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Old July 5th, 2005, 04:17 PM
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Default AI tactics: Offensive routines

AI tactics: Offensive routines
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Old September 7th, 2005, 04:43 AM
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Default Re: AI tactics: Offensive routines

INTRODUCTION

Apart from the brief offensives of '65, '68, '72 and the final assault on Saigon in '75, the NVA and VC adopted a primarily defensive posture throughout the war (see Defensive Tactics). However, they did conduct limited offensive operations throughout, which included attacks on fixed installations as well as ambushes and indirect fire against targets of opportunity.

The NVA/VC did not fight to win and hold territory, even less did they seek large-scale set-piece battles, in which the US could concentrate their firepower or use their mobility to reinforce at speed. Instead, they waged the 'war of the flea', thousands of hit and run attacks aimed at exploiting to the maximum those vital weapons of stealth and darkness.

All major attacks were characterised by close attention to planning and detail. Planning was usually very long term, anything up to six months from conception to execution, and cancellation was a constant possibility at any stage in the process. Each phase of the operation was broken down into it's constituent parts and rigorously rehearsed. Only when and if all parts of the plan appeared practical and achievable was the operation put into effect.

'ONE SLOW.... FOUR QUICK'

Attacks were invariably characterised by adherence to the principle of 'one slow, four quick' - a doctrine which prevailed in both attack and defense.

In offensive operations the 'quick attack' was further broken down to incorporate 'three strongs' - strong fight, strong assault and strong pursuit. Presented in sequence the doctrine can be summarized as follows;

SLOW PLAN - This involved a steady but low-key logistical build up in forward supply areas, being positioned ahead of the fighting forces to make a solid base for the operation. The degree of planning and preparation necessary to undertake a large operation could take as long as 6 months and often included numerous 'rehearsals'.

QUICK ADVANCE - This was a rapid movement forward, up to 40kms in as little as six hours, generally in small and inconspicuous groups to a forward staging area from where the attack would be launched.

QUICK ATTACK - Here the attacking forces would be concentrated at the weakest point of the target as identified by prior reconnaissance. The duration of an attack could often be measured in minutes and involved;

STRONG FIGHT - an attempt to achieve and exploit the element of surprise

STRONG ASSAULT - against a pre-arranged position using concentration of force, effort and mass to overwhelm the defense.

STRONG PURSUIT - the attacking force's reserves would be committed to exploit the breaches in the targets defenses so as to deliver a decisive blow

QUICK CLEARANCE - The attacking force would rapidly re-organize and police the battlefield so as to remove weapons and casualties and was pre-planned to prevent confusion on the objective

QUICK WITHDRAWAL - Involved a quick egress from the battle area to a pre-arranged rendezvous point where the attackers would again break down into smaller groups to continue their dispersal. A successful withdrawal of this kind was calculated to create an aura of doubt over the enemy because of speed of execution and lack of evidence of ever having been in the area

During the early years of the war, attacks against installations were directed almost solely against Government and Police outposts. As the war progressed these operations escalated to full-scale, multi-battalion attacks against US and ARVN military installations and Fire Support Bases.

Whilst the unit or units delegated responsibility for the attack itself were tasked with the responsibility for the planning , preparation and execution of the attack, they were assisted by more senior headquarters. This headquarters was the final arbiter as to whether the operation was to proceed at all. All operations were studied from the political as well as military point of view. Invariably it was the political considerations regarding the effect which the attack was likely to have rather than the military ones which were of primary concern.

ATTACK PLANNING

If the operation was approved by the Province Committee, then the Military Affairs Committee would divide the tasks associated with implementing the operation amongst it's three staffs:

Military Staff - sends a reconnaissance unit to study the objective and to construct a sand-table model

Political Staff - sends a cadre to contact local civilians to learn their views and reaction to the proposed attack and to study the morale of the attacking troops

Rear Services Staff - tasked with ascertaining whether local populace can sustain the attacking force and provide necessary labor for policing the battlefield

In order to accomplish their task, the recon element would gather all possible information on the terrain, enemy troop strength, weapons (especially the location of crew served weapons), morale and operating procedures of the target. Also studied were questions regarding possible support that the target could be expected to receive as well as the reaction times of air and artillery support. In certain situations, information which could not be gathered from sources external to the target was often supplied by infiltration of the target itself by teams of sappers.

Studies were also made of the time, type, quality and quantity of the reinforcements which the target could expect to be dispatched to it's relief. Likely avenues of approach for these relief forces were reconned to determine the best locations for ambushes aimed at slowing or stopping their advance. Local VC forces and political cadre were questioned regarding their knowledge of the target as indeed were civilians who worked in the vicinity of the target.

Once all of the preliminary reconnaissance of the target was completed the plan of attack was resubmitted up the chain of command for final approval.

FINAL PREPARATIONS

Once approval was given rehearsals for the assault began in earnest. Sand table mock-ups of the target as well as 'stake and string' replicas were constructed. Each unit commander of the attacking force, (squad leaders for a company attack, platoon leaders for a battalion sized assault), was instructed on these models as to the role of their unit in the overall operation and, while the assault forces practiced their attack, local guerrillas and labourers began to move supplies and materials to forward positions.

An attempt was made to keep the objective of the attack as secret as possible right up to the point of execution. Knowledge of the target was on a 'need to know' basis and if it was felt that the operation had been compromised (e.g. a soldier rallying to the ARVN under the Chieu Hoi program) the operation was invariably called off. Cancellation of an operation was more common than execution and it is estimated that for every assault that did take place, over one hundred were abandoned at some stage of the planning process.

One of the major considerations for the NVA/VC in the process of approval for an assault was that the attacking force would be numerically far superior to the defending force and able to achieve an overwhelming superiority of numbers at the point of engagement. The ratio of 10:1 was not an uncommon goal. However, it was quite normal for an NVA/VC battalion of around 500 men to attack a US company of 100-120 men.

THE ATTACK

The attacking force would rapidly advance from it's bivouacs and base camps to the objective after sundown. The assault force was broken down into various components:

Sappers

Heavy Weapons

Main Assault Force

Diversionary Force

Ambush Force

The ambush force would set up on the approaches to the objective along which a relief force could be expected to approach along. Their task was to delay reinforcements sufficiently long for the main assault to be completed and withdrawn from the battlefield.

A diversionary force was often positioned to make a feint attack in order to draw defenders to another part of the target prior to the main assault being launched.

Sappers led the attack; clearing approaches to the objective through barbed wire, disarming mines and trip flares, often turning around emplaced claymore mines to fire back at the troops who placed them. Once the sappers had cleared the main avenues of approach for the assault force they would continue on into the target area itself loaded with satchel charges. Their primary targets were heavy weapons emplacements and command and control centers.

Immediately the sappers initiated their first attacks, or upon detection of their infiltration of the target, the previously emplaced and positioned heavy weapons teams began firing upon the target from protected positions in order to suppress the defenders just as the main assault was launched.

The main assault was concentrated on a single main axis of advance and was made from the best-concealed or the least-defended direction. Attacking units would have target priorities already assigned and these usually consisted of communications positions, artillery and mortar gun pits, automatic weapons pits, command posts and ammunition dumps. If rotary wing aircraft were parked at the objective then these would be high-priority targets.

Numerical superiority was of no use if the US could bring heavy firepower to bear and in order to deny the enemy this opportunity attacks would be launched in the period between midnight and about 2.00am in order to achieve surprise but also to afford the attackers sufficient time to clear the area prior to daybreak and be back in their sanctuaries before US ground attack aircraft and helicopters could interdict them.

Following the attack, the battlefield would be policed of weapons and equipment, the wounded and the dead. Quite often small ambush forces would be set up along the routes of egress in order to prevent or discourage pursuit of the main attacking units. Pre-registered mortar fire was also utilised for the same purpose. The attacking force would then make it's way back to a prearranged rendezvous point from where it would subsequently break down into smaller elements and disperse.
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