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 dimarcol@aol.com.

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

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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 Amazon.com 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.

Restoring Order: The US Army Experience in Occupation Operations, 1865 – 1952

Abstract of my dissertation on US Army occupation operations:

This dissertation examines the influence of the US Army experience in military government and occupation missions on occupations conducted during and immediately after World War II. The study concludes that army occupation experiences between the end of the Civil War and World War II positively influenced the occupations that occurred during and after World War II. The study specifically examines occupation and government operations in the post-Civil War American South, Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico, post-World War I Germany, and the major occupations associated with World War II in Italy, Germany, and Japan. Though historians have examined individual occupations, none has studied the entirety of the American army‘s experience with these operations. This dissertation finds that significant elements of continuity exist between the occupations, so much so that by the World War II period it discerns a unique American way of conducting occupation operations. Army doctrine was one of the major facilitators of continuity. An additional and perhaps more important factor affecting the continuity between occupations was the army‘s institutional culture, which accepted occupation missions as both important and necessary. An institutional understanding of occupation operations developed over time as the army repeatedly performed the mission or similar nontraditional military tasks. Institutional culture ensured an understanding of the occupation mission passed informally from generation to generation of army officers through a complex network of formal and informal, professional and personal relationships. That network of relationships was so complete that the World War II generation of leaders including Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Clay and MacArthur, and Secretary of War Stimson, all had direct personal ties to individuals who served in key positions in previous occupations in the Philippines, Cuba, Mexico, or the Rhineland. Doctrine and the cultural understanding of the occupation mission influenced the army to devote major resources and command attention to occupation operations during and after World War II. Robust resourcing and the focus of leaders were key to overcoming the inevitable shortfalls in policy and planning that occurred during the war. These efforts contributed significantly to the success of the military occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II.

For more information on this subject and access to the complete dissertation contact me at dimarcol@aol.com.

Book Review: A Chance in Hell

A Chance in Hell is one of the most important books written thus far on Army operations in Iraq.  The lessons in the book will be obvious and important to lieutenants and captains as well as colonels and generals.  It describes the close relationship between company and platoon tactics, brigade operations, and regional and national strategy.  It clearly describes the tactics, techniques, and procedures  of  the population centric approach to counterinsurgency.  Michaels demonstrates the criticality of cultural understanding to success at all levels of COIN operations. Finally, and most important, the book  highlights the importance of leadership to tactical and operational success.  The tough decision making, and the inspiring example of the leaders of the “Ready First” brigade come through as the critical element in the brigade’s success; a success that was the operational tipping point in the war in Iraq. 

For more information on this book click here for the book website.

Book Review: Bullets and Bolos

Bullets and Bolos:  Fifteen Years in the Philippine Islands Fighting Insurgents with the Philippine Constabulary.  John R. White.  St. Petersburg, FL:  Hailer Publishing, 2007 (originally published New York: Century Company, 1928), 348 pages, $29.99.

 Bullets and Bolos is the story of one American’s experience during fifteen years (1901-1916) as an officer of the Philippine Constabulary.  John White’s narrative is a fast paced, interesting and insightful read about how a former American soldier adapts to the challenge of leading foreign indigenous troops in combat.  It almost reads like a novel, but is full of intelligent insights and wisdom regarding an important and complex aspect of counterinsurgency.

 John White’s story begins when he joins the Philippine Constabulary after his service with the U.S. volunteers  during the Spanish American War.  As that war evolves into the Philippine Insurrection, the army mustered the volunteers out.  White elected to muster out in the Philippines and seek service with the growing U.S. civil service.  He first worked as a civilian clerk for the army commissary, but then enlisted as an inspector in the new Philippine indigenous police force –the constabulary.  White describes the highlights of his next fifteen years service commanding Filipino constables as they track and fight insurgents, bandits, and Muslim warriors through swamps, jungle, mountains, and even at sea.  White quickly proved himself to be an exceptionally effective leader, and a string of promotions and more challenging assignments took him to the rank of constabulary colonel and district supervisor.

Read Complete Review Here.

Book Review: Moroland

Moroland, 1899-1906.  America’s First Attempt to Transform an Islamic Society, by Robert A. Fulton (Bend, OR:  Tumalo Creek Press, 2007), 417.

Moroland by Robert A. Fulton is a comprehensive examination of American policy toward and military operations against the Moros of the southern Philippine Islands from 1899 to 1906.  Fulton very effectively covers policies, politics, and military operations.  What emerges from his work is a fascinating tale of brilliance and opportunities lost.  It is a must read volume for anyone interested in a host of contemporary issues including counterinsurgency, clash of cultures, Islamic warrior societies, and nation-building.

Read Complete Review Here.

Visit the Author’s Website Here.

Book Review: The Philippine War, 1899 – 1902

The Philippine War, 1899-1902, by Brian McAllister Linn (Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 2000), 427.

Brian Linn’s The Philippine War is the best history of the U.S. war in the Philippines from February 1899 to July 1902.  Linn’s work systematically covers all aspects of the war, all the major personalities, and makes a special effort to address the major myths and misconceptions regarding the war.  Linn’s history is simply the best, clear, and objectively reasoned discussion of  the military aspects of the war yet written.

One of the great values of Linn’s work is his efforts to provide balance and accuracy to the many misconceptions and myths that have been created or perpetuated by earlier histories of the war.  Thus, though conceding that Generals Otis and MacArthur were quirky personalities who made some serious mistakes, he also recognizes that each of the first two American commanders were essentially competent and in different areas, very capable.  Otis, the trained lawyer, laid the foundation of the President McKinley’s benevolence policy, while MacArthur recognized the need for and supervised the well run counterinsurgency campaign of 1901.  Linn backs up John Gate’s analysis that the major part of the insurgency was won by the time MacArthur gave up command in the Summer of 1901 and makes the point that the Samar and Batangas campaigns, the most infamous of the war, were not typical of the war in general.

Read Complete Review Here.

What Counts in Foreign and National Security Policy

As I recently have been watching the release of CIA memos and who said what when briefed by the CIA, I’d just like the make the point that the quality of  the analysis and recommendations of regional and global foreign policy experts; the professionalism of  generals; and the bravery of  soldiers matter little  in comparison to the ebb and flow of domestic politics.  I illustrate this in my paper on the American experience occupying the former Confederate states after the American Civil War.  The momentum of domestic politics, dominated by domestic economic and social issues, really are the main influence on the general thrust  of American foreign policy.  Domestic policy trumps national security most of the time –especially after the emotion of combat has past and the country is faced with the tough and thankless business of post-conflict operations.  Soooo… that begs the question: what is the current direction of  American domestic policy and how does that effect American foreign policy? Specifically, how does the current economic fiasco and other issues effect our military operations in Iraq and Afghansitan?

Thinking through Technology: Tactics Training in Virtual Reality

 

I’m not a trained education specialist, nor do I have any particular knowledge about creating virtual worlds or simulations or gaming.  I am a retired professional soldier who has been wrestling with how to train and educate soldiers to think better than their adversary for thirty years.  With that perspective, I think there is a huge role to be played in  professional military education (PME) by technology that remains untapped.

I wrote the below article more than 15 years ago for Armor magazine. I have never been asked about it or ever heard anyone comment on it.  I think that means that it was completely ignored.  Either that or I totally failed at explaining the idea.  To my knowledge nothing approaching an individual focused virtual trainer designed to both train and educate officers has  been considered by the U.S. military.What amazes me is that after all this time, and all the technology that has evolved since, I still think the concept stands up and should be pursued.  The below trailer for the Call of Duty 4 game system is indication of where virtual technology has gone.

What inspired this article, all so many years ago, was two things.  One, mentioned in the article, is the army’s UCOFT (Unit  Condcut of Fire Trainer) training system for tank gunnery.  It is essentially a training matrix that a tank crew works through on a simulator that begins with simple and moves to more complex tasks.  Each level requires mastery of the tasks at the previous level.  The other is the Kobayashi Maru test mentioned in the Star Trek TV series.  The test was a tactical thinking test which was only ever passed by Cadet James T. Kirk –an accomplishment which identified him as a gifted officer early in his career.  It seemed to me that a combination of the UCOFT concept and the Kobayashi Maru test would be an incredable training device.

I just don’t think our leadership has the imagination to understand how to truly leverage the technology that is out there and available.   I believe that the right use of technology, such that it becomes imbedded in the lives of people, much like the relationship some people have with their blackberry, can change the way a person thinks, reacts, and responds to situations at an instinctual level.  I don’t think the  military recognizes or has bought into that.  Once they do, the possibilities of using technology, not just to train skills, but to train and teach thinking, can truly be realized. 

Tactics Training in Virtual Reality (The Future of the Officer Advanced Course)

The company commander looked ahead and saw the Bravo section of his 1st platoon break the wood line as they began bounding forward. Turning to the right, he could see the small group of houses where the Alpha section was waiting. A glance at his commander’s display told him that 2d and 3d platoons were moving along their designated axis. At that moment, there was a sudden roar, and then the concussion of incoming artillery. He looked up in time to see the streak of antitank missiles; he watched both of the bounding Bravo vehicles take hits and explode. Missiles were also coming at him, but his vehicle defense system was faster than the enemy gunners: it launched smoke, chaff, and electronic countermeasures. As his helmet-mounted thermal goggles automatically came on, his driver was already moving back into the deep cover of the forest and out of the line of fire.

Read the rest of the article here.

The U.S. Army General Staff:Where Is It in the Twenty-first Century?

A couple of years ago LTC Paul Yingling wrote an article entitled “A Failure in Generalship,” very critical of the U.S. Army general officer corps and also blaming the generals for what at the time was looking like a debacle in Iraq. 

Thinking about it, I wrote an article that, while not discounting the failures of many general officers in Iraq, took a different view:

A Myriad of problems plagued the U.S. army in the first few years of operations in Iraq.  At the eleventh hour General Petraeus is leading a new counterinsurgency doctrine inspired “surge” campaign that may save the entire war effort.  However, the question must be asked –why has the war effort of the most sophisticated army in the world come down to a final moment “Hail Mary” pass that is reliant on the genius of an individual commander for victory?  The answer is that the U.S. army has experienced a crisis of command.   Pundits have gradually come to the conclusion that the performance of U.S. generalship and senior leadership has been mediocre at best and at worst largely responsible for the problems associated with prosecuting the war in its initial years.  Recently army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote: “These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps.” Yingling’s analysis is echoed by military affairs analysts such as Ralph Peters and Douglas McGregor.  Even Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey allowed that “we don’t do as good a job as we need to training our senior leaders to operate at the national level.”  However, mediocre generalship alone does not account for the initial uninspired reactive prosecution of the war.  Also contributing to the inconsistent, and ineffectual prosecution of the war is the absence of a professional corps of general staff officers operating in support of the senior leadership.

Thanks to the Small Wars Journal for publishing this article!
See comments by best selling author and journalist Tom Ricks on the article here.