Urban Warfare from Stalingrad to Iraq
By Louis A DiMarco
This volume is the story of the development of urban warfare tactics, staring with World War II. Towns and cities have been important targets in warfare dating back to the time of the ancients. In those eras, a city was surrounded and either starved into submission or its walls were breached and the city was overrun by the attacking army. In the Second World War that changed, taking a city was no longer a matter of starving out the population, it now became a house-to-house slug fest for a street-by street clearing.
The first major battle was Stalingrad, along the west bank of the Volga River. Since Adolf Hitler had declared this target as an essential political necessity, the Sixth Army was required to go in and clear the Russians out. One major advantage that the Russians had was their artillery, that was positioned safely on the east bank of the river. This meant that the Germans were under constant artillery fire during the entire extent of the battle. The rubble created by the constant pounding by both sides provided many hiding places from which to conduct attacks. As the author points out, tanks are an essential part of urban warfare, they can take down buildings, wipe out machine gun nests and neutralize other concentrations of defenders. One mistake the Germans made in Stalingrad was to send the tanks into the city without infantry support, which left them vulnerable to attacks from above and below, where their armor was thinner.
The Americans got their first taste of major urban warfare in the German city of Aachen, in 1944. Here the tactics had developed where they first surrounded the city cutting off the supple routes to the German defenders. When tanks were employed within the city limits, they were accompanied by infantry squads with machine guns. In the house-to-house fighting, walls were broken through between buildings to provide covered access to the next building. Here we begin to see the development of urban tactical doctrines.
From World War II we go to Korea and the landings at Inchon and the capture of Seoul.
Here General MacArthur pulled an “end run” around the forces of the Peoples Army of North Korea to accomplish his goal. The landings at Inchon and the subsequent taking of Seoul had to be done quickly and efficiently so as to grant the South Koran people their capital without its complete destruction.
The next battle covered is the TET Offensive and the Marine Corps battle of Hue. Here again American forces were faced with the re-capture of the Cultural and Spiritual capital of South Vietnam. Destruction of the Old Imperial Palace and its environs was to be kept to a minimum. However, the Viet Cong were not on board for that script version. The tactics used involved tanks supported by infantry and also heavy airpower.
The book continues on through the fighting in Algiers, when the Algerians broke away from France. The long standing fighting in Northern Ireland and its tactics are covered.
The tactics employed by the Russian Army putting down the uprising in Chechnya and the efforts of the Israeli Defense Forces in Nablis and the quelling of the uprising in Jenin.
The last chapter covers the tactics used by the United States in calming the situation in Ramadi, after the fall of Saadam Hussein. This was accomplished by setting up Regimental Combat Teams in various parts of the city as bases from which to patrol the neighborhoods. Each unit had the responsibility for a certain area and since they were located within that area they got to know the population and vice versa. This eventually led to a quieting of the situation.
The final chapter in the book is a projection of the author’s ideas for urban combat into the 21st century. He contends that as wars are fought in this day and age urban combat is going to be the norm and not the exception. No longer will an army be able to go out and capture the opposition’s capital and put an end to the war. Now each city block and every building will be the focus of the fighting.
I can recommend this book to the history buff and to the wargamer who is gaming in urban situations. I found this book extremely enjoyable and hard to put down once I started reading it and I believe, so will you.