Tuesday, July 20, 2010


9 “Joshua therefore sent them out; and they went to lie in ambush, and stayed between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua lodged that night among the people.
10 Then Joshua rose up early in the morning and mustered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.
11 And all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near; and they came before the city and camped on the north side of Ai. Now a valley lay between them and Ai.
12 So he took about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.
13 And when they had set the people, all the army that was on the north of the city, and its rear guard on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.

14 Now it happened, when the kind of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose early and went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at an appointed place before the plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against behind the city.
15 And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them and fled by the way of the wilderness.
16 So all the people who were in Ai were called together to pursue them. And they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city.
17 There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. So they left the city open and pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the spear that was in his hand toward the city.
19 So those in ambush arose quickly out of their place; they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, and they entered the city and took it, and hurried to set the city on fire.
20 And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and behold, the smoke of the city ascended to heaven. So they had no power to flee this way or that way, and the people who had fled to the wilderness turned back on the pursuers.

21 Now when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and struck down the men of Ai.
22 Then the others came out of the city against them; so they were caught in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side. And they struck them down, so that they let none of them remain or escape."

Joshua and the Israelites burn the City of Ai. Or the Obamas leaving Washington. It's hard to tell from the picture.

From this we can see that the ambush is hardly a new tactic. However, it has remained a quite viable tactic ever since, even in this age of high-tech modern weaponry, simply because it works and, properly executed, works very well. The standard, by-the-book L-shaped ambush has been done to death; it can be found in just about any military manual, all infantry manuals, and you even occasionally see it diagrammed on restaurant placemats. So we’ll take a look at some of the less common methods used by insurgents and other non-Western military forces.

First, however, here are a few tips applicable to just about any ambush situation from Colonel Frank Herbert, a no-nonsense professional warrior on the order of David Hackworth.

A. Surprise-getting into position in secrecy. This means, generally, no digging in, no movement at site, no eating there, no smoking, no hair oil smell on troops, silence, etc.
B. All around security at site-emplaced in such a way that their firepower can also be utilized during the ambush covering the entire target zone¬
C. Insure that your troops are spread out enough to be able to provide fire over the entire target.
D. Shock action -opening fire must be as heavy as possible (automatic), and the entire target must come under fire at initial burst.
E. Take time to do the job correctly - you have time, the enemy doesn't react any quicker than we do; no follow up unit is about to come racing in to any place where another unit has just been creamed, so no need to race off.
F. Rally on the objective site-assault element rallies on the target, search, finish the job, etc. Organize for with¬drawal, issue a short order, then move out-organized and under control, ready to fight again -picking up security elements as you pull out.

The Canadian Army has a complete manual devoted entirely to ambush and counter-ambush. They list these real-life “lessons learned” of mistakes to avoid while making an ambush.

a. Disclosure of the ambush by the noise made by cocking weapons and moving safety catches or change levers. Check your weapons, practise men in silent handling and ensure that all weapons are ready to fire.
b. A tendency to shoot high at the face of the enemy. This can be corrected by conducting night range practices utilising night vision devices and fixing bayonets when possible.
c. Disclosure of the ambush position by footprints made by the ambush party moving into position and by the movement of individuals at the crucial time when the enemy is approaching.
d. A lack of fire control as commanders were unable to stop the firing and start the immediate follow-up.
e. Commanders were badly sited with consequent lack of control.
f. A lack of all-round observation resulting in enemy arriving in the area of an ambush unannounced.
g. Misfires and stoppages through failure to clean, inspect, and test weapons and magazines.
h. A lack of a clearly defined drill for opening fire.
i. A tendency for all to select and fire at the same targets.
j. Fire opened prematurely.

I also thought it worth of note that in the counter-insurgency manuals used by British, Gurkha and former Commonwealth forces in Malaya, as well as the Rhodesian ATOPs manual all stressed marksmanship. In fact, from the British ATOM manual, the #1 principle for successful ambush was stated as: “Good shooting from all positions: kneeling, sitting, standing, lying and from behind cover.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. No matter how well-sited the ambush positions, at the moment of that first burst of fire the enemy is going to hit the dirt and there are going to be dead spaces that direct fire will not reach. At that point, with the enemy down out of line-of-sight, just pouring in fire is going to go harmlessly right over them. Insurgents in particular try to flee an ambush, rather than assault. Thus, if you change your position you change your vantage point, especially going from prone to kneeling or standing, and have more clear shots at the targets you would not otherwise see or be able to hit.

Now, for the last of the quotes from the manuals, the following ambush tenet comes from the Partisan Leader’s Guide, a small manual developed for the French Maquis operating in German-occupied France. I particularly like it because it is a no-frills KISS guide that gives a good basic how-to overview without all the bullshit and fancy words.

1. Planning.
(a) Find out by what roads small detachments and patrols of the enemy are accustomed to move. Select on one of these roads a locality which offers a good opportunity for ambushing.

2. Locality. The following points should be looked for in selecting the locality for the ambush.
(a) A line of retreat must be available which will give all the men a safe and sure way of escape. A thick wood, broken and rocky country, etc., give the best cover.
(b) Firing positions are required which enable fire to be opened at point-blank range. When there is no chance of prior discovery by the enemy, it may sometimes be of advantage to improve the position by building a stone or sandbag parapet. This should not be done, however, unless it can be concealed from aircraft.
(c) The locality should provide at least two fire positions and it is often better if these are on opposite sides of the road.
(d) It is best if the fire position enables the approaching enemy to be in view for three or four hundred yards. By this means it can be discovered in time if the enemy is in greater strength than expected; in such case the enemy should be allowed to pass without being attacked.

3. Information.
Then get the following information:--
(a) Do the detachments move on foot, mounted, or in motor vehicles?
(b) What is the average strength of these detachments? How are they armed? How many vehicles?
(c) Do they use armoured cars and light tanks to patrol the roads?
(d) At what times do they pass the place you have chosen?
(e) Do they move in one block, or do they put men out in front and behind to guard against surprise? How do these men move, and how far from the main body?
(f) How will they try to summon assistance if attacked? Where is the nearest place such assistance can come from?
(g) If the detachment is carrying supplies, are those supplies of a type which can be easily destroyed by you, or be of use to you?
(h) What sort of troops are they, active or reserve, elderly, young, or what? Is there an officer with them? Can he be picked out and shot by the first volley? Can the N.C.O.s be picked out as well?

4. Action.
(a) The men must get into position without any chance of discovery. If there is any doubt, the position must be occupied by night.
(b) Sentries must be posted to give warning of the enemy’s approach. They must be in sight of the firing position. It is not necessary to use guerillas for all sentry posts; a woman or child can sometimes be employed with advantage as they need not be in hiding.
(c) A simple system of signaling by sentries must be arranged. This can be the removal of a hat, doing up a shoelace or any natural action of that nature.
(d) If the enemy detachment is preceded by scouts, or a scouting vehicle, these should be allowed to pass on and not be fired at. Sometimes, however, it may be advantageous to place one or two guerillas further on from the firing position to shoot these scouts. They must never be fired on, however, before the main attack begins; the guerilla leader must make certain this is known and understood.
(e) The leader must give the signal to open fire. This can either be pre-arranged or given at the moment. Fire must be rapid fire, so as to have an immediate overwhelming effect.
(f) Two or three of the best shots must be detailed to shoot any officers or N.C.O.s. If these cannot be recognized by their uniform, they can be discovered by noting who is shouting orders, etc.
(g) If the enemy appears to be destroyed, and it is intended to destroy or loot any cars or lorries, men for this task must be detailed beforehand. The rest must remain ready to open fire in case enemy are concealed in the lorries, or reinforcements arrive.
(h) The leader must give the signal to retire, and this signal must be unmistakable.
To judge the correct moment to break off the action is the leader’s most difficult task. If the opening volleys of fire have not disorganized the enemy, it will probably be better to retire immediately, and be content with the damage done. If, however, the enemy detachment is completely destroyed, the opportunity should always be taken to seize all rifles, ammunitions, etc., and destroy or loot all other material. All papers and documents found should be taken away for examination. The dead must be searched for anything that may be useful.
(i) Remember that soldiers will always face the direction from which they are being fired at. It is usually best therefore to divide the party into two groups, on different sides of the road, of which only one group should fire first. The enemy will then face towards this group and start to attack and fire. The other group must then shoot the enemy in the back.
(j) Sentries must remain in position until the leader gives the signal to retire.
(k) Retirement when begun should be as rapid and dispersed as possible, ie., the party must break up, and collect again as the leader may have ordered. Make full use of the time until the enemy hears of the attack to get right away from the scene.
(l) All wounded guerillas must be carried away if possible. It may be useful to have a few horses hidden at a short distance to carry wounded.

It's hard to tell which makes for the worst ambushes, the cities or the mountains of Chechnya.
Fighting the Russians in Chechnya, the jihadists have taken the age-old ambush and added some new twists. I’m no big fan of Muslims, but one can sometimes learn even more from your enemies than you can your allies. Not only the restricted streets and abundant cover and concealment in the big cities such as Grozny aided the jihadists, but the surrounding mountains and forests also provided plenty of good ambush sites.

As always, the most likely spots for ambushes are bridges, confined areas, hidden turns in a road, slopes and crests of hills, large forests, mountain passes, and gorges. The Chechens also use the age-old axiom of choosing a place which assures concealment of the ambush’s and the ambushers’ location and guarantees the element of surprise, effective fire from weapons and munitions, and the opportunity for rapid withdrawal.

“The insurgents intend ambushes either to impede or to destroy (or capture) the enemy. The type of ambush chosen depends on the combat situation, the correlation of forces, and the terrain. If the purpose is to delay the movement of forces and assets, to alter their direction, or to force a premature deployment into combat positions, then the insurgents can use a significantly smaller force than they would need for ambushes to destroy or capture the enemy. While only a few insurgents can detain a company-size or smaller unit for several hours, destroying the unit requires a militant force of comparable size. Depending on the location, the tactical formation, and the method of action, ambushes might be what are called meeting, parallel, or circular.

The meeting ambush.
The meeting ambush is usually stationary and set up on the federal force’s route of movement. The insurgents’ goal is to pin units down or to destroy advance units. Insurgents often use the meeting ambush on small units and the transport assets that follow behind them independently. The guerrillas set up the ambush site well in advance, prepare reserve and false positions, and select withdrawal routes. They often use the meeting ambush in combination with a simultaneous feint on some other objective to cause reserve forces to move toward that objective.

The parallel ambush.
Insurgents use the parallel ambush along a convoy’s axis of advance. The parallel ambush’s objectives are the convoy’s security force, reconnaissance elements, rear columns, and sometimes the main force. The main body of insurgents disperses along one or both sides of the movement route.

The circular ambush.
The most difficult ambush to prepare and execute is the circular ambush. Anticipating the movement of enemy forces and assets, insurgent groups position themselves along the perimeter of a preselected area. The first group opens fire on a convoy’s flank, initiating the battle, and then withdraws, drawing the convoy’s attention toward it. The other groups act in a similar manner, forcing federal forces to repel attacks from several directions or to advance in various directions. In some circumstances, the ambushed force loses control of the situation, including losing its command and control. If that happens, the force is doomed.

Depending on the mission, forces of 10 to 20 insurgents carry out ambushes, although sometimes ambush forces might exceed 100. They position themselves along several lines. The size of the ambushing detachment varies depending on the goal and the forces available. The detachment might include a fire or strike group; a diversionary group; a group that impedes the maneuver or withdrawal of federal forces (pins them down); a reserve group; and a group that observes, handles communications, and informs. If the detachment has heavy weapons, the detachment will also have a transport group.

The primary force is the fire or strike group that kills soldiers and destroys equipment. Positioned near the zone of the planned actions, the primary force includes riflemen, a group for capturing prisoners and weapons, and demolitions specialists.

The diversionary group takes a position some distance away from the ambush kill zone. The diversionary group’s mission is to draw retaliatory fire from the security force (and sometimes the main force) and to support the strike group’s surprise actions. The diversionary group is the first to act. The signal to begin might be a mine explosion or a demolition charge. Positioned along the same axis as the strike group, the diversionary group fires on approaching federal forces from a greater distance and then withdraws. As members of the attacked federal force pursue the diversionary group, they open themselves to a flank attack.

Occupying positions along the presumed axes of the federal force’s movement, usually along the only possible axes, the group that impedes the maneuver and withdrawal of the federal force lays out land mines and other obstacles along these axes. If necessary, the reserve group reinforces the strike group or the blocking group. The reserve group’s mission is to support the main force’s exit from the battle. The group monitors the situation and covers the detachment’s flanks and rear.

The group that observes, communicates, and informs does not participate in the battle; its concern is reconnaissance, determining when federal forces will move out from their encampment area and in what direction. The insurgents in this group listen in on conversations over non-secure radio nets, follow the convoys, and report on their movement to the detachment’s main force. Personnel in this group can operate without weapons. They “land” like birds on the convoy’s tail and later pass by as though they were just random travelers. The transport group hides out along the detachment’s planned lines of withdrawal and stands ready to evacuate the detachment and any prisoners or weapons taken.

In a typical ambush, the insurgents usually allow federal scouts and security elements moving ahead of the convoy to pass by. Using a remotely controlled blast mine, the insurgents knock out the main force’s forward vehicles and then concentrate fire on command vehicles and the center of the convoy.”

American doctrine writers are absolutely horrified by the very thought of the chance of fratricide from having ambush forces on both sides of a target, what with volume over accuracy being the name of the shooting game. With all those bullets flying back and forth, the possibility of fratricide is indeed real. However, if basically untrained Maquis and Chechen rebels can pull off a circular ambush, if the VC, Mujahideen, and Taliban can do the same, there’s no reason a true team of good men with crack marksmanship could not do so as well.

During the early phases of the Korean Conflict when UN forces restricted their offensive warfare to the low ground and valleys, the Communist forces used an inverted-V formation in conjunction with a mobile force. The Hachi Shiki tactic involved the more mobile CCF light infantry forces withdrawing to the rugged high ground, and then permitting road-bound United Nations troops to enter the V, at which time a superior numerical force encircled the attacking column and closed the V.

“As one North Korean POW stated: “Our troops make strategic withdrawals when the enemy (UN) attacks; our troops then attack from the flanks and encircle the enemy with superior numerical strength. In most cases the enemy (UN) had no additional forces on their own flanks to assist them…”

Enemy groups occupied the forward slopes of ridges paralleling low ground and placed fire on the United Nations columns. An attempt was made to destroy the first and last vehicle of a column to canalize and halt movement on the narrow roads. A sizeable enemy force deployed to the rear to prevent retreat of friendly units and the arrival of UN reinforcements.”
Once an ambushed has been fragmented and/or surrounded, this tactic has supposedly been tried, according to H John Poole. Once a force has the enemy surrounded completely, rather than send an assault crashing in full tilt with guns blazing, they move in on their bellies, with camouflage and stealth, taking only an occasional well-aimed shot to pick off an unwary defender, especially if they’re looking the other way, slowly shrinking the noose about the surrounded unit.

The Viet Cong had absolutely no compunction about possible fratricide due to their tactic of ambushing from prepared dug-in bunkers. In fact, if they were to get a friendly unit to deploy too far forward or if they were able to maneuver behind, they had no problem with shooting into the enemy from all points of the compass, rather like the old joke about the Polish firing squad. It was their fighting positions which enabled them to do this in relative safety. Here’s what the Marine Corps learned about these positions and tactics.

“The enemy permits the friendly force to penetrate his position, seals the opening, and destroys the force trapped inside.

+ Bunkers are constructed from locally available materials.
+Positions are interconnecting and mutually supporting.
+ Firing apertures are small, located close to the ground, and extremely hard to see.
+ Fire lanes are cleared of brush and growth up to 18 inches high and are difficult to detect.
+ In some areas, particularly in I CTZ, the fortifications are directional in nature.
+ Camouflage is exceptional; in most instances, bunkers cannot be detected until the unit is fired upon.
+ Bunkers are built with a very low silhouette that blends into the natural growth of the area.
+ Trench lines are constructed in depth; tunnels connect these trench lines and provide safe and easy access to the numerous bunkers and fortifications.
+ With the connecting tunnels and trenches, the enemy can move his forces and bring pressure to bear in any location.
+ Bypassed bunkers may be reoccupied, if not destroyed by the attacking unit.
+ NVA units will outflank the attacking force, probe and find the weak point, and attack the flanks and rear of the unit.”

Even without the protection of their well-concealed stout bunkers, the NVA and VC still conducted U-shaped ambushes, very similar to the V-shaped ambush of the Chinese in Korea. During Operation Buffalo, 2 July 1968, B Co, 1st Bn, 9th Marines, moving up a sunken road known as Route 561 near “The Marketplace” was taken under desultory rifle fire from about 100 yards to their left. In the standard counter-ambush drill, the Marines assaulted. When they did so, formerly silent machine guns opened up a devastating fire. When the Marines sought cover, another NVA force on the right side of the road opened fire, shooting them in the backs. From the front, more machine guns and mortars laid down full enfilade fire along the entire column. Then, the riflemen of the NVA force on the left began to work towards the Marine survivors, not in an assault but creeping forward in ones and twos, well camouflaged as clumps of grass. Still another NVA force then moved around the rear, closing the U and cutting off the company from all sides. Meanwhile, the stealthily advancing NVA troops from the left began crossing the road, segmenting the Marine company into smaller, more vulnerable pieces. From the beginning, officers, NCOs, and RTOs had been deliberately targeted. Nearby A Company attempted to come to B Company’s aid, and was also hit by booby traps, snipers, small arms fire and mortars until it too was pinned down. By the end of the day, it had become the single worst day for the Marines in the entire Vietnam War. The two companies combined lost 84 KIA, 190 WIA, and 9 MIA.

The Taliban in Afghanistan, despite being pretty poor shots who mainly “spray-n-pray” with AKs on full auto, have no worries about firing on Coalition troops from multiple sides; even from all the way around if they can work their way behind to cut the escape route. Then again, I don’t think those yahoos worry too much about fratricide; if they’re not killing us infidels, they’re killing each other. An example of their willingness to conduct parallel or U-shaped ambushes follows.

Ambush from both flanks in open field

"At about 5:30 pm, the squad of Marines and Afghan police pushed south towards the river; the additional squad maintained a cordon to the north of the village. The Marines crossed a series of irrigation ditches and entered an open field.

The insurgents waited in ambush, hiding behind a series of thick mud walls on each side of the squad’s approach. As the patrol passed by, eight or nine insurgents on the western side of the field opened fire with PK machineguns and RPGs. They hit the Marines’ right flank with a heavy volume of accurate fire from less than 75 meters away.

Half the squad managed to take cover behind a low wall in the open field; the rest were pinned down in the open. Two of the Marines in the open attempted to flank the insurgents’ position but were stopped by a volley of RPGs. One of the Marines was wounded, forcing both to fall back.

The squad’s joint tactical air controller was killed early in the ambush. Several other Marines were wounded; one later died.

Once the squad was pinned down and facing west, about ten insurgents opened fire on the Marines’ rear. This second enemy position was behind a thick mud wall in a tree line to the east. The police returned fire on this position, while the Marines remained focused on the enemy to the west…

When it was apparent that the Marines were pinned down and air support was not immediately forthcoming, additional enemy fighters flocked to the ambush site. They arrived in several trucks from Waryah village on the other side of the river and attempted to flank the Marines from the south.

The fighting went on for another two hours until dusk. When darkness fell, around 7:30 pm, the enemy fire trailed off; the insurgents broke contact and withdrew."

In March 1981, a Soviet motorized rifle company, with only two hours to prepare and having to deploy after dark, ambushed a Mujahideen supply convoy. The commander was criticized by a Western expert for setting himself up for fratricide by having troops on both sides of the road. If there is high ground on both sides of the road, there is much less danger of fratricide, but in this case the troops on one side were on the high ground and the ones on the other side low ground, making perhaps the most dangerous situation for taking friendly fire that there is.

I noted this statement from the Russian CO, however: “I placed forces to block the entrance and exit to the ambush site and concentrated the bulk of my force in the center of the ambush site. All-around observation was maintained on the site entrance and exit while my troops dug in and fortified their firing positions and then camouflaged them.”

Dug-in troops, if the positions are properly prepared, are relatively safe from aimed flat trajectory fire, let alone stray bullets.

“The results of our ambush were 26 enemy killed and 20 captured. Eight of the captives were wounded. We destroyed five trucks loaded with ammunition and food. I lost one soldier KIA and five WIA.”

If it’s stupid, but it works, it’s not stupid.
“There were many petrol tankers in these convoys. They were easy to set on fire, and just firing at them would do the job. Once you set them on fire, it would demoralize the entire column as everyone could see the smoke.”
Ambush Psy Ops from Mujahideen Commander Toryalai Hemat

In another air assault action by the Soviets against the Mujahideen, an airborne company was cut off from the rest of its battalion and fought a day-long battle, running almost entirely out of ammunition. A Western military officer noted:

“This is partially due to the Soviet philosophy that small arms fire suppresses enemy fire and eventually may kill the enemy. The West wants to kill enemy with small arms fire and uses crew-served weapons to suppress enemy fire. The standard Soviet assault rifle’s selector switch goes from safe to semiautomatic to full automatic. The West sees semiautomatic as the norm. Perhaps the Soviets needed to devote more time to rifle marksmanship for a guerilla war. It saves on ammunition and consumption. In the mountains, a bolt-action rifle with range and accuracy is frequently of more use than a rapid firing assault rifle (though not in an ambush).”

I agree totally with the author’s assessment, except for the part about the Western soldier’s crack marksmanship versus the Soviets’ spray-and-pray. I certainly never saw much marksmanship, nor training in or emphasis on or improvements to marksmanship, in my time. Maybe things have changed, maybe not.

Case in Point: 3 September 2006. A task force consisting of a company of U.S. Special Forces and the Afghan government commandos they were training “…moved up Sperwan Ghar. A group of insurgents on the top watched the soldiers approaching. When the task force got to within a few hundred meters of the hilltop, the insurgents opened fire from three sides with RPGs and small arms. The commandos fought for 20 minutes, until they nearly ran out of ammunition. They then broke contact and moved back towards the southern edge of the valley to await resupply by helicopter.”

It is hard to chastise a Soviet airborne company for running out of ammunition during a day-long engagement when these elite troops ran out in 20 minutes. Giving them the benefit of the doubt in that they carried the "official" basic load of 210 rounds of ammunition (as in Vietnam, the figure I hear bandied about the most is actually around 600 rounds), that amounts to about ten rounds per minute, or one shot every six seconds. If we consider the 600 round figure, that’s thirty rounds per minute, or a shot every two seconds. So much for the West’s vaunted semi-auto precision marksmanship. Sounds like spray-and-pray to me. The most enlightening fact is that for God only knows how many thousands of rounds expended, it appears that no one on either side was hit. Since the Taliban boys were firing from dug-in positions on three sides of targets in the open, it is apparent that the new generation’s marksmanship is absolutely abysmal, lucky for us.

Like most Eastern forces, the Japanese in WWII had no problem with firing from 360-degrees into an enemy formation.

"At any time the Japanese may ambush an attacking force. On one occasion the enemy had taken up a position in the small paddy field, marked X in Figure 2. The only trail leading to the nearby river ran directly through the paddy field. The Japanese position was exceptionally important, for it controlled the only ford in that general area. (Neither the Japanese nor the British had bridge-building equipment available.)

The British planned a two-platoon attack. One platoon was to make a holding attack in front of point D, and the other platoon was to break through between B and C, as indicated by the arrow.

The attack was launched as planned'. But the Japanese, anticipating the time and direction of the attack, withdrew in front of it as the attacking troops went in. Encountering no opposition, the attacking platoon burst into the clearing, and headed for the opposite side to engage the Japanese at D. When the British soldiers were well into the clearing, enemy machine guns situated in trees at A, B, C, and D opened up and caught the attackers in a deadly cross fire. Only 14 men escaped. The other 16, including the platoon commander, were killed.

In another ambush, the Japanese solved the problem of possible fratricide in a U-shaped ambush by using a different weapon…the blade.

"A British company was pursuing a Japanese force along a trail, moving in the direction indicated by the arrow in Figure 1. The company had an advance guard for its own protection.

Between X and Y the trail ran comparatively straight for about 150 yards. It followed an old stream bed, which formed a clearing about 60 feet wide. The advance guard examined the edges of the clearing for signs of a Japanese ambush, and, finding none, notified the main body and moved forward.

What the advance guard failed to discover was that the Japanese had built platforms in the trees at X and Y, and had placed two light machine guns in each tree. The platforms had been concealed with great care, and were barely visible from the ground. The advance guard failed to reconnoiter the various minor game trails which led away from the clearing, and which converged at points A and B, where the Japanese had posted ambush parties.

As soon as the advance guard had passed point Y, the Japanese parties at A and B quickly moved in, and stationed them selves along the edges of the clearing. As the head of the main body reached Y, the tail was approaching X. At this moment, the four Japanese machine guns opened fire. Taken by surprise, the British troops immediately headed for the cover of the jungle, but here they were met by the Japanese ambush party, armed with knives. Many of the British suffered severe slashes on the arms and shoulders. The total casualties numbered about 40 percent of the company, and included the company commander. In the confusion which followed, the Japanese succeeded in escaping."

If you’re still too leery of fratricide in ambush, which is an inherently dangerous endeavor anyway, or if you’re operating in a small group, probably the most neglected but the best of the standard ambush techniques is the far ambush. I think this tactic is sadly neglected, in part, due to the knowledge of most modern armies that their troops are, for the most part, piss-poor rifle shots. Some of the smaller professional armies still stress “shoot to kill” rather than “lay down a heavy volume of fire”, but the big boys with all the money and toys and the arty/air don’t. The far ambush is exactly what Fred of Appleseed fame recommends and talks about in his “Ambushing the UN” story.

A far ambush is defined by the army as one outside of hand grenade range, which supposes 30-35 meters. The far ambush is almost always used strictly just for inflicting casualties and damage upon the enemy, thus doing away with the need for an assault party. The far ambush takes the fullest advantage of accurate, long-range fire from .30-caliber battle rifles. At 300 meters plus, dug-in and concealed prone shooters are in relatively little danger from assault rifle fire from most troops. Beyond 400, and the M203 grenade launcher is taken out of play as well. Only designated marksmen and light machineguns or SAWs still pose any kind of threat. Five hundred yards could be considered an ideal range for a far ambush, with good weapons and troops.

In addition to being protected by the very range of the fire, the far ambush also allows you plenty of time to prepare, cammie up, find cover, measure ranges, set sights, etc. That includes being able to dig and camouflage fighting positions that will protect you from what fire you do receive. In one far ambush in Afghanistan, it was found that the Taliban fired a PKM 7.62x54R machine gun through an 8-inch hole in a thick mud wall at 600 meters’ range. Thus, the gun was not only very hard to spot, it was even harder to hit. While clever in their siting, luckily the Taliban’s accuracy wasn’t good enough to do much damage.

A well executed far ambush. Ranges would be longer than they appear here. The ambush team is well concealed and firing from cover. Steep bluffs, a bridge and a creek restrict the enemy's ability to maneuver. Obstacles such as the deep-banked creek bed and wire fence, as well as distance itself, protect the ambush team from counter-attack.
The far ambush also allows a small light infantry group to ambush a much larger force in relative safety when compared to a near ambush. We were always taught that in a near ambush, you could only tackle a unit one third to at best one-half the size of your own, which is pretty darn limiting for a squad-sized element. It also gives the ambushers a wide-angle, big-picture view of the area and the enemy. If the enemy group is just too big, the far ambushers have a much better chance to just hunker down, remain undetected and let the enemy pass. Regardless of the outcome, the far ambush gives the ambushers the greatest amount of time and the most choices for a safe egress when it comes time to “un-ass the AO”.

It was the far ambush that won the Mujahideen a formidable reputation as expert marksmen during the Soviet-Afghan War. Before that war, rifles, ammunition and game to shoot were all hard to come by, and the hill people learned to make every shot count. Additionally, most were armed with powerful, accurate, lone-range weapons such as the old British Lee-Enfield or Chinese knock-offs of the 98 Mauser.

Fortunately for our troops, the new generation of Afghan insurgent fighter was born and raised with the AK47, a weapon with an intermediate cartridge, less accuracy than the bolt guns, and full-auto capability. And everyone knows how “macho” it is to point the weapon in the enemy’s general direction and rip off a full magazine on rock-and-roll.

So, for a small group of good men with good rifles, the far ambush offers the best bet against conventional forces. If these men have developed a cool head under fire, the other ambush tactics involving fire from multiple directions are certainly viable options as well, especially when considering that poorly-trained and armed insurgents can use those tactics successfully.
Always think outside the box. Just as there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's more to ambushing than just the L-shaped near ambush.

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