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This may be a stupid question, but when an ,,army" (for example 3 corps) is defending, do all of its subunits, all brigades, divisions,etc. dig in and get in a defensive 1 or 2 echelon formation or do only the battalions or brigades that are in the front do that, while the remaining units don't dig in at all (for example the division or corp that isn't in the first echelon) ?

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At the operational level its often similar to a platoon in the attack or defense in terms of formation. If I have 5 divisions, I usually put 3 up front in defense or in the attack and 2 or 1 behind as a reserve or breakthrough, if it is a armored unit.

This can pretty much be used all the way up to the army group level if you want too take it that far, of course this wildly varies depending on nationality and situation of whatever force you are using.

Edited by Raptorx7
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Sorry I kind of wrote the question the wrong way, I understand the 1 or 2 echelon option thing and that you can use it everywhere, but what I want to know is entrenchement and which units actually entrench and which ones don't, let's say that you have a corps, it has 3 divisions, two divisions are in the front and one is in the back, now, which units here entrench, all (all subunits in both first and 2 echelon divisions) or only some at the front (for example some or all subunits in the first echelon divisions, but none in the ,,third" second echelon division)?

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What I have gleaned from my readings is that at the option of the local commander, if you expect to get shot at, shelled, or bombed, you dig in. And that can be anywhere in the entire theater. Digging in was such a basic self-preservation technique that prudent warriors tended to do it wherever they were close to anything that might draw fire of any caliber. And those who thought they were too far from the front to bother sometimes got a nasty surprise. The existence of air forces meant that ordnance could be delivered almost anywhere on the map.

Michael

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The question is a little vague and to "theoretic".

On the individual level, certainly everybody will look for cover and dig in, as Michael said. But that is not "entrenchment".

In a grander scale, "entrenchment" may not always be the best choice, anyway. Depending on the overall situation, one may want to preserve flexibility and mobility in defense. 

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Hmmmm... I think Sun Tzu wrote somefink like the rule of thirds. One for attack, one for defence and one for retreat. So I figured if you have a six shooter that would mean 2 bullets for the attack, two for defence and two for retreat. Spoiler alert: I use this tactic while playing PBEM...

 

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The question is a little vague and to "theoretic".

On the individual level, certainly everybody will look for cover and dig in, as Michael said. But that is not "entrenchment".

Good point. If by "entrenchment" you mean the whole nine yards with minefields and wire backed by fighting positions with overhead cover, cleared overlapping fields of fire, and artillery registrations, that kind of thing would not normally extend to a depth of more than a couple of kilometers, if that much.

Michael

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Good point. If by "entrenchment" you mean the whole nine yards with minefields and wire backed by fighting positions with overhead cover, cleared overlapping fields of fire, and artillery registrations, that kind of thing would not normally extend to a depth of more than a couple of kilometers, if that much.

Michael

Well, that's how I understood his second post. Entrenchment WW1 style, with all the shebang.

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  • 1 month later...

The answer is it really depends on time available and needs.  Digging in deep takes a lot of time and effort, and rarely are those available.  When we did our defensive planning at the Company level at least, it was generally picking a limited number of positions in the most valuable locations and that's it.  So as an example if I had three tank platoons, I might be able to build enough hull down positions for six of the twelve tanks I had, or three to four turret down positions.  So then it was all about picking what I needed and where they'd do the most good (likely the platoon that would initiate firing, or even possibly the position that would support our retrograde).  

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... and, on the other hand, the Germans famously prepared numerous entire defensive belts tens or hundreds of miles behind the current FEBA. Mind you, that was in Italy, and they pretty much knew that sooner or later they would be using those positions.

Edited by JonS
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8 hours ago, panzersaurkrautwerfer said:

The answer is it really depends on time available and needs.

Yes, and also on what kind and how much engineering assets are available. I honestly don't know and would like to learn what's in the TO&E of modern tank companies and/or battalions. I think that during the '73 war the Israelis sometimes attached a bulldozer directly to each tank company so that if the company had halted where they expected to encounter the enemy, the 'dozer could at least prepare hasty positions that would allow the tanks to assume hull down in the direction of the enemy.

But this level of support would almost never be seen in the WW II era. Assets would have to be assigned from the division's engineering battalion and then only on a strict case by case temporary basis. At least that is my understanding as of now.

Michael

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3 hours ago, Michael Emrys said:

Yes, and also on what kind and how much engineering assets are available. I honestly don't know and would like to learn what's in the TO&E of modern tank companies and/or battalions. I think that during the '73 war the Israelis sometimes attached a bulldozer directly to each tank company so that if the company had halted where they expected to encounter the enemy, the 'dozer could at least prepare hasty positions that would allow the tanks to assume hull down in the direction of the enemy.

But this level of support would almost never be seen in the WW II era. Assets would have to be assigned from the division's engineering battalion and then only on a strict case by case temporary basis. At least that is my understanding as of now.

Michael

When my tank company operated as a Company Team* we were supposed to receive an engineer squad in a EFV (which is just a Bradley with tool racks).  For us that generally would have meant someone who knew what they were doing to set up mines, wire and other obstacles, and help build fighting positions for the attached infantry platoon.  If we were called to occupy a position generally we'd get so many hours of time with a heavy equipment element.  Again the "blade time" would vary widely.  They might show up with enough time to dig a hull down position for literally every piece of equipment in the company, but discover the earth was too hard for more than hull scrapes.  

As a Commander you generally figured out which platoon positions needed the defenses most (or would best benefit from them).  Then you worked your way down until you'd planned out a position for pretty much every piece of equipment in the company.  Basically you hoped they'd get through enough of the high priority stuff to maybe get all of your primary positions dug, and then maybe make some alternate, supplementary and subsequent positions**. 

However in armored units many units will be more "concealed" than in defensive positions.  Ideally in US Army logic, the point of the defensive is to gain time to resume the offensive.  In that regard, in the new MTOE at the Brigade level, the Cavalry Squadron occupies forward positions to deny the enemy reconnaissance objectives, and identify the enemy main effort, and to disrupt the enemy attack*+.  One Combined Arms Battalion occupies a series of defensive positions along the most likely enemy approaches.  The other two remain uncommitted to the rear to counter-attack once the enemy attack has lost momentum (leaving them at their most vulnerable), or initiate pursuit if the offensive is very successful.

Armor simply is designed as an offensive weapon, even in defensive missions its mobility and firepower are its strongest tools.  

* TM D would have looked like had North Korea attacked South Korea circa 2012-2014:

D HQ (2 M1s, 1 BFIST, 1 M113, 1 M113 Ambulance, 3 HMMWV, 1 Cargo Truck+rotating logistical element, usually 1x HEMMIT Fueler, 1x HEMMIT with ammo)
1/D (4 M1)
2/D (4 M1)
3/B (4 M2+3 Infantry Squads)
1 Engineer Squad
1 Stinger team

** Primary is the main position to fire into an engagement area.
Alternate is different position still firing into the engagement area, think of it as a position you go to when the artillery gets too thick on the primary
Supplementary is a position covering a different engagement area.  Like if the enemy is most likely to go through EA Tiger, Supplementary positions cover the approaches through EA Leopard which is a possible, but not as likely enemy avenue of approach.
Subsequent positions are sort of like Alternates on steroids.  They're where you go once you've retrograding for the next engagement.  

*+ Basically inducing chaos early.  You want the least chaos on the approach during an attack because as stuff becomes unhinged, it's harder to fight and control a unit.  Ideally the screening scouts induce that chaos, and make it more difficult for the enemy to effectively mass fires and forces on friendly elements.  

Or in a simple analogy, they're there to punch the bad guys in the face, bloody their noses, and then slip out of the way to let the unbloody and fresh defenders continue the fight.  

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Thanks, pk, that was an informative post. After the end of the Cold War, most of my news sources on developments in weaponry and tactics seemed to dry up and blow away, and I have not been so well informed. So any time you feel moved to write about anything that isn't classified, feel free. I'm sure I won't be the only one who appreciates it.

Michael

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3 hours ago, panzersaurkrautwerfer said:

...although you all missed on the employment of microarmor and whiteboards to demonstrate it.  Sorry.

:D

I guess my imagination will just have to suffice. (Though I'll bet microarmor does come in really handy for these kinds of demonstrations.) The next step will be setting up a CM scenario that can be played out on an iPad and having the class download it onto their PDAs.

Michael

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