The Attack on Knob Hill

by Capt John F. Schmitt

Note: “The Attack on Knob Hill” is the second in a series of tactical decision games that the Gazette plans to continue for the foreseeable future. The intent of the series is to provide a Marine Corps-wide forum for discussing tactics. Readers are encouraged to submit their solutions for publication. This can be done easily by drawing a sketch and writing the critical parts of a frag order on overlay paper. The author’s solution for each scenario and one or two others selected by the editor will be published two months after the scenario is introduced. Due to deadlines, solutions must be received at least one month before publication; i.e., solutions for “Knob Hill” must be received by I June to be considered for the July issue. The Gazette suggests that units might want to use the games at officers’ calls or professional development classes and would welcome unit as well as individual solutions.

The Situation

You are a rifle platoon commander fighting in a jungle environment against U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped forces. The areas not covered by thick forest, such as Knob Hill, are covered by grass three to four feet high. You have been operating in the region for several weeks and are quite familiar with the terrain and the local population, which is generally friendly (but may be just as friendly to the enemy). The company commander gives you the following fragmentary order:

Reconnaissance reports that an enemy infantry force of approximately platoon size has established a patrol base on Knob Hill [several kilometers to the north]. They have been operating out of this base for 24 hours and have made one helicopter resupply. [Due to the thick vegetation in the region, Knob Hill is one of the few pieces of terrain accessible to helicopters.] Your mission is to attack and destroy that enemy force on Knob Hill. I can spare you two machineguns and the company mortar section.

You move your platoon into an assembly area. It is 2200. The moon is half. You instruct your platoon sergeant to effect resupply and have the platoon get some rest. Your platoon is well trained in night operations, and if you can get a good fix on the enemy positions, you have in mind to launch a non-illuminated night attack. You take a radio and the squad leaders for a leaders’ reconnaissance, bringing along two additional dependable Marines (Taylor and Bell) for security. You approach the objective from the south on a well-worn animal track. En route you come across a local farmer, for whose young son you once provided medical care. With one of your squad leaders translating, the farmer tells you that the enemy platoon is no longer on Knob Hill, but at dark moved into the low ground somewhere north of the hill. He says he could not ascertain the exact location without arousing suspicion, but he says that the enemy has left a four-man listening post (LP) on the topographical crest and a machine gun team on the southwest slope. During the day on “El Knobbo,” he tells you, “there was much digging of holes.”

Moving closer you are able to confirm that the LP and machine gun are where the farmer said they were. From the LP you hear quiet laughter and conversation; you see the glowing tip of a cigarette. You are not able to locate any additional enemy positions on the objective. It is now 0015. What do you do?

The Requirement

Within a 10-minute time limit, prepare the fragmentary order you will issue to your squad leaders and weapons platoon attachments-including the intent of your plan. Include plans for supporting fires and an overlay for your scheme. Then give a brief (250 words or less) explanation of your rationale. Send your solution to the Marine Corps Gazette, Tactical Decision Games, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. My solution (which is by no means the only solution) will be published in July along with one or two others selected by the editor.