the rear, and an
	attacking enemy must be destroyed at all times
	with spoiling attacks.  This will force the enemy
	out from his vehicles and into the cold and snow.
    b.  In a defensive position, some one-third to one-
	half of the force (combat power) should be in the
 	offense (move).  This tactics requires excellent
	winter survival techniques and equipment, but is
	the way to exhaust an enemy, which is mechanized
	and operates as an air-ground task force.
    c.  Units, which are to operate in Norway, must
	immediately adopt that tactic when they deploy to
10. a.  Leadership in cold weather is often called "small
	units leadership".  I agree, but it is important
	to recognized that without a knowledgeable and
	experienced cold weather leader "at the top" you
	could probably beat the enemy but not the cold,
	and as a consequence, you will lose.
	Leadership in cold weather starts with the
	training.16  A leader must know himself, the cold
	weather, and the impact on himself and his unit.
	More than ever, the leader in cold weather must be
	willing to take command and action, and to
	exercise controls to the smallest detail.17  He must
	possess the morale, courage to correct mistakes,
	and a real will and care for his men.  Simply:
	Men, weapons, equipment and the leader himself are
	the succession to exercise leadership.
    b.  Many will say, the leader has to be an experienced
	skier.  This is not so.  He must have the ability
	to "get the unit with him", to create
	possibilities, to take precautions beforehand to
	keep the men warm and the equipment ready.  This
	can only be done through training in cold weather.
	In the training, the leaders must be shown
	confidence, encouragement, and responsibility.
	Cold winter training is control of details, but
	the control of details must be kept at the right
	level.  Let the battalion commander control his
	company commanders and not the squad leader.
	That is the platoon commander's job and 
	responsibility, success and failure.
11. a.  Among the units which are earmarked (committed)
	for Norway, there will be a mixture of specialized
	Government (industrial)  policy in each country
	requires that most of the equipment should be
	produced and purchased in the country, or traded
	in exchange for "whatever" equipment.
    b.  An examination of Norwegian,19 English, and Canadian
	equipment shows that cold weather operations
	requires special equipment for the individual
	unit.  Such equipment could be (examples) boots,
	bootcovers, underwear, gloves, hoods, sleeping
	bags, tents (sleeping and maintenance), snow
	moving, ice breaking, camouflage nets, skis, and
	over snow vehicles (BV 202/206).  These items and
	many mire must be designed  both for wet and dry
	cold.  Some of the equipment also demands an
	adjustment of tactics and training.  To train with
	the equipment every year is a must.
    c.  I think it is realistic to see different designs
	of equipment among the participating nations in
	the defense of Norway due to national policy and
	the availability of money.  But if units are
	committed to operate in cold weather, the above
	mentioned are examples of "a must" not wanted.
	Along with the "must" is the training and use of
	the equipment.
    d.  To conclude the discussion on equipment, I think
	it is right to say:  "If you don't possess, or if
	it is not provided by the host nation support, it
	will very soon hamper your effort to win the first
	battle - survival."  Equipment in cold weather is
	a part of the battle.
12. a.  To elaborate on all logistics in cold weather
	operations is of course impossible.  Let me focus
	on some major factors.
    b.  Nutrition.20  An individual will, during a winter
	operation, need at east 7000 calories and
	approximately 10 liters of water to operate, keep
	warm, and avoid dehydration.  This is far more
	than normal rations.  At least two meals should 
	also be served warm to prevent the body from using
	calories for heating food.  Special attention
	should therefore be paid to cooking, feeding and
	to drinking water.
    c.  To stay warm is essential.  In order to do that a
	soldier must have clean socks, clothes and good
	boots and a good personal hygiene.  Good heated
	facilities are essential, and a leader must also
	realize that this will require more time than
	normal (2-3 times longer).
    d.  POL will exceed normal combat rations compared
	with other seasons.  The amount of POL will
	increase, and special POL is required for cold
    e.  Cold weather21 will also require more ammunition due
	to the reduced effect caused by the snow/ice.  To
	give exact figures is impossible, but my personal
	experience with explosives indicated several more
    f.  Batteries for radios, vehicles, and lights are
	vulnerable, and the amount will greatly exceed
	normal use.  Special attention must also be taken
	in severe cold, otherwise radios will not work and
	vehicles will not start.
    g.  To fight over "periods of time" will have a great
	impact on the individual.  The cold weather will
	affect all personnel (infantry, CS, CSS and
	aviation) and I think that it would be wise to
	reduce a normal combat rate at 100 to 50.  In cold
	weather you have to change sentries more often (in 
	very cold weather every 10 minutes - 1 hour),
	vehicles have to be started regularly, heaters
	have to be looked after, maintenance of
	airplaned/helicopters will take 2-3 more times.
	All these together will result in tired and
	exhausted personnel after 2-3 days, and relief of
	units.  Food, sleep and heat will make them
	recover in 1-2 days.
    h.  Another great impact on personnel and morale is
	medical treatment.22  Without emergency treatment
	and heat the injured or wounded will "freeze to
	death" (shock) after a few minutes.  This also
	requires more personnel for medical care and
	Logistics in cold weather operations will require
	more from the commanding officer and the leaders
	than ever before.  If this is neglected, an
	experienced and trained unit could turn into "a
	medical case" in a few days.
13. a.  I see three possible solutions.
	(1)  The USMC earmark one MAB for Norway.
	(2)  The USMC intensify and extend the cold
	     weather training from 4-6 weeks to 8-12 weeks
	     and increase the number of units which will
	(3)  The USMC keep the system of today.
	Common for all solutions is that one MAB
	headquarters is responsible for all planning for
    b.  To earmark a MAB for Norway will greatly benefit
	Norway and the ability for that unit to survive in
	cold weather.  All personnel will be trained
	annually in cold weather, they will be familiar
	with the environment and terrain, be familiar with
	the special equipment, possible adjustments in
	training and tactics could be made easily.  All
	this will create a strong feeling of success and
	will eliminate the natural fear for cold weather.
	To earmark will break tradition in the USMC.  The
	USMC has world-wide commitments, and to earmark
	will hamper the flexibility of training and
	interchange of personnel.  To earmark one MAB for
	cold weather could decrease interest in other
	units for cold weather training.  And it must be
	remembered that there are more areas in the world
	which require winter-trained and equipped units
	(Korea and the Aleutians).  In the long run
	earmarking could lead to an army assignment which
	could be in conflict with the army interests in
	central Europe.
    c.  My opinion is that if you can survive and fight in
	cold weather, you could fight in most places in
	the world (except desert and jungle).  Many of the
	commitments held by the USMC should justify that
	the USMC extend their cold weather training both
	in length and in number of units.  This will
	create more flexibility, more marines will be
	prepared to fight in the cold, and you will obtain
	the same advantages as to earmark.
	This will probably require more equipment, more
	fundings for training, which could create problems
	or delays in other areas.
    d.  To keep up the systems of today with task
	organization prior to training and deployment will
	meet USMC policy.  It is flexible and will not
	hamper any career to an officer or enlisted.
	But it should be realized that many marines will
	have little or no cold winter training in case of
	rapid deployment, with little or no time for
	training.  A lot of the special equipment and the
	skill to use it will be unfamiliar.  This can lead
	to consequences both for the individual and the 
	unit as history has shown.
    e.  In comparison of the solutions, three main factors
	are essential:  Training for cold weather, the use
	of special winter equipment, and flexibility.
	An earmarked unit will meet the first two main
	factors, but is dependent on one assumption - a
	possibility for an increase of funding for
	training and more winter equipment.
	To keep up the system of today will meet
	flexibility, but would be uncertain in regard to
	winter training and the use of winter equipment.
Conclusions and Recommendations
14  a.  The best solution is to intensify and extend cold
	winter training both in time and in number of
	units (No 2).  Decisive factors have been training
	and flexibility.
	The second best solution is what the USMC has
	The least preferred solution is to earmark a unit,
	because it will break with flexibility and could
	lead to a lack of cold winter training in other
    b.  The United States Marines Corps should therefore:
	(1)  Assign a headquarters for planning purposes
	(2)  Intensify and extend cold weather training
	     both in time and in number of units.
	(3)  Allocate necessary funds to sustain the
	     increased efforts.
	(4)  Increase the periods of training in Norway.
     1.  Thoughts about winter operations.  Lieutenant
Colonel J. A. Poulsson NMT 5/67.
     2.  Tactics readings at Norwegian Military Academy.
The fighting at Suomussalmi and Raate.
     3.  The Aleutian Campaign.  Major A. I. Waldrum CSC
     4.  Winter conditions.  Shooting and Warfare School of
the Infantry in Norway (MS 6-120-1 November 1984).
     5.  a.)  Background readings picked from Winterservice 
     6.  The Threat and Defense.  Lecture by Secretary of
Defense in Oslo, 7 January 1985.
     7.  Soviet front level threat to northern Norway.
John Berg, January Defense Weekly, 2 February 1985.
     8.  Royal Norwegian Armed Forces Journal, Edition
25/26 1986, Edition 1/87 and Edition 3/87.
     9.  The Strategic Position and Defense Challenges of
Norway, CHOD Norway, 21 January 1986; and Main Guidelines
and the Defense Establishment During the period 1984-1988;
and "The Study of the Norwegian Defense," 1985,
unclassified version.
    10.  Interview with Major J. Gordon, RM, CSC 1986-87.
    11.  Interview with Major R. Dick, Canada CSC 1986-87.
    12.  Interview with Lieutenant Colonel J. Adinolfi, US,
CSC 1987.
    13.  Facts Royal Ministry of Defense, December 1987,
No. 0883.
    14.  Personal Experiences.  See also note 5.
    15.  Norwegian Infantry Battalion, FR 6-1 series.
    16.  Leadership in the Cold.  Colonel J.A. Poulsson.
See also note 5.
    17.  Personal Experience.
    18.  See note 5.
    19.  Use and Maintenance of equipment during winter.
RNOA/SVI.  MS 6-120-7 December 1984.
    20.  RNOA/SVI MS 6-120-3. December 1984.  Nutrition.
    21.  RNOA/SVI MS 6-120-8.  Fortifications in winter.
    22.  a.)  See note 5.
         b.)  Cold Weather Injuries.  Brigadier General I.
G. Naerup, RNOA.
         c.)  Cold Weather Casualties and Treatment.  Rear
Admiral W. I. Mills, Jr.
         d.)  Medical/Safety Aspects of Preparing Marines
for Cold Weather Operations.  Captain R. O. Chaney, USN.
    23.  Background readings also include: a.) OH8-5 Cold
Weather Operations Handbook. b.)  Conference on Cold Weather
Combat Operations.  USMC/Norway, March 1982.

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