82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC


Sherman medium tank with bangalore torpedoes attached


Much is being written about the Steven Spielberg film, "Saving Private Ryan" and its war realism, particularly the landing craft being swept by enemy fire on the opening scenese of D-Day, 1944. Our concern should be that while the film illustrates battle realities that it may send a wrong message of futility in using ground combat power to win wars. What the film should do is spur us to action to see that we do not repeat the carnage by a better equipped and prepared ground combat U.S. Army.

The tragedy is that North Korea is increasing its aggression with midget submarine emplaced saboteurs and war may be imminent. the scenes from SPR may soon be repeated if we do not act. First, we need to realize that there are ALWAYS better ways of going about fighting. The landing craft in SPR should have had an armored shield that pops up when the bow ramp goes down to fix the landing craft onto the beach. This shield can absorb and deflect enemy fire as the infantry pours out the sides. WHY DIDN'T ANYONE THINK OF THIS THEN? Today, we have body armor that can stop bullets that cut down the men on Normandy's beaches. We can create a small gunshield on the end of their weapons to deflect bullets away. But we are not doing this. WHY?

Once the war begins its too late to design better equipment and train in a better force structure. Today, we are at risk of another D-Day level bloodbath on the Korean peninsula because we are placing men on the forward slopes and not digging in properly. At the war planning levels we are still enamored with WWII style amphibious assaults (we will not have 57 days to pull off another seaborne "Inchon") when the way to gain surprise on today's tele-communications equipped enemy is by AIR DELIVERY, and these troops must have light armored fighting vehicles to move out rapidly from drop zones (not just retake airfields held or destroyed by the enemy) and be protected from massive enemy artillery fire. To "Save Private Ryan" today we need to make changes quickly before it is too late. We need to do "D-Day" better today.


One of the reasons why the British beat the Argentines in the 1982 Falklands War was because they defended from the Reverse Slope while the "Argies" were on the forward slopes where tremendous fires were brought to bear before the defenders weapons were even in range to fight back. The U.S. military is doing the same thing in Korea and this is an invitation to annihilation by massive North Korean rocket and tube artillery. A Reverse Slope or minimum defilade defense is nothing more than a "hull down" position tanks use but for infantry. Only Listening Posts/Observation Posts--(OP/LPs) well camouflaged are on the orward slope so we see the enemy and he doesn't see us to either bypass entirely by his armored mobility or rain down artillery fires on us while we are helpless to fight back. Details of the reverse slope defense can be found here at the U.S. Army Center for Lessons Learned link below:


You do not need to physically be on the terrain in order to control it. You can "own" it by fire. If you view and study films of the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan you will see that they controlled the mountain pass roads with long range ambushes. They were a long way away from the Russian AFVs and trucks when they opened fired. By engaging at maximum range from surprise positions occupied only a few minutes before the motor column arrives, the sucked their prey sucessfully into their trap.

The next problem area is overhead cover----the U.S. Army has just fielded a new Fighting Position Overhead Cover (NSN : 5450-01-430-2081 or FPOC system that needs to be shipped in massive quatities to the 2d Infantry Division in Korea and used at once to create individual fighting positions that can withstand North Korean bombardments.



FPOCs and light troops can be moved rapidly by All-Terrain Bikes


... and Carts to engage enemy troops without being observed by the enemy to have artillery/mortars called down on them.


All motor vehicles must be sandbagged within minutes after the alert signal is given. A layer of sandbags on SPR's landing craft would have stopped machine gun bullets cold. All troops should have their body armor and TA-50/weapon ready to go with food/ammo for a 3 day fight by their side.


Our world is rapidly urbanizing. Today, with the M728 CEV 165mm demolition gun retired, the M551 Sheridan's 152mm gun sent to NTC as a war game prop, U.S. light forces have no means to blast open buildings for entry holes, or reduce them without having to hand emplace demolition charges. This is tragic and men will die needlessly since we can mount M40A2 106mm Recoilless Rifles or even old Sheridan turrets on selected M113A3 Gavins to redress this weakness. This is all part of the reality that today's U.S. military man doesn't want to actually fight and win wars--- he wants to play with electronic gadgets and move computer icons so he can get his "20" year retirement or General's star without any risk. Perhaps we should buy tickets to the film SPR and distribute them to ever U.S. military officer above the rank of Major and ask them what they are doing about it today?

If a smart North Korea seizes and destroys the South Korean's airfields/ports the only forces that will be able to deploy will be nearby marines onto predictable beaches where they will be massacred ala SPR or by AIR the U.S. Army's Airborne Forces in Alaska, North Carolina and the 25th Light Infantry Division in Hawaii. None of these forces have any light tanks or light armored personnel carriers to move them, so they will take heavy casualties from North Korean artillery fire. With the NATIONAL GUARD in possession of 11-ton, easy to airdrop M113A3 Gavin AFVs there is NO EXCUSE why large quantities of M113A3s not be supplied to the Army's light forces poised to respond to a Korean war to provide them the armored mobility and shock action to sever a North Korean Army's logistic lines in an AIRBORNE reprise of the Inchon landings that saved the day in the last Korean War.


Now since there is time we should DEMAND that a handful of defective $60 million dollar FA/-18F Super Hornet jets NOT BE PURCHASED so we can buy 50 x $5 million each M8 Buford Armored Gun System light tanks to outfit the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment of the XVIII Airborne Corps. We crash enough jets in a few months to pay for the one time purchase of light tanks that would last us for decades of combat use.

M8 AGS Light Tanks

Talk is cheap. If we want to save our "Private Ryans" we need to DO SOMETHING more than just vow to use only air strikes to wage the next war, which will not work to save a nation from ground invasion/occupation. These light tanks will be vital so our light troops can blast pockets of enemy resistance, their armored vehicles, bunkers and buildings since we will be outnumbered and can ill afford to lose a single Soldier/Paratrooper during the first desperate hours/days of a North Korean invasion.


If we are going to have to hand-emplace demolition charges then the key is SPEED---doing this as fast as we can with as much cover and concealment as possible.

Begin with the standard demolition charge attached to engineer stakes to the desired height to lay against the building to create a mouse-hole. Tie a half-filled sandbag on bottom to act as its anchor to conform to the pavement/ground and hold it steady.

The pole charge is placed on top of the M113A3 Gavin roof by quick-release tie down straps or bungee cords. The Combat Engineer M113A3 drives to the building and turns "nose in" to create a shielded triangular area for the Combat Engineers to work. Smoke grenades are thrown to mask them, and the M2 .50 HMG or Mk-19 40mm fired to suppress the enemy. They run out the rear ramp to lean up the pole charge or better yet lay the pole on the ground against the building from the open troop hatch--not leaving the vehicle at all. The M60 fuse ignitor is pulled and the vehicle is "buttoned up" and pulls forward to evade the explosion and debris.


Waiting behind the pole charge Combat Engineers, are Infantry with aluminum ladders attached by quick-release straps or bungee cords to the sides of their armored HMMWVs, M113A3s or M2s. Again, this is a field expedient and not ideal. The best solution is a M113A3 Gavin with a VAMP assault capsule than can be raised exactly to the spot desired on the building for forced entry.

But again we are stuck with the non-warriors making decisions for the Army so we have to "make do". The ladders are painted a flat brown color and two half-filled sand bags attached to their bottoms for anchoring/stability. Immediately after the pole charge goes off, the ladder team drives up to the opening with the same nose-in shielding technique used before. Smoke grenades thrown, vehicle weapons fired to suppress the enemy. The rear ramp is lowered, the men get out and remove the ladder from the shielded side of the vehicle. They then erect it to the desired height and lay it against the building's hole. A MK3A2 concussion grenade is thrown in by the lead assault climber into the room to stun the enemy. Then he enters the building quickly followed by the rest of the vehicle squad. All troops wearing fire-resistant nomex BDUs and hard body armor with gunshields on their shoulder weapons. The sand bags on the ladder's bottom keep it in place so noone has to hold it steady.

It may be possible after trial and error to erect the ladder from the M113A3 or M2 having the assault troops climb up from their top hatches and enter the building with the ladder resting on the vehicle roof exploiting these vehicle's height. In this case, the AFV would park parrallel alongside the building for forced-entry.

In this way, Urban Assault Infantry can attack buildings from the top-down without having to use predictable helicopter rooftop assaults or window entries


In WW2, British General Percy Hobart had a Sapper Tank with a bangalore charge fitted to a pole so wire and minefields could be breached without having to expose men on foot to piece together the bangalore (remember Lee Marvin scene in the movie, "The Big Red One"?)

Rocker-launched line charges are notoriously unreliable; so why not MECHANICALLY PLACE THEM FROM A PROTECTED TANK?

(12 June 1997)

According to the information I received on the ESMB (Explosive Stand-off Minefield Breacher) at the Ft. Benning Infantry Conference recently I was shocked to learn that the Bangalore torpedo is supposed to be retired from the force. Every Soldier I talked to with countermine experience is adamant about keeping the Bangalore in service. This is a terrible mistake that I hope we'll reconsider since a rocket cannot fly through overhead obstructions like wooded terrain, jungle canopy and buildings. Line charge rockets are also notorious for not flying straight, though when they work they are quick and reduce personnel exposure to enemy fire. What I urge you to do is consider keeping the Bangalore for its controllability and IMPROVE it by a Vehicle Emplaced Banglore (VEB) capability.,. I described the idea to Major John Kelleher at the show and he though the idea had merit and had a few ideas himself.

The VEB would be would be a way to emplace the Bangalore safely from behind the armor of a M113A3 Gavin or M2A2 Bradley IFV via a hydraulic arm or as Major Kelleher suggested a simple 'chute or tunnel with rollers under the vehicle. As the engineers push the bangalore through, they would push it out then, back up with the vehicle to a safe distance and detonate the charge. A larger Bangalore could even be developed to clear a path for armored vehicles. The VEB would most importantly work in restricted terrain, and could be supplied to Airborne and Light Infantry Division combat engineers since the M113A3 weighs exactly as a 5-ton truck used by these units, is air-droppable, swims and requires only a driver and TC. A VEB conveyance could even be developed to attach to the underside of a up-armored HMMWV for extremely light units like Rangers and Special Forces. Another plus of VEB is that the vehicle would carry the Bangalore torpedo sections, not the backs of our Soldiers-Paratroopers. VEB solves almost all the risks associated with Bangalore emplacement.

I believe the VEB can be developed at an extremely low-cost and would make all of the thousands of Bangalore torpedoes in the system a viable asset for the 21st Century. The ESMB would be for open terrain, the VEB for restricted terrain, complimenting each other.