Defending Narrow Pass

by Maj John F. Schmitt, USMCR

This scenario is the reverse of TDG #91-3, “The Attack on Narrow Pass,” which appeared in MCG, Mar91 and met with controversial response. In that scenario you were a platoon commander assigned the mission of guarding the advancing battalion’s left flank. In the course of events, the battalion struck strong enemy forces defending Narrow Pass while no immediate threat developed on the left flank. Readers were strongly divided between maintaining the flank guard mission despite the lack of a threat there and taking the initiative to help the battalion. Do you think deciding how you would handle the situation if you were in the enemy’s shoes could affect your response to the original scenario?

The Situation

You are the commander of Company H, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines. You are reinforced with two heavy machinegun squads (each squad consisting of an M2HB caliber .50 machinegun and a Mk19 automatic 40mm grenade launcher), a tank platoon, a section of Dragons (attached to your platoons), and enough trucks to carry your company. The enemy has landed a helicopterborne force at Sanctuary City to the north, which friendly forces have surrounded. The enemy is attacking north with ground forces to link up with its helicopterborne force, whose situation is becoming desperate. Your mission is to halt or delay the enemy relief attack for as long as possible in the vicinity of Narrow Pass. The terrain south of Sanctuary Ridge is generally rugged and undeveloped with thick vegetation and severe relief. The enemy consists of infantry with a limited numbers of tanks.

You have decided to defend Narrow Pass and the spurs to either side with 1st Platoon reinforced with the heavy machineguns. You send 2d Platoon forward as an outpost in the vicinity of the dry gully to the south, with plans to withdraw it through Narrow Pass. The heavy machineguns from the ridge can support your outpost with overhead fires even at night (because you have used field-expedient depression stops on the machineguns). You hold western Narrow Pass with a rifle squad from 3d Platoon reinforced with M60 machineguns. The tank platoon and the rest of 3d Platoon are in reserve north of the ridge, under the command of the tank platoon leader. Your trucks are located north of the ridge.

About 2030, 2d Platoon reports contact with a sizable enemy infantry force moving north toward Narrow Bridge. The platoon commander reports the enemy to be “at least battalion strength. I can hear a few mech vehicles, but I don’t see any yet.” About the same time, one of your listening posts (LPs) gets handled roughly by an enemy platoon in the vicinity of Checkpoint 37. The LP breaks contact and flees back to western Narrow Pass.

2d Platoon is involved in a pretty good skirmish near the bridge, dishing out better than it’s getting. Your heavy machineguns are having an effect. Suddenly, your heavy machinegun position on the spur immediately west of Narrow Pass comes under accurate machinegun fire from the southwest. Meanwhile, 2d Platoon reports a significant enemy force attacking its left (east) flank. The squad at western Narrow Pass is trying to regain contact with the enemy patrol, but as of yet has not succeeded.

What do you do?


In a time limit of 5 minutes provide instructions to your units in the form of the fragmentary order you would issue. Include plans for the use of supporting arms. Then give a brief explanation of your rationale. Send your solution, typed doubled spaced, to the Marine Corps Gazette, Tactical Decision Game #93-11, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134.