Night operations call for disciplined, cool, self-reliant troops. The mental strain involved in night combat is severe; it is easier to endure in periods of activity than during long spells of inactivity. This is why at night-even more so than by day-he who takes the initiative has the advantage. However, since orientation and co-ordination will become increasingly difficult, this initial advantage diminishes as the attack progresses.
Darkness is helpful in achieving surprise, and the attacker will derive additional advantages from the defender's inability to aim his fire effectively. To maintain control and intraunit contact and communication is difficult during the hours of darkness, and unit commanders must therefore prepare every detail of the operation plan with meticulous care. Any contingency, however farfetched, must be taken into consideration. Success of a night attack also depends on the resourcefulness and initiative of subordinate leaders and their ability to make independent decisions in line with the over-all plan. Furthermore, since frequent and accurate reporting is of great importance, the existence of a smoothly operating communication system is essential. Every possible method of deception, camouflage, and concealment must be employed in night operations.
The effect of events taking place at night increases or decreases in proportion to the degree of darkness. Operations taking place during moonlight and starlit nights, especially across snow-covered terrain, may approximate daytime conditions. Very hazy, rainy, foggy, or overcast weather calls for reliance on the auditory rather than on the visual sense and makes increased demands upon physical stamina and mental balance.
The reaction pattern to night operations is not uniform. In general, men originating from rural areas adjust quickly and easily, whereas former city dwellers take a long time and encounter many difficulties in getting used to the peculiarities of night conditions. Darkness acts as a strong stimulus to the imagination and thus burdens the nervous system; a feeling of insecurity, which might eventually lead to panic, may be the outcome. The sensitivity of eyes and ears differs between night and day, with the result that in darkness objects seem bigger and distances greater. The ears exaggerate sounds that would hardly be perceptible during the day.
Nights are normally used for resting, and for this reason fatigue and symptoms of exhaustion afflict those who have to stay awake. Unit commanders must bear in mind that uninterrupted night duty is more strenuous than similar daytime activities. Young men are not necessarily better equipped to overcome night fatigue than men belonging to older age groups. To a certain degree, however, everyone can readjust his senses and habits through continuous practice.
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