Will We Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory?

by Maj Nicholas E. Reynolds, USMCR

You are the commanding officer of 3d Battalion, 2d Marines (three rifle companies) reinforced with a tank company, a platoon of TOWs, and a platoon of combat engineers. Close air support and artillery fires are on call for you. Your battalion’s mission is to create a gap for friendly mechanized forces. Using a variant on Rommel’s tactics, you organize the battalion into assault, suppression, and exploitation elements and carefully rehearse the operation. Every man knows his job.

Your attack, preceded by carpet bombing and feints, is launched at night and is successful but costly. By the early morning hours, your battalion has seized one of the enemy’s second-line defensive strongpoints, threatening two other strongpoints from the rear and putting you well out in front of the rest of your friendly neighbors. You can easily place fires on forces entering or leaving the other strongpoints, but the reverse is not true. Since you have captured two enemy messengers bearing orders for the enemy battalion that had occupied your current position, you assume that the enemy is uncertain about your position and strength.

When you report your success to regiment, you are told that the follow-on force has been delayed and may not be able to move before daybreak, (when movement will be much riskier). Through your starlight scope you can see about 200 enemy soldiers leaving the strongpoint to the southeast.

(You are in strongpoint B on the sketch; the enemy soldiers are exiting strongpoint C.) The company outpost at the northern end of your position then reports noise and dust, possibly a column of enemy vehicles moving in column on a road or lanes through suspected minefields toward your position, very roughly estimated to be 10 kilometers away. Knowing enemy doctrine, you suspect a tank-heavy counterattack by local reserves. You report your suspicion to regiment. The operations officer says the regimental commander is considering shifting the focus of main effort away from your battalion, and asks if you can hold or withdraw. How do you respond? What orders do you give to your battalion?

Send your frag order and rationale to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #91-7, P. O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish the author’s and other solutions in the September issue.