Fix Bayonets! by Mustang
Urban areas (cities and large towns), are important centers of gravity —points of interest that involve a complex range of human activities. Throughout history military commanders have acknowledged that urban areas are either places that require protection, or they are centers that demand firm control. These are mankind’s centers of population, transportation and communications hubs, seats of government, the sources of national wealth, and concentrations of industry. Over the past three-hundred years, humans living in agrarian areas have migrated to towns and cities in ever-increasing numbers. In just a few years nearly 85% of the world’s population will reside in urbanized areas —which places these areas squarely in the sights of military establishments seeking either to defend or seize them. Urban areas are also areas where radical ideas ferment, dissenters cultivate allies, where human diversity leads to ethnic friction, and where disgruntled people receive the most media attention.
In its expeditionary role, the U.S. Marine Corps is trained to fight battles within urbanized terrain. This was not always the case, but in recent history, Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) of various sizes have been deployed to address conflicts in urban areas: Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Beirut, Granada. The acronym for these operations is MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain). Important for Marines is the fact that 60% of politically significant urban areas (outside allied or former Warsaw Pact territories) are located within 25-miles of littoral areas; 75% within 150 miles; and 87% within 300 miles. In armed conflict, whoever controls the cities exercises de facto control over a country’s natural resources.
History demonstrates that there has been an abundance of guerrilla and terrorist operations in built-up areas: Belfast, Caracas, Iraq, Managua, Santo Domingo, Viet Nam come to mind. Beyond the fact that the control of urban areas offers certain psychological advantages that can affect the outcome of a large conflict, Marine planners are keenly aware that American embassies and consulates are located where host countries concentrate their centers of political and economic activity. One mission the Marines share with other naval expeditionary forces is the emergency evacuation of US civilians caught up in urban insurgencies. (Photo: Cpl Blake Miller, USMC, Fallujah. Credit: Luis Sinco, LA Times (Fair Use asserted)).
Urban areas have dramatically expanded over the past 100 years —often going beyond well-defined boundaries into suburban/countryside areas. Connecting the inner-cities to peripheral areas has been a parallel expansion of transportation: highways, canals, and rail systems. Industries and markets have grown up along these connectors and there has been an expansion of secondary roadways connecting outlying farms to urban areas —the effect of which further complicates the operational planning for and execution of military operations. It widens the military footprint needed to deal with emergencies.
Urban warfare takes place in a unique battlespace —one that provides aggressor and defender with numerous avenues of approach and defensive fields of fire. In essence, there are four distinct battle areas: buildings, streets, subterranean networks, and air. These are often fought simultaneously, which makes the urban warfare effort even more complicated.
The Marine’s first urban warfare experience occurred early in the Korean War. Since then, with lessons learned through actual combat, the Marine Corps has evolved from knowing next to nothing about urban warfare to becoming America’s preeminent expert. As a demonstration of this transition, I will offer my readers three examples: The Second Battle of Seoul, Korea (1950), The Battle for Hue City, Viet Nam (1968), and the First and Second Battles of Fallujah, Iraq (2003-4). Stay with me; I think you’ll find these interesting and informative.
Seoul, South Korea
The North Korean Army (NKPA) seized Seoul, South Korea during its invasion in late June 1950. After US Marines made their amphibious landing at Inchon in mid-September 1950, General Douglas MacArthur assigned them the mission of liberating Seoul from the NKPA force, which by then was an understrength division. In any normal situation, the NKPA would have the advantage of defending Seoul —but in this case, the NKPA were facing American Marines, the most tenacious combat force in the entire world —true then, equally true today[…]
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Mustang has other great reads over at his two blogs – Thoughts from Afar with Old West Tales, Fix Bayonets! and via BUNKERVILLE | God, Guns and Guts Comrades! You can also follow our friend/fellow patriot and blogger from across the pond on Twitter: Mustang.