Spartans at the Bridge

by 1stLt Brendan B. McBreen


The division is deep in Spartan territory in a wilderness of thick forests and muddy roads. You are fighting a numerically superior force of a fanatical Spartan Army. It is November. There is no snow yet, but the evening temperatures dip below freezing.

You are the commander of an infantry platoon that has been reduced to half-strength. Your platoon is still organized into three squads, two of six men each, Schnurrbart’s and Dorn’s, and one of seven, under Kruger. You and the radio operator bring your total strength to 21. Kruger speaks Spartan. Your platoon is armed and equipped as a modern Marine rifle platoon: the men wear deuce gear but carry no packs. You have no corpsman, no machineguns, and no other attachments. You have no food. You have a PRC-77 radio and a few grenades but no missiles or demolitions.

Last night, your battalion withdrew 27 kilometers to the west to consolidate a regimental blocking position. Your platoon was to be the last to move out, with orders to deceive the enemy about the withdrawal and conceal the battalion’s movement. It didn’t work. During the night, large enemy formations bypassed your positions, leaving you cut off behind the advancing enemy’s lines. Now your only option is to move west, through the enemy lines, to rejoin your battalion.

Your platoon has moved west through the forest all day. Long after dark, you halt the unit just short of a dirt road. As the platoon rests, you and Schnurrbart, one of your squadleaders, leave on a leader’s recon.

When you return, you brief the platoon, “There’s a dirt road. The road leads to the bridge we’ve got to use to get across the river. By the bridge are three houses, and there are Spartan troops in the houses. We are not sure how many there are. The houses are log huts, one-story, with smoke coming from the first and second huts nearest the bridge. The Spartans must be either guarding the bridge or passing through as a column.”

Schnurrbart adds. “There are fresh tracks on the road, three horse-drawn wagons, and some footprints, so it can’t be too large a force. The wagons are covered with canvas. They are parked between the houses and the woods. The doors of the houses face the river. The windows on the back side face the woods. The third house from the bridge has the shutters drawn. The only sight of life is a single guard on the bridge. He seems inattentive. His rifle is slung across his back.”

It is now almost dawn. What are your orders to the platoon?


In a time limit of 10 minutes give the orders you would pass to your subordinates. Provide a sketch of your plan and a brief explanation of your plan. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette. TDG #93-4. P. O. Box 1775, Quantico. VA 22134.