Saturday, May 28, 2016

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg - Tactical Phasing

I was testing a new Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg scenario when I recalled one concept from Robert Leonhard's Fighting by Minutes.

I shall name it "Stragglers Fest" because it features  just such troops taken from the scenario editor. In this early stage of the design, a light mortar (green icon group near the farmstead) has found a German patrol near the crossroad in the background.

In Leonhard's work, he divides tactical fighting in two phases: the defensive phase, in which similar weapon systems face each other (i.e. tank vs tank, infantry vs infantry, etc) and the dislocation phase, in which the effective combat leader throws dissimilar weapon systems against the enemy. During the dislocation fight one is supposed to use a particular weapon system at a maximum advantage (i.e. tanks vs infantry in the open, or infantry vs tanks in close terrain).

In this scenario draft, our mortar men are salivating at the prospect of a German patrol in the open (dissimilar weapons, mortar at an advantage against the infantry). The only problem is that because they don't have a spotter, they would have to move their mortar into a position within LOS.

Pulling that mortar through the open is not fun, but that low brick wall is a life saver.

Who volunteers to set up the light mortar?

Well better now than never, the helmets pop out from the safety of the brick wall and spots a halftrack. The gunner of the vehicle is killed within seconds!
The halftrack retreats, but the enemy dismounts stay put and start firing at us. The mortar is now deployed.

And once the light mortar opens its mouth, the sounds of carnage are deafening.

Not even the halftrack was spared some mortar shells. These produced no effect, but it was fun to push the driver farther from trouble.
Some remainder German troops made a brave attempt to move towards the mortar's right flank, but they were caught by a command team located in the top floors of the farmstead.

The result was 13 German soldiers dead, 10 killed by mortar fire. One US casualty was suffered during the deployment of the light mortar.

The fire of the US mortar team on the Germans has all the markings of a dislocation fight (light mortar against enemy infantry in the open). The defensive fight occurred while moving the mortar up into position. This was done under the cover of a brick wall and the deployment was a dangerous situation. For this action, which by the way is the so-called defensive fight, the US could have benefit from a combined arms approach (i.e. an infantry team).

But nonetheless the important thing is that as mentioned by Leonhard, the essence of the "defensive fight" is to secure the dislocation fight. In this example, there were not much fire during the defensive fight, which may seem a bit contradictory.



Bil Hardenberger said...

Interesting JC... I think that the commander should always be on the lookout for this type of dissimilar match-up. It can be an uncommon situation that gives you an advantage like you found in your scenario, and one needs to jump on them whenever presented, inflict maximum punishment while not becoming embroiled into a fight where the tables can be turned, (if an infantry unit was able to enfilade your mortar position it would be lights out for you) then do it all over again.

I have not read Leonhard's book, is he referring to these two phases of tactical combat regardless of the mission being performed?

I am not so sure I would break a tactical fight down into phases of that description, though maybe I don't have the full picture? Or maybe its the term phase which is throwing me.. "phases" sounds like the two phases as described should be subsequent (Defensive first followed by Dislocation), when in reality combat is rarely so well organized.

Anthony Mercando said...

Leonhard rarely expects the guys on the ground to try to cram things into theoretical boundaries, but it's good concepts as always with him.

This seems to me a furtherance of the weapons systems breakdowns from him. Expecting the exceptional and new systems to be used in a conventional and safe way, while using the reliable and standard as the maneuver and more daring way.

Leonhard's always been good at treading the line between a FM 7-8 and Clausewitz.

The scenario's interesting, definitely dangerous work for a mortar crew unprotected.

JC said...

Hello gents,

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Bil: the "phasing" part is (I guess) just a theoretical construct/framework from which to understand or plan a battle. There is a particular passage in his book where he mentions that many times these "phases" do not present themselves as such. We are all pretty familiar with the chaos of battle ... :)

Tony: Indeed, Leonhard is very fond of the weapon systems and their pitfalls and advantages.

As I posted a while ago, theoreticians predict battles that can't be fought and soldiers fight battles that can't be predicted. :) So, take everything with a big grain of salt.


Anthony Mercando said...

I think it was Forward into Battle where the author pretty much insulted anyone writing about war or combat before proceeding to the very same thing. He pointed out that nobody in a firefight or a pitched melee is noting what's happening every five minutes--they're too busy trying not to get killed.

And as Daniel Bolger told us "getting killed or maimed really hurts your upward mobility."

I just finally got Fighting by Minutes for the "bargain" of $63 and I'm dying for it to get here.

As always I applaud your ability to figure these games out in the first place. I wind up just humiliating myself and not running the program again for a few months in shame.