Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Sat Jan 14 04:46:46 UTC 2006


"What is the position about London? I have a very clear view that we should
fight every inch of it, and that it would devour quite a large invading
- -Winston Churchill

While armor and mechanized infantry dominate the open terrain, dismounted
infantry dominate the fight in built-up areas. Maneuver of mechanized forces
in the city is restricted to the streets and alleys. Therefore, roles are
reversed with mech and armor supporting dismounted infantry. MOUT is a
combined arms effort but it is the dismounted infantry that clears and
controls the cities.

Lesson Learned

MOUT demands the use of decentralized small unit operations and superb

Some of the fiercest fighting in WW II in the European Theater occurred
during the Battle for Aachen in October 1944. The 26th Infantry Regiment of
the 1st Infantry Division had the mission to clear the city of Aachen
against stubborn German resistance. The soldiers were not prepared for urban
combat and had to learn "on the job."

Small Unit Operations

Most of the burden for the fighting fell on the infantryman. Small unit
actions were the rule. Infantry with hand grenades fought "from attic to
attic and from sewer to sewer." Occasionally some self-propelled 155mm
artillery was brought in to demolish a particularly hard target such as a
bunker or fortified building. However, small teams of infantry cleared out
house after house to seize the city. They used grenades and bazookas to blow
a hole in one of the inside walls and moved into the adjoining building
without having to brave the dangerous streets. Assault teams were formed
which combined fire support, armor and infantry actions, but the city was
only taken by the slow, careful and methodical advance of the infantrymen.

Lesson Learned

Dense urban areas are easily fortified and require combined arms cooperation
especially between the infantry and the engineers, to overcome major

The problems of fighting in an urban environment are compounded when the
city in question has a number of easily fortified areas. This fact quickly
became apparent to the soldiers of the 8th, 29th and 2nd Infantry Divisions
of VIII Corps when they moved to attack Brest after the breakout from the
Normandy Beachhead. The Germans had fortified the city and harbor area and
were ordered to defend to the last man. The infantry had to infiltrate
through German minefields to clear a path for the tanks and the "crocodiles"
(flame-throwing tanks). They used self-propelled guns to blow down the walls
of houses as they moved from street to street.

However, the men of the 29th division were stopped by Ft. Montbarey. Built
in the 17th century, Ft. Montbarey had walls up to 35 feet high, 25 feet
thick and was surrounded by a deep dry moat. Artillery shells, even those
from the 240 mm howitzers brought in especially for this operation, did
little more than destroy a few exposed artillery postions and disturb the
sleep of the Germans in their deep bunkers. The assault on the fort was led
by the 116th Infantry Regiment. Under cover of smoke, they cleared
minefields to allow the "crocodiles" to neutralize some exposed gun
positions and then the 121 Engineer Combat Battalion went forward to fill in
the moat. Finally, a 105 mm howitzer was brought in to fire against the main
gate of the fort. After this pounding the 80 German defenders surrendered.

Lesson Learned

Units must be trained to fight in urban areas.

Iraqi forces were neither prepared nor trained for urban warfare. In the
first year of the war, the Iraqi Army attacked Iranian cities such as
Khorramshahr with armored forces without dismounted infantry. These forces
were repeatedly destroyed at short distances by antitank weapons and
homemede explosives. The Iraqis soon discovered that fighting in built-up
areas deprives armor of its advantages of mobility and firepower. The Iraqis
also discovered that massing of artillery fires against the city was largely
ineffective due to the cover which the buildings provided the enemy. The
iraqis were completely bogged down in Khorramshahr and had to bring in a
special forces brigade to fight its way through the city to assist the
stranded Iraqi units. Iraq virtually halted all offensive operations for
three weeks to give special MOUT training to units before finally taking the
city. Even then it took a total of 15 days and some 5000 casualties to
secure the city. Iraqi losses in the city of Khorramshar were so great they
renamed it "Khunishar, The City of Blood." [13]

The effectiveness of dismounted troops fighting in urban terrain was
reinforced by the Iranians in the same battle. The Iranian Revolutionary
Guards, a highly motivated organization with minimal military training, were
in command of the defenses of Khorramshahr. Under their control was a
hodgepodge of elements made up of police, customs agents, armed forces
trainees and volunteers. Fighting in small but organized teams, the Iranians
took advantage of the cover provided by the buildings and rubble to move
close enough to engage the Iraqi tanks at point blank range. A successful
tactic used by the Iranians was to knock out the lead and rear tanks with
antitank weapons at close range to stop the advance of an armored column.
Then, using all available weapons (to include homemade explosives and fire
bombs), they systematically destroyed the remaining aromored vehicles. The
makeshift army of the Revolutionary Guard successfully defended the city
until the Iraqis changed their tactics to counter dismounted infantry in the
city with dismounted infantry of their own. [14]


The following References will assist commanders to train for MOUT.

FM 90-10, Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT), Aug 79

FM 90-10-1, An Infantryman's Guide to Urban Combat, Sep 82

FM 7-70, 71, 72, Light Infantry Platoon/Squad Company, and Battalion, Sep
86, Aug 87, and Mar 87.

Bottom Line

Urban combat is primarily a dismounted infantry action that requires
different tactics, techniques and organization.


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