Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Normandy and Iraq

How Cpl. Joshua Dale of the USMC independently reinvented a 62 year old tactical innovation.

The Marine Corps sends a link to this article describing an impromptu kind of battering ram welded to the front bumper of a Humvee to smash through obstacles.

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq (June 6, 2006) -- When he joined the Marine Corps in 2002, Cpl. Joshua W. Dale never thought he would be using his welding experience to defeat insurgents in western Iraq. The 23-year-old section leader with A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, brought his ideas to life by inventing a breaching bumper for a humvee in his mobile assault platoon. The breaching bumper is mounted on the front of the humvee and resembles a large arrowhead made of thick steel. The bumper is used to do one thing – tear through anything that gets in the humvee’s way. “We needed something on our humvees to assault through barriers, like locked gates and low brick walls,” said the Silver Street, S.C., native. “This bumper will go through just about anything.”



This is an interesting illustration of how things forgotten, or at least put away in dusty corners of memory are reinvented under the press of necessity. In the Normandy campaign, US infantrymen needed a device that would smash through the thick hedgerows in Normandy. The story of the tactical innovations to defeat the hedgerows is described in The Bocage How Americans Overcame It

The American Sherman tanks could not run over the hedgerows. Instead, the Sherman tank would continue to roll once making contact with the hedgerows, and this would cause the tank to lift up a bit and expose its vulnerable "belly." ...

Explosives, bulldozers and other expedients were tried. They worked but were not always available and had other drawbacks. Then somebody invented the hedgerow cutter.

1st Lt. Charles B. Green came up with the idea of welding a strong bumper device made of railroad tracks on the Sherman tanks so that the tanks could ram through the hedgerows. This proved to be a successful method, but it was not the most popular. Soldiers of the 2d Armored Division's 102d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron invented the hedgerow device that gained the widest publicity During a discussion among the officers and soldiers of the division, someone suggested attaching teeth to the tanks in order to cut through the hedgerows like a gardening tool. Many of the troops did not take the suggestion seriously, but Sgt. Curtis G. Culin did take it seriously. He designed and supervised the welding of the cutting devices made from scrap iron from German roadblocks. These customized Sherman tanks were effective and were nicknamed "rhinoceros" because of their appearance.

Here's what it looks like. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In fact reenactors are manufacturing the same "Culin" ram today.



Blogger Fabio said...

The cigarette and drug smugglers in Puglia, south Italy, are pretty ingenious too: they stole big 4x4s, up-armored them with steel plates and bullet-resistant glasses, fitted them with breach bumpers and silicone-filled tyres. These vehicles were called "i Mostri" - the Monsters.

They gave hell to the police (and innocent bystanders) for a while, but then focused operations dismantled the very network producing these things. Me, I'd have sent in ground attack aircrafts just to show who's got the bigger guns.

6/07/2006 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Here you go, a Matine Captain who sees it like I did, a year or so ago. True then, true now.

"... The political and military strategies now in place talk the right language of unity and counterinsurgency, but this is still mostly Green Zone talk. Marine Capt. Scott A. Cuomo argues in the June edition of Marine Corps Gazette that the U.S. military should make "embedded training teams," living and fighting with the Iraqi security forces, its main effort. He says frankly of his own combat experience in Iraq: "We did very little to truly help indigenous security forces protect the populace from the insurgency." ..."

Hey, it's not rocket science.
It's "old" Special Forces techniques, tried and true.
The Institutional memory was erased, though, the Generals were never fighting an Insurgency, again.
Insurgency not War Game well, does not require large Units with tanks and artillety, so it's ignored as a Strategy that can be effective, against US, seems to be.

6/07/2006 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Tony Blakely discusses Haditha and media "Bias", he says

"... The "Drive By Media" (Rush Limbaugh's scientifically accurate description) has already started to report this story in a manner that is likely to do vast damage that may last for several years to the morale (and possibly recruitment) of our military. It will create a propaganda catastrophe of strategic proportions in our mortal struggle with radical Islam and its terrorist spear point.

And all this is being done by journalists who are seemingly oblivious to the consequences of their acts. ..."

No "Grand Conspiracy" just igmorance, prejudice, and limited thinking.

6/07/2006 05:46:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Perhaps the real innovation in tackling the hedgerows was not just the use of the Cullin Ram, but in the tactical approach.

Rather than advancing on a broad front, the hedgerows were handled one at a time. Push through the wall of one with a tank. With infantrymen as spotters, and using new intercom boxes attached to the back of the tank, the infantry would use the tank as cover, spot the concentrations of enemy fire, and direct the tank to take them out by shooting across the open area of the hedgerow.

Essentially, they treated hedgerows as if they were houses in urban fighting. Clean it "house" out one at a time and then move on to the next one. Don't advance down the roads adjacent to the hedgerows and let the Nazis in the other "houses/hedgerows" shoot at you from the thick cover.

In urban environments the exact same tactics were used. Go house to house through the walls and handle them one at a time from the inside rather than advancing down the streets - and without tanks, which Army doctrine held were useless in urban environments - in reality, tanks were just the thing both for knocking holes in the walls and handling concentrations of enemy fire.

I have never heard anyone explain if the hedgerow tactics were employed in urban environments or vice versa. Both came about at about the same time.

The Germans were outraged by these tactics - the dumb Amercians did not knwow how to fight in the proper manner!

6/07/2006 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Max Boot on Iraq and Haditha, what is needed is Victory, says Mr Boot.

"... "Scapegoats of the Empire." Antiwar advocates have been eager to accept such explanations because they are convinced that the real culprits are not the rank and file but the architects of the conflict — a charge heard often during the Abu Ghraib affair and now over Haditha.

In talking to troops over the years, I've discovered that those most eager to hold military defendants accountable are not civilians but veterans of ground combat who have been in equally stressful situations and have reacted with greater restraint. They do not hold with actions that sully a soldier's honor and do not accept "society made me do it" defenses. Yet convictions can be hard to obtain because the units involved tend to cover up the facts.

Many supporters of the wars in question are happy to see as few convictions as possible. They worry that prosecutions will poison public sentiment. This concern is overblown. What matters most to most folks back home is whether their "boys" are fighting for a just cause and whether they are winning. If the answer to both questions is yes, the public will forgive a great deal of misconduct. Thus, celebrated war-crimes cases did not prevent American victory in the Philippines or British victory in South Africa. Nor was the My Lai massacre a turning point in the Vietnam War. By the time it was exposed in late 1969, support for the war was already in freefall because victory did not appear to be in sight.

Today, Americans' (and Iraqis') verdict on the war will not turn on what happened in Abu Ghraib or Haditha. More important is what is happening in Ramadi and Baghdad — major cities where the security situation has deteriorated over the last year. The Bush administration can weather the excesses of some soldiers; it cannot survive the perception that we are losing. Instead of indulging in excessive self-flagellation, therefore, the Pentagon and the White House would be well advised to take decisive steps, such as sending more troops, to restore law and order.

Victory diminishes the significance of war crimes; defeat magnifies them into defining events. ..."

6/07/2006 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

Following DR's comment, the Summer 2006 edition of Parameters (www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/
Parameters/parahome.htm) has an instructive article on the past employment - Phillipines, Vietnam, and Algeria - of indigenous counterinsurgent forces in "The Long Small War."

Of interest in the Summer edition as well is Colin Gray's article, "Stability Operations in Strategic Perspective, A Skeptical View." I don't agree with the whole of it, but highly recommend it.

From Stability Operations in Strategic Perspective, A Skeptical View:


Societies fight as befits their nature and condition, albeit with some external discipline imposed by uncooperative enemies. There is a traditional American way of war, one traceable from Ulysses S. Grant in 1864 to the present day. In recent studies, this author has identified 13 characteristics of the American way.7 In summary form, the American way of war is:

• Apolitical
• Astrategic
• Ahistorical
• Problem-solving, optimistic
• Culturally challenged
• Technology dependent
• Focused on firepower
• Large-scale
• Aggressive, offensive
• Profoundly regular
• Impatient
• Logistically excellent
• Highly sensitive to casualties

If we examine that list for its compatibility with the most typical requirements of effectiveness in irregular warfare, let alone stability operations, we discover that there is a massive mismatch. This is not to argue that America cannot adapt its way of war to suit new political and strategic contexts, but it is to claim that the demands of low-intensity conflict do not challenge the US armed forces in areas where they are strong. Most of what the QDR has to say about irregular warfare is sensible, even incontestable. The issue is not the ability of the country to recognize and understand the challenge. Rather is there a problem with the ability of Americans to behave as the nature of irregular warfare requires, if success is to be secured. Armies are not


usually equally competent at the waging of regular and irregular warfare. While the United States has registered some successes against irregular enemies over the past century, the evidence of poor performance is sufficiently substantial, and recent, to give grounds for anxiety.


6/07/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

BTW: The Parameters article on indigenous forces in counterinsurgency is of exceptional interest in its discussion of "bleu" counterinsurgents (turned insurgents, as it were) in Algeria.

6/07/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger blert said...

These schemes bring back images of Roman galleys.

There were many 'lost options' for Overlord & Neptune:

Failure to use the USN blimp advantage. Each blimp comes equipped to communicate with the fleet: perfect for gunnery at the beach head. Any flak would be suppressed by 14" shells.

Failure to beach USN/RN battleships. Every BB at Normandy should have been beached by controlled flooding of non-essential compartments. Once anchored their effectiveness increases five times with better accuracy.

Failure to use a ramming plow... driven by a destroyer, with steel end wheels scrounged from steam rollers, to lift up and over turn Rommel's obstacles in the high tide before the invasion morning. The whole apparatus would look like a cross between a bulldozer and ship.

Failure to use hydraulic cannon ( sea going firefighting equipment ) to pre-detonate the mines attached to beach obstacles. Chopping the water stream would induce such vibration as to assure detonation.

Failure to use hydraulic cannon to chill out the defenders in their positions. Plumbing always is an afterthought when trenches are dug. Every single German position was open to flooding. The cold salt water would be pretty demoralizing, too. ( BTW this would have made Tarawa. et al flood overs and walk overs. ) ( Water cannon would have changed the course of the Vietnam War as no VC tunnel system could have survived attack. It'd be like flooding out moles.)

Failure to use blimps during parachute operations. The troops below would suppress any flak. The eyes above would direct air and ground operations. When the weather turns overcast the blimp would provide an absolute aim point for air drops: day or night. ( Think Bastogne.)

Failure to blow down the beach mine field with naval gunnery. The established WWI technique was abandoned. Any blast holes in the sand were sure to filled in by the sea.

Failure to take down the German defenses with the DIRECT aimed fires of the big ships. ( The contest would be unequal since nothing ashore could hurt a beached battleship.

Failure to breach the German line by using battleship fires working down the WESTERN edge of the front until breakout. No German outfit could stand up to such heavy bombardment. Even the Hitler Youth pulled back out of range. The RN/USN could have walked First Army around the German left flank in short order. (Forget about the road system: bulldoze a new one to suit.)

6/07/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Don Meaker said...

Destroyer bulldozers are a fantasy. I have swum in the waters off Normandy, and the fast moving tide creates very uneven beaches.

6/07/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston said...

RWE, great observation about tactical innovation vs. equipment in the hedgerow fighting. Obviously both factors interact, but we see in the case of the "breach bumper" in Iraq that the tactical necessity came first, then equipment is modified. FYI, I used to work on USMC HMMWV issues. Rest assured this has already been studied over the past 2 years or a review is underway. The program management office is very aggressive and capable regarding evaluation and fielding of modifications. But they are also realistic. They know that fielding a bumper that is intended as a ram can mean more deaths and damage due to collision. There are always tradeoffs when making modifications, and what may seem obviously beneficial to a particular unit with a particular problem in Iraq can be a big mistake if fielded Corps-wide.

6/08/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Evanston: I wrote an article about a friend's uncle, who flew on USN PB4Y-2 bombers in WWII. They ended up taking some of the armor OUT of the airplanes - in practice it tended to produce richocets. They would rather the heavier stiff just go right on thriugh rather that say inside with them a wahile. In fact, one day whe they were jumped by 12 George fighter's the most badly wounded crewman was hot when a 20MM round exploded between his back and the armored seat. If the seat had not been armored the round would have likely gone right on through and out of the airplane.
They lost an engine but made it home that day, and two of the attacking fighters did not.

6/09/2006 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger blert said...

Don Meaker said...

Destroyer bulldozers are a fantasy. I have swum in the waters off Normandy, and the fast moving tide creates very uneven beaches.

9:30 PM

It is a historical fact that the sand at Omaha Beach was so flat that freighters were routinely beached and off loaded by Ducks. This improvised system was so effective that it replaced the Mulberries entirely once they were lost in the big storm – mid June 1944.

We’re not talking perfect here, just taking another shot at the timbered beach obstacles in the deepest zone. In the Omaha landing, the demolition squads tasked with these were annihilated with registered fires.

During the crisis moment USN Destroyers closed with the beachhead and used direct fire on the German pillboxes. (Always mentioned in USN histories – never brought up in US Army histories.)

Goofy looking mechanical solutions are often rejected for inelegance. Bradley was offered British ‘funny’ tanks – the flail tank in particular. He turned it down flat. It was not his idea of success. Beating the ground with chains was absurd in his eyes.

Come D-Day he was humiliated as the British used them to fantastic success.

He did place his bets on the Duplex Drive Sherman Tank. It was a disaster. The DD tank needed millpond conditions to stay afloat.

Bradley delayed D-Day by one month so that more landing craft would be on hand. It was a disaster. The 352nd Division and the beach obstacles all arrived in May. The 21st Panzer Division was moved up to Caen in May. Anti-parachute obstacles behind Omaha Beach became so intense in May that the drop was cancelled. The 82nd was added to the Utah Beach operation instead. Gavin and others became suspicious of a security breach.

The better route would have been to just boldly sail up May 1st with expendable landing ships – not landing craft – and beach them. Use beached destroyers to rip up pillboxes with direct fire. After the tide recedes enough just off load the infantry. A lightly loaded ship should be able to get well to shore before getting stuck. All of this could have been done at night right along with the parachute drops. A jury-rigged armored observation mast could have provided the US Army with vision above the German trenches.

Obviously, it was essential to land before the Rommel defense started going up in Normandy. The construction was proceeding east to west at a regular tempo dictated by supplies. Bradley had the opportunity to be firstest and he didn’t take it; he went for mostest instead.

6/09/2006 02:28:00 PM  

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