Concrete Hell is Out!

Concrete Hell is now out and available from Amazon and at many bookstores!

As some of you know, I teach urban warfare to US Army officers at the army Command and General Staff College. This book is based on my class research, my academic work in the area of Urban Geography and my work for the army writing Field Manual (FM) 3-06, Urban Operations.  Much of what is written here is what I teach to those who are and will practice urban warfare in the coming years.

This work revisits some familiar historical topics like the classic battles for Stalingrad and Hue. In looking at these topics I take the approach of evaluating them in terms of what timeless aspects of urban warfare are revealed in the historical record.

I also look at several urban battlefields that have received less attention. Two areas where I think this book breaks new ground is the evaluation of the Israeli Operation Defensive Shield (2002) and the look at US forces in the Battle of Ramadi (2006-7). I think Concrete Hell is the only comprehensive look at these operations currently in print.

Ultimately, what I intended, and what I think Concrete Hell achieves, is a thorough look at the evolution of urban warfare over the last fifty years. By isolating and focusing on this history, and what it tells us in terms of the conduct of warfare, I think Concrete Hell also describes the nature of the most important battlefield of the 21st Century: the urban battlefield. Thus, though a history, Concrete Hell presents not only an accounting of the past but a vision of the future. Recent battles in Lybia and current fighting in Syria seem to validate that vision.

The subject of urban combat and it’s relationship to today’s military issues is vitally important and one in which I’m intensely interested.  If you have any comments, questions, or want to air your own views on the subject please use the comment section here to do that, or email me at

To give you an idea what the book covers here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1 Urban warfare Past and Future

Chapter 2 An Operational Debacle:  Stalingrad 1942

Chapter 3 American Urban Warfare:  Aachen 1944

Chapter 4 Urban Warfare fro the Sea:  Inchon and Seoul 1950

Chapter 5 Complex Urban Warfare: The Battle for Hue 1968

Chapter 6 War inthe Casbah: The Battle of Algiers 1956-57

Chapter 7 The Log Urban War:  Operation Banner, 1969-2007

Chapter 8 Urban Death Trap:  The Russian Army in Grozny 1995

Chapter 9 Invading the Urban Sanctuary:  Operation Defensive Shield and the Bttle for Jenin 2002

Chapter 10 Systematic Urban Warfare:  “Ready First” in Rarmadi 2006-07

Chapter 11 Urban Combat in the 21st Century

Concrete Hell

One of the reasons that this blog has sat idle for a bit is that I’ve been consumed with completing a book on urban warfare.  The manuscipt is complete now and we’re hoping it will be available for purchase in November 2012.

From the description:

Throughout history, cities have been at the center of warfare, from sieges to street-fighting, from peace-keeping to coups de mains. Sun Tzu admonished his readers of The Art of War that the lowest realization of warfare was to attack a fortified city – a maxim that the Russian army should have heeded before it launched its operation to seize the Chechnyan city of Grozny. Indeed, although strategists have advised against it across the millennia, armies and generals have been forced nonetheless to attack and defend cities, and victory has required that they do it well. In Concrete Hell Louis DiMarco has provided a masterful study of the brutal realities of urban warfare, of what it means to seize and hold a city literally block by block. Such a study could not be more timely. We live in an increasingly urbanizing world, a military unprepared for urban operations is unprepared for tomorrow. Fighting in cities requires new skills, new weaponry and new tactics. But there is no better way to prepare than to look at the successes and failure of some of the most famous operations in modern military history including Stalingrad, Hue City and Fallujah.

To preorder follow this link.

German Riding Badge: Das Reiterabzeichen



In 1930 the German Warmblood Association created a bronze, silver, and gold rider’s badge, Das Reiterabzeichen,  to encourage increased equestrian knowledge and horsemanship.  The bronze and sliver levels were awarded after demonstrated horsemanship and knowledge of riding theory, anatomy, and horsemastership.  Since the Army was the largest equestrian organization in the country, Rittmeisters (cavalry captains) and artillery captains who were squadron or battery commanders were authorized to administer the tests and award the badges to civilians and to soldiers.

According to German cavalry historian Klaus Richter, the army made little use of the badges.  This may have been because during the same period the army was in the midst of a dramatic increase in size and modernization program encouraged by the Nazis.  It also may have been because military riders, as professionals, did not see a need for a badge to represent what was already represented by their rank and branch of service.  It may have been that the testing for and wearing the badges was beneath the dignity of cavalrymen and horse artillerymen.

Since it was originally conceived as a civilian sports award before the Nazis came to power, it was one of the few German military qualification badges of the Nazi era that did not have a military design or include the swastika insignia.

Riding Badge Certificate

Riding Badge Certificate

The modern Riding Badge is still issued by the German Equestrian Association (Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung) and still must be earned by meeting strict criteria judged by a certified official.  It looks exactly the same as the World War II and earlier version.  At the copper level, level IV, the modern badge is awarded to beginner riders and is used primarily as a motivational tool to encourage a continued interest in horses.  The bronze and higher requirements are more stringent.  For example, a bronze level award requires successfully completing the equivalent of a USDFlevel 2 dressage test and jump course with jumps and jump combinations ranging up to 4 feet in height.  There is also a written and oral test on horsemastership. 

The degree of control of all horse activity in Germany has no parallel in the United States.  Certainly much of that control, especially in the area of stock management and breeding, goes against the grain of American principles of free markets and individual choice.  However, the ability to establish national standards in horsemanship and horsemastership creates industry standards by which one can judge riding instructors, individual ability, and stable and training facilities.  It also provides a national standard against which amateur horseman can measure themselves and towards which they can work improve their horsemanship.  The U.S. Pony Club standards are probably the only U.S. measure which is similar.

German Luftwaffe Officer Wearing the Riding Badge
World War II Luftwaffe Officer Wearing the Riding Badge


Army Fox Hunting

100_1808On a gorgeous spring day there isn’t much better than moving across country at a gallop following the fast moving voices of fox hounds.  As Churchill once said “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”  For our family, like many army horse families in Kansas for over a hundred years, weekends revolve around fox hunting.  The Fort Leavenworth Hunt (FLH) is the only remaining active military fox hunt in the world.  Soldiers began hunting withhounds in eastern Kansas soon after Fort Leavenworthwas established in 1827.  The organized hunt at Leavenworth was formally established 1926 and continued to 1941.  It shut down during World War II and was restarted in 1964 and today is a certified hunt of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA).   Before World War II almost every major post in the army operated its own hunt.  Some of the major hunts were the Infantry Hunt (Fort Benning, GA), the Cavalry Hunt (Fort Riley, KS), the Artillery Hunt (Fort Sill, OK), and the 1st Cavalry Divisiion Hunt (Fort Bliss, TX).

Jonathan Wainwright as MFH.

Jonathan Wainwright as MFH.

Many of the famous officers of World War II were members of the Fort Leavenworth Hunt during their time at the fort as students in the Command and General Staff College in the 1920s and 1930s.  General Jonathan Wainright was one of the first Masters of Fox Hounds.  General Lucian Truscott was a particularly active member of the staff in the 1930s, and was joined in the hunt by his entire family.  Just before World War II, one of the Masters was Colonel Charles Reed who later led the famous raid to save the Lipizzan mares in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war.  The hunt staff before World War II was provided by the troopers of the famed 10thCavalry Regiment, “Buffalo Soldiers,” a squadron of whom garrisoned at Fort Leavenworth.

Current Joint MFH at FLH, COL Joyce DiMarco

Current Joint MFH at FLH, COL Joyce DiMarco

Today, over 80 years since it began, the hunt it continues to combine the strong traditions of military horsemanship and fox hunting on Fort Leavenworthand the surrounding countryside.  The hunt includes over 100 active duty, retired military, and civilian families and individual members.  The membership includes veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, Desert Storm and Vietnam.  Numerous hunt members are currently deployed, have family deployed, or are preparing to deploy.  The hunt is a welcome interaction with nature, animals, and friends, and a great diversion from the pressure of the Army’s operational tempo.

The Hunt meets least twice a week in season from early October until early April using a pack of American Fox Hounds maintained on Fort Leavenworth with the assistance of the Army Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division.  The game in the Fort Leavenworth area includes coyote and red fox and the hunt rarely returns without a viewing and run (seeing the game and giving chase).  The purpose of the hunt is not to kill the game, but rather the sport of hunting and the chase.  The hunting area is huge and rugged and the game rarely have any trouble eluding the hounds and hunt field.  However, if the game is cornered the huntsman calls off the hounds.  During the off-season the Hunt sponsors trail rides and horse shows.

The Fort Leavenworth Hunt is a small vestigeof the brown shoe horse powered army of the first half of the twentieth century that is surviving and thriving into the twenty-first century.  It is a strong and functioning, not just ceremonial, link between today’s soldiers and their history.  Interestingly, as an active MWR activity, it operates completely in the black and consistently returns a small profit to the Army to use to support other MWRactivities.  The hunt is a great example of how with a little nurturing, military history and tradition can thrive in the army despite all the pressures on our forces today.

FLH Hunting in Kansas

FLH Hunting in Kansas

Ending Phase IV Operations

The new Administration will likely oversee the end of U.S. operations in Iraq.  The end has already been set-up by the Bush Administration’s agreement with the Iraqi government to end the U.S. troop presence by 2011.  The only real questions are if the Obama Administration will move the time table up, and exactly what the U.S. presence will be, if any, after the agreed upon withdrawal.  While contemplating the nature of the post-withdrawal presence, DOD planners and policy makers should consider the examples of history.  History shows us that although hasty withdrawal from occupation operations is politically attractive, it is often improperly conceived and fatal to the objectives of the occupation.

Two Cases in point:

In 1877 the U.S. army ended occupation operations in the former Confederate States.  That same year all of the Confederate states reestablished conservative Democratic governments, in large part operated by former Confederates –the same leadership that attempted to secede from the Union and plunged the country into the deadliest war in its history.  For the next 80 years the South was ruled at the local level by the white population which actively governed to keep the former slave population subjugated.

In 1902 the U.S. army ended its post Spanish-American War occupation of Cuba and withdrew all American troops from the new Republic of Cuba.  Four years later the U.S. army returned as the  government in Cuba fell into corruption and was about to be overthrown by a popular revolt.  In 1909 the army left again and the Cubans were left to their own devices.  Republican government was never firmly established in the country which eventually came under the control of the autocratic Batista regime which fell to the Castro revolution.

In both cases the army was withdrawn not because it had completed its mission, but in response to domestic U.S. politics.  What was the army’s mission in occupation?  In the South and in Cuba the mission was achieving the U.S. strategic objective of stable democratic government.  In both cases the army withdrew after putting in place the structure of democratic government.  However, structure was not enough and was quickly  subverted.


U.S. Troops in Cuba circa 1902

U.S. Troops in Cuba circa 1902

In the case of the South and of Cuba, the failure of democracy  resulted in long-term adverse effects for the United States.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s ultimately rectified problems in the South.  Cuba remains a problem to this day.

So, as the new administration considers policy in Iraq, it must realize that a premature withdrawal from Iraq will likely result in a failed policy and future problems.  The U.S. has built the structure of democracy in Iraq.  However, Iraq as a society has no experience or tradition of democracy.  For democracy to succeed will require U.S. mentorship, active support, and most importantly, large scale engagement with the Iraqi government.  This can only happen with a long-term U.S. military presence in the country.  Even after hostilities have ceased.  Without time and continued U.S. support to ensure the viability of democracy, Iraq will follow the history of previous occupations, and previous attempts at democracy in the Middle East, and revert to chaos. 

For further reading on the subject of failed U.S. occupations see my paper on the U.S. army in Reconstruction or the following books:



Title Page       Title Page      Title Page