Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Principles of Close Order Combat before the Machinegun

The face-to-face battlefield changed more in the four years of WW1 than in the previous four thousand.  Before, a successful defensive move was to “close ranks” to repel or break cohesion of that group whose ranks were not close enough.  Once an attacker breaches the front ranks of a defending unit, even one very small, weakens the ability  of the defenders to close ranks, present a united front, shoulder to shoulder.  The enemy has the opportunity to attack defenders from more than one side.  Shoulder to shoulder forces the enemy to attack more than one defender, those on both sides, and few directly behind.

On 3 September 1260 The Mameluks Sultanate defeated the Mongols invasion of the Holy Land at Ain Jalut.   The Mameluks used “Hand cannon” of Chinese origin in hopes of frightening Mongol horses with unknown results.  The shortage of grass for Mongol horses limited the number of spare horses that limited the mobility and flexibility of Mongol cavalry. 

The old adage of the enemy of my enemy is my friend caused considerable angst in the remaining Crusader states.  Some wanted to have a treaty (MOU – memorandum of understanding) with the Mongols to finish off the Muslims, but the Pope vetoed that notion.  Instead, the Crusader states in harms’ way gave free passage and watering holes for the Mameluks.

Eventually, trade with the Far East introduced gunpowder and guns in sufficient amounts to have an effect on fortifications and open battle, but that did not happen until several decades after the end of the Crusades in the Levant.   The gradual introduction of more effective firearms into the hands of the infantryman did not defeat the “close ranks” formations of the defenders until the carnage of WW 1 tipped the balance.  These two battles, one in the American Revolution and the other at Waterloo show close ordered formation not less tightly paced as a Greek phalanx.


This in part was due to logistic reasons – no railroad.  Until the railroad, armies marched on their stomachs fed by forage, pillage, and/or plunder.  Such plundering alienated the civilians who were plundered even by their own troops to the point that the Founders of the US Constitution made it a point in the Bill of Rights in the Third Amendment:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law”.

The Industrial Revolution changed the tactical milieu not only by design of weaponry but upon the ability to supply forward forces continuously. The range of technological change came tin a rapidly increasing perhaps exponential rate during the 100 years before Armistice Day of the First World War. 

Just before the American Civil War, rifles replaced smooth bore muskets that tripled the effective range of the infantryman against massed close order infantry. This was a change from a fifty-yard lethal range to three hundred.  The railroad increased the available ammunition supply rate (ASR)   The tactical imperative changed from “close ranks” to “dig in, spread out, and hide”. It took another sixty years and millions of lives until World War 2 before the lessons became standard practice.

In addition to a more lethal front line rifle, rifling added accuracy and range to cannon which now could be fired from well behind the front line instead of being part of it.  The defense also shifted to field fortifications (dug by the port-a-fort entrenching tool) to defeat incoming bullets and escape both shell fragment and bullet swarm.  The rate of fire of the infantryman increased due to the now familiar brass cartridge and the action of loading new rounds after extracting fired cartridges by hand by hand or automatically. Barbed wire was introduced during the Great War from the Old West to slow down attackers in the same manner as Caltrops were used in medieval war. Then we come to the Second World War.

These examples show that as the effective fire increases so are the defensive measure on the receiving end.  The mantra then was close up, build up, and armor up.  The differences in mobility between the foot mounted infantry and the horse-mounted cavalry still presents the problem of the cavalry outrunning the infantry. This left gaps in the defensive line, or it slowed the attacker down which turned the cavalry (horses, tanks, personnel carriers) into a slow vulnerable target with no shock effect. 
The defeat of the Army of Jerusalem at the Horns of Hattin in 1187 featured a separation of the infantry from the main force of mounted cavalry by reasons that are not clear.  Saladin had just completed encircling the entire force, something that requires continuous pressure on the defender from all sides (exterior lines) while the forces inside the circle must defeat the forces on the circle one piece at a time before attacking another piece.  Interior lines require space and speed. 

The remaining options for the Army of Jerusalem were to use heavy cavalry to break through and escape.  The advance guard under Count Raymond III of Tripoli and the rear guard under Balian de Ibelin both did just that. The fact remaining is that there was no infantry to support the mounted charges by King Guy in his attack to break the Saracen lines and reach water. 

As the battle developed, Jerusalem advanced across the slowly rising field with a row of low rolling hills (the Horns of Hattin) with Raymond of Tripoli commanding the advance guard, King Guy with the main body that had infantry protecting the cavalry inside each “battle”. 

Saladin then chose the Tactical Imperatives of the Contra Attack to “confuse, blind, parried and block” the Army of Jerusalem.  Faced with that, Jerusalem attempted to seize the high ground and break out towards the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias). This charge disconnect the main body from it’s own infantry, and both guards front and rear.

As the range and lethality of weapons increased, so did the need to make some choices between firepower, protection, and mobility.  These choices are complex, but there is a simple basis for analysis – the human body.  The choices can be called “Tactical Imperatives”

Over the centuries armies have attempted to close the speed difference between foot mounted infantry and horse mounted cavalry.  One solution, then and now, is to for the infantry to ride to the battle but fight on foot.  That option is called “mechanized infantry”,, Panzer Grenadier, Dragoons, and other storied names.
hic desinit lectio

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wall vs Charge, Spear vs Shield, Wile vs Whimsey

Those who have served in/or with the infantry knows that your zip and their zag can but one or both of you in a body bag. The First Law of Warfare is Murphy's Law; what can go wrong will, at the worst possible time and the worst possible place. Good training, equipment and leadership is validated by successful evasion, neutralization, and changing plans at the right time.

In addition to Handy Terrain Analyses, the hands on tool to determine the Roles and Rules by which all cultures in the Area of Interest, and the analyses of the drama that is central to a group's survival. It is METT-TC with the C being Culture.  I don't mean knowing whether to kiss, bow or shake thier hands.  Culture shows up in how they used the ground before the troops arrived, and gives a clue to everyone's "tipping point".  In the time of the Crusades, the culture of the cavalry was to chase after the enemy's cavalry, only to return to see the infantry face down for next dozen miles.

Task organization and battle drill focused on the specific MOS(Military Occupational Specialty) and home zipcode.  The MOS's pf a medieval formation is no less complicated than today's.

This is obviously more complicated tool than others, but most of the decisions on this matrix are made before the tools were designed.  Even when an excellent tool with a long record of success fails because another part of the matrix has shifted.  As the Crusaders became acclimatized to the desert clime, the heavier stuff came off or was made functionally as good, but lighter.

We will come back to this section shortly

The organization of a task force came from often as complicated as the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) where skill sets were tied to a specific area and culture. Think of the English Long bowman, or the ships and sailors from Genoa and Venice, some came with two handed axes, others with a diversity of bows and arrows, some shot from the back with the bow resting on the soles of the feet.
Add caption

Two knights, two pikemen, one axeman, two archers, one crossbowman and a resupply of arrows.

The Tactical Imperative Matrix in the case show below is used instinctively with missile fire on the flanks  The pikes keep the cavalry at bay while archers can shoot them trying to evade the pikes, and then finish off the remainder with a good solid :whack: with axes,swords, or the mace. 

To be Continued.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Characteres et Politicas Various Populis

This post is in for an upgrade, and will be out soon

In the Sixth Century, The Byzantine Emperor codified doctrine in a  manual called the “Strategikon” . of twelve books of which Book XI was entitled "Characteristics and Tactics of Various Peoples. His descriptions included such things as:

"the Western light-haired peoples are "bold and undaunted in battle. Daring and impetuous as they are, they consider any timidity and even a short retreat as a disgrace." These are qualities, as Luttwak points out, that give strength, but also tactical limitations".

The Strategikon describes the Persians as a people who obey their rulers out of fear. Its comments on the hardiness of Russian warriors sound like a description of 20th-century Russian soldiers. The book goes on to prescribe the strategies and tactics that worked or did not work against each of these potential enemies.  

He warned against chasing Germans into the woods where the ground favored German individual skill sets.


Drawn from Transactional Analysis (TA) and the Drama Triangle.
This drama template can be played solo, or internationally

The cry of an infant for help is the penultimate hot button
regardless of species

These Sea Turtles, like many species. produce hundreds of younglings
with instructions coded to get them into the water and safety.

These are ARM AND HAND signals for the infantry to remember what to look for
in somebody else's back yard

"It's da' bizness, Lenny, I always kind of liked you" - Kapow!

The lion on the left is suffocating his prey by clamping down on his nose & mouth,
the one in the middle is going for the spinal cords, while
the two on the right are going for a mobility kill

Mother, the most powerful being in the Universe

The lion on the right has deftly hooked the deer's back left leg at full speed ahead.

From Arn, Templar Knigjt, a Swedish film based on the life of a Swedish knight
who fought in the Crusades.

Templar Knight knighting ceremonies in the Grand Priory of St Joan of Arc,
conducted in Argentina and Mexico.

Arn's charge, Al Pacino fleeing as Richard III, and an Argentine equestrian competiton

The story of too many lives written in drama heroes and villains.

The TA Drama Triangle portrays three roles, by which Lucy and Charlie play,
each getting an emotional payoff

Hic desinit lectio

Optimo Loco ad Pugnam

Optimo Loco ad Pugnam
(Finding the Cookie Jar)

By Gordon S Fowkes, KCTJ
Grand Historian of the Grand Priory of St Joan of Arc of Mexico and Latin America
April 23, 2012

  St Joan of Arc Disclaimer:  The opinions herein are those of the author and not endorsed by the Grand Priory of of Mexico and Latin America.
Author’s Disclaimer: This is a military analysis of the Crusader Era “operating environment’ and includes conclusions and theories.  The conclusions are only when validated with different theories. and the theories are only if validated with different facts.

What’s Important?
 Definitional Interruptus:  There is no longer any use in using the terms “tactical, operational, strategic and/or grand strategic” in the discussion of “levels” of war.  It depends on the size of the frogs and the size of the ponds.  The city-states of Genoa and Venice of the period were very small places with a huge appetite and a long reach.  Their landward sides were vulnerable to infantry, and their fleets were not.  The strategic importance of Jerusalem had operational considerations that told Richard I that it was not worth taking, although he had the tactical capabilities to do so.

Tactics: What’s in range?
Operations: Getting there.
Strategy: What’s it worth?

Tactics: What’s in range?  Tactical considerations include consideration of giving and receiving the bullet, buffet or blade of over the four tactical imperatives: Duel, Defense, Attack and Contra Attack.   Tactical considerations are in part physical as in range, ranging, devastation, and speed. 

 Tactical considerations replicate the equivalent functions of the human body: brain, eyes, arm, fist,  feet and vital organs.  The eyes are the sensory array as in visual or by extension:  electronic.  The arm is that which delivers the fist to the target, it has speed, range, and flexibility. The fist is the terminal effect of the weapon system; it is the warhead, the tip of the spear, and the arrow head.  Feet are the mobility of the weapon platform.
Operations: Getting there, getting resupply, and getting on or getting out (See Jomini Below)

A Byzantine dromon (cruiser) had tactical considerations in its’ design and armament, that had an operational reach from Gibraltar to the Crimea, and was a way of projecting force to enforce the will of the Byzantine Emperor (also used by Venice and Genoa).  If a new device (ship rigged with broadside guns on a deck) came along, the tactical value of the dromon disappeared from dominance of the sea lanes in the Mediterranean.

Handy Terrain Analysis
Handy Terrain Analysis uses your own hands to illustrate common terrain features formed by erosion and their effect on fire and movement from a tactical and operational point of view. 
COCOA: This is an old US Army acronym for  terrain analysis to see how the ground helps or hinders either side.   There is an old acronym “COCOA” which is easier to remember the new and improved one on analyzing terrain.   COCOA has a sensory component to aid in remembering, just think of a cup of Cocoa, smell and remember:
Critical Terrain,
Cover and Concealment,
Observation and Fields of Fire, and
Avenues of Approach .

The current system replaced Critical Terrain with Key Terrain.  They don’t quite mean the same (IMHO).  Critical terrain is that which must be taken, held, and/or denied to the enemy. Key terrain dominates critical terrain.  The road junction in the valley may be critical, but it can only be controlled from a hill just in range (Key).
1. Geography.  The effect of relative relief, of rivers and ridges that make movement easier or harder create choke points to restrain or enhance movement.  The erosion of tilted block  create rivers and ridges which channel movement with the grain, and the passes, fords, and forks that cross the grain.

Water cuts through rock which makes it easier to rock

Over time, water smoothes  the craggy rocky convex outcroppings by erosion and by depositing the earth into alluvial fans which form concave patterns.  The combination of the two creates complex terrain features with convex slopes combining with the concave  The importance of slope is on ease of travel, observation and fields of fire. 

2. Geometry.  The geometric pattern of objects on the ground one to another create opportunities and challenges for the commander.  This includes the concepts of lines of communication,  of fronts, flanks, and rear,  and of interior vs. exterior lines each with tactical and operational mandates.  These concepts are the work of General Antoine-Henry Jomini. Of all the writers on the art of war, his book “Art of War” is the primer for all others.  This is one to commit to memory.

[Wikipedia} Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini (March 6, 1779 – March 24, 1869) was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war. According to the historian John Shy, Jomini "deserves the dubious title of founder of modern strategy."[1] Jomini's ideas were a staple at military academies. The senior generals of the American Civil War--those that had attended West Point--were well versed in Jomini's theories.[End Wiki]

From his pen to here;

Extracts from the Art of War by Antoine Jomini, available on line at Project Gutenberg (

Jomini, Art of War, page 13
To recapitulate, the art of war consists of six distinct parts:—
1. Statesmanship in its relation to war.
2. Strategy, or the art of properly directing masses upon the theater of war, either for defense or for invasion.
3. Grand Tactics.
4. Logistics, or the art of moving armies.
5. Engineering,—the attack and defense of fortifications.
6. Minor Tactics.
[Pg 14]It is proposed to analyze the principal combinations of the first four branches, omitting the consideration of tactics and of the art of engineering.
Familiarity with all these parts is not essential in order to be a good infantry, cavalry, or artillery officer; but for a general, or for a staff officer, this knowledge is indispensable.

Jomini, Art of War, page 75
Independently of its topographical features, each theater upon which one or more armies operate is composed, for both parties, as follows:—
1. Of a fixed base of operations.
2. Of a principal objective point.
3. Of fronts of operations, strategic fronts, and lines of defense.
4. Of zones and lines of operations.
5. Of temporary strategic lines and lines of communications.
6. Of natural or artificial obstacles to be overcome or to oppose to the enemy.
7. Of geographical strategic points, whose occupation is important, either for the offensive or defensive.
8. Of accidental intermediate bases of operations between the objective point and the primary base.
9. Of points of refuge in case of reverse.

Characters portrayed in "Kingdom of Heaven" by Ridley Scott

Jomini, Art of War, Page 89
The decisive point of a battle-field will be determined by,—
1. The features of the ground.
2. The relation of the local features to the ultimate strategic aim.
3. The positions occupied by the respective forces.

Jomini, Art of War, pages 101-104
It is somewhat different with lines of operations, as they are divided into different classes, according to their relations to the different positions of the enemy, to the communications upon the strategic field, and to the enterprises projected by the commander.
Simple lines of operations are those of an army acting from a frontier when it is not subdivided into large independent bodies.
Double lines of operations are those of two independent armies proceeding from the same frontier, or those of two nearly equal armies which are commanded by the same general but are widely separated in distance and for long intervals of time.[11]
Interior lines of operations are those adopted by one or two armies to oppose several hostile bodies, and having such a direction that the general can concentrate the masses and maneuver with his whole force in a shorter period of time than it would require for the enemy to oppose to them a greater force.[12] Exterior lines lead to the opposite result, and are those formed by an army which operates at the same time on both flanks of the enemy, or against several of his masses.
Concentric lines of operations are those which depart from [Pg 103]widely-separated points and meet at the same point, either in advance of or behind the base.
Divergent lines are those by which an army would leave a given point to move upon several distinct points. These lines, of course, necessitate a subdivision of the army.
There are also deep lines, which are simply long lines.
The term maneuver-lines I apply to momentary strategic lines, often adopted for a single temporary maneuver, and which are by no means to be confounded with the real lines of operations.
Secondary lines are those of two armies acting so as to afford each other mutual support,—as, in 1796, the army of the Sambre and Meuse was secondary to the army of the Rhine, and, in 1812, the army of Bagration was secondary to that of Barclay.
Accidental lines are those brought about by events which change the original plan and give a new direction to operations. These are of the highest importance. The proper occasions for their use are fully recognized only by a great and active mind.
There may be, in addition, provisional and definitive lines of operations. The first designate the line adopted by an army in a preliminary, decisive enterprise, after which it is at liberty to select a more advantageous or direct line. They seem to belong as much to the class of temporary or eventual strategic lines as to the class of lines of operations.

3. Psychology.  
Battle as Braggadocio

Being culturally sensitive doesn’t necessarily mean being nice, or considerate, or exceptionally nasty.  Of the letters in the acronym METT-TC that is the all-purpose checklist for planning and adjusting operations from the Oval office to a foxhole in some far off unpronounceable place. 
Culture, as defined above, affects each of the other considerations including time, terrain, troops, enemy, and ultimately the Mission. That includes battle:
The purposes of battle as in actual engagements with fire and/or movement, is three fold:

We use battle as a method of persuasion by grabbing or smashing something of value to either or both sides, and then brag about it.  Sometimes, the bragging is the most important part of it.  Bragging raises your sides morale, and saps the others.  Better yet, it gets the other side to do something stupid. 

The movie “Kingdom of Heaven” featuring the most telling of Templar Knights of the age takes us from the Siege of Kerak to the disastrous defeat of the Crusades at the Horns of Hattin.

Characters from Kingdom of Heaven

Such was too the case in the Battle at the Horns of Hattin in July 1187 by Grandmaster Girard de Ridefort, our Grandmaster.  His recent accession to the post from outside the Order, an event always rife with contention over whose sword is bigger.  In his case, he countermanded, contradicted, and confused the orders to the Army marching into a desert and without water. All this likely to save face in his own eyes.

Guy de Lusignan, also newly crowned King of Jerusalem (as portrayed in the movie) was an arrogant “jock” with more body than brains.  He was captured at Hattin and released by Saladin, and broke his word not to fight, but wound up with Cypress as a consolation prize his family ruled for another three hundred years.  Considering that he had married his way onto the throne, maybe he had a proper gene pool after all.  His strength was in family values as in competitive survival.

To this potent mix, add Raynaud de Chatillon who also rose to prominence by his prominence in expertise dans les affaires d'amour and married his way into prominence into positions of marital prominence in the Latin Empire of Byzantium.  He was prominently involved in considerable raiding and pillaging those who got in his way until he pillaged himself into Muslim prison for seventeen (17) years in Aleppo.  The Emperor Manuel bailed Raynaud out of jail for 500 kg (1,100 lbs) of Gold in 1176.

Reynaud aided King Baldwin IV (the leper king) to defeat Saladin at Montgisard. Later he built raiding ships and raided the Red Sea to the gates of Medina.  He escaped, but his crews were beheaded.
This is a man with enormous energy, innovative, reckless to fault, and utterly devoted to catch up with compensation for wrongs done to him and mete out vengeance to those he could catch.  His cultural center of gravity  Reynaud de Chatilliion is an ideal example of a vicious cycle of the victim becoming the victimizer

The cultural template and drama diagrams of any given culture may assign a high emotional content to certain geographic locations (Jerusalem, Mecca, Damascus, Rome) which may or may not have much to do with military or economic considerations.  That they have social significance makes them important to the Cultural Center of Gravity.

There is also a good chance that the “Cookie Jar” is also a Center of Gravity” in the Clauswitzean sense around which important outcomes are sought.   The ports of the Levant were the last to fall to Islam and the mainstay of the defense of Crusade territory. 

The Cultural Center of Gravity (CCOG)
Given these disparate persons and a tool to analyze their individual and collective cultural strategies, it is possible to make estimates (SWAG) on the Cultural Center of Gravity based on how each of the rules weigh against each other and which dominate the survival strategies.

This is a CCOG analysis diagram for a notional Knight Templar. 
The Order was a military organization under the religious Rule of Bernard

We show here that the Social Status of fealty to the Cross and the Order is the single strongest rule in accordance with the Rule of St Bernard de Clairvaux.   The travails of the physical world as well as the pleasure is subordinate to the Rule.  We find a similar emphasis with a notional Saracen warrior of faith.

By way of contrast, we can take a notional member of a crime family (Mafia, Corse, Soprano, Yakuza, or Corleone) whose focus on “Da Business” as a set of obligations in the acquisition of wealth and firepower.  The issue of “face” is important in this culture, insults to face can only be washed with blood and/or cash.  The Cultural Center of Gravity shifts to the right compared with the religious orders.
Based on a cultural analysis of the Corleone-Soprano Family
The relation between face, fortune, body and ground in this world is often quite literal.


Descent from Mohammed the Prophet is an inherent legitimacy in Arab succession.  That the Arab keeps very close tabs on heredity issues is a direct carry over from breeding the best horses in the world.  The comprehensive integration of Islamic law into political life grants the interpreter of the will of Allah an edge in political affairs that can supersede civil and political obligations.  
The roles of hero and villain are reversed depending on being a hero or a villain
The written works of Islam have provided a template for governance, economics, and social life that has  had a long shelf life.  The impact of the Crusader presence in the Holy Land has made social and political evolution more hesitant lest “crusader” influence will jeopardize Islam.  This concern took a highly sophisticated in science, the arts, and governance into eventually a more conservative and controlling attitude towards innovation. The Ottoman presence reinforced that to keep Turkish control over non-Turkish peoples.

That we have Sunni, Shi’a and Salafist competing factions today after 1400 years, is a clue as to what counts as authority in Islam.  The post WW1 departure of the Ottoman authority  which had assumed the religious and political mantle of the Arab caliphates for over five hundred years plus another two hundred under Seljuk Turkish rule left a vacuum for that dual source of authority that combines both secular and religious.

The time of the Crusades marked the transition of Arab caliphates from Arab control to various factions of Turkish control.
El Cid and Saladin

The Turks who had defeated and taken over the former Arab kingdoms and empires legitimized In part by conversion to Islam, created “slave” armies with no previous connections of blood or obligations that might rival the Sultans.  The most famous of these were the Mameluks, followed after the Crusades with the Janissaries.  .

 Saladin led a slave army to conquer Egypt.  These slave armies had an undesirable habit of going independent as soon as the conquest was complete.  Saladin established his own dynasty on such a slave army. We know them as Mameluks, who Napoleon integrated into the French Army.  He used them to restore order when order needed to be restored,

Temujin, the Genghis Khan

The succession of the tribal or clan CEO in migrating or nomadic peoples was the survival of the survival of the most dangerous.  The China, India, the Middle East, and Europe had little to fear from the Mongols unless an able warrior climbed to the top of a pile of murdered relative and rivals.  Such was Temujin, later called Genghis Khan whose father was murdered. His mother and he were expelled from the tribe, and left to fend for themselves in the wild.  

From cast out, sold as a slave, double crossed to the emperor of history's largest empire
(that's a lot of brown stamps)
The extensive grasslands of the Steppes provided the fodder to fuel the life style and war across an entire continent.  The terrain was relatively flat so enormous wagons drawn by oxen carried huge Yurts filled with supplies.  This rich and flat land promoted factionalism in tribes and families.

Genghis Khan replaced the tribal basis of organization into multiples of ten, with collective responsibility of the whole for the successes and failures of one. He added a courier and reconnaissance capability, likely as a result of contract with the advanced state of the military art in China.  Promotion in the Mongol Hordes was based on merit.  Consequently, the quality of the top leadership and the chain of command were world class above and beyond anyone else’s.
Do it before it is done to you, and ride like the wind

Later the  Ottomans solved the problem of the loose slave army problem by kidnapping Christian children into the Janissaries, an elite and ferocious fighting force whose atrocities would make the SS turn green with envy.

Hic desinit lectio