Trouble in Barass


The battalion you command is part of a Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB) spearheading the United Nations operation in Barass, a Third World country torn apart by civil war. The aim of the operation is to bolster the democratically elected president by preventing insurgents from taking over the country.

The MEB mission of checking the rebel advance on the capital Cucaracha has been achieved by a show of force. A stalemate has occurred and negotiations are ongoing between the insurgents and the democratically elected government. Your interim mission is to disarm all militias in your area of operations (AO) and provide humanitarian aid to the civilian population. The militias are believed to have withdrawn northward out of your AO. Rules of engagement allow you to use deadly force in selfdefense and if met with noncompliance when disarming militias. A minimum of force is to be used.

It is 1800 and the sun is setting. Its rays won’t be seen again until tomorrow at 0600. The battalion is located 30 kilometers (km) north of Cucaracha. Charlie Company has been detached to guard the U.S. Embassy in the capital. Riots have broken out in Cucaracha, and operations to evacuate foreign nationals are pending. Yesterday morning 12 men from Alpha Company were taken hostage while distributing food to locals 20km west of your position. The perpetrators belong to a group called the “Nasty Boys.” Fueled by alcohol and drugs, they are known to have raped, plundered, murdered, and mutilated their way across Barass. Through an intermediary the MEB has been able to get in touch with the group. Demands for the release of the hostages seem unclear and have ranged from cases of beer, weapons, and cell phones to a HMMWV. Intelligence has revealed that the hostages are held in the village of Liessa. Two scout/sniper patrols are on the site and have reported that the hostages are held in building X guarded by eight soldiers manning four sangars (stone breastwork, lookout post) around the house. A platoon-sized unit has been observed in building Y. At least two more platoons are believed to be billeted somewhere in Liessa. A company is billeted in Fubar, a nearby village. Heavy machineguns are located north of Fubar. In both villages civilians roam the streets. The shallow and fast-flowing Kotori River runs westward through mangrove swamps.

Your immediate superior fills you in. “We have it from reliable sources that the hostages are to be transferred to an unknown location tomorrow evening. Between your present location and Liessa we believe there are between six to eight potentially hostile company-sized militias armed with small arms. We have no antiterrorist unit available to support you. You must rescue your Marines before they are moved. Four CH-53s, two AH-lW Super Cobras, and one CH-46 will support your operation.”


In a time limit of 20 minutes develop your intent, plan, and tasks to subordinate units. Provide a fragmentary order, overlay of your scheme of maneuver, fire support plan, and the rationale for your actions. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #03-3, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134, fax 703-630-9147, or e-mail <>.

The Battle of Mount Giddy

This tactical decision game is a little different from previous ones for a couple of reasons. First, it is of a broader scope than previous problems; one might even argue that it verges on being an operational decision game rather than a purely tactical one. Second, it is a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) problem-designed for a Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB) commander-in which the requirement is for the broad integration of ground, air, and logistics elements rather than just the tactical control of subordinate units on the ground.

The Situation

You are a MEB commander fighting in a coastal desert that offers excellent mobility and freedom for mechanized and motorized forces save for the ridgelines, which tend to channelize vehicle movement. The theater strategy calls for the Joint Task Force (JTF)-of which the MEB is part-to mount a major land offensive toward the north out of the Damoose region. The MEB’s mission is to protect the JTF’s southern flank, i.e., its rear, as the JTF attacks north. You are authorized to trade space for time as long as you deny the enemy the Damoose-Brut line, Brut being a key port and airfield and Damoose being a key logistics node.

Your MEB command element (CE) and brigade service support group (BSSG) are located at Damoose. Your aviation combat element (ACE) is located at Brut. The air situation is one of relative parity, the enemy being stronger in air defense assets while you are stronger in offensive air assets. Your ground combat element (GCE) consists of a motorized infantry battalion (minus) in the vicinity of Mount Giddy with a company detached at Huffy, a battalion of amphibious assault vehicles near Gooselub, another along the railroad west of Bed Lake, a light armored infantry company (reinforced) also guarding the right flank near Berra. and a tank battalion (minus) in reserve near Nevertheless. The enemy has a superiority of roughly two to one in ground forces

You plan to conduct a delaying action, trading space for time. You intend to fall back only under pressure, making the enemy pay for every inch of terrain but avoiding decisive engagement. Since yours is a subsidiary mission, you do not intend to force a decision but rather to forestall one. The JTF offensive has been underway nearly a week and to this point the enemy on your front has played into your hands by remaining relatively inactive, probing but not threatening your forward defensive positions. He has irregular forces equipped with light vehicles operating out of the barren desert to the west who periodically try to cut the Damoose railroad, an important line of communication. Intelligence has been reporting a buildup of enemy armored and mechanized forces and supplies south of Gooselub over the last 48 hours. The G-2 anticipates the enemy will mount an offensive in that sector within the next 72 hours.

As it turns out, however, the enemy buildup in the south is actually a wellexecuted deception. Instead of striking Gooselub, the enemy attacks in strength at Mount Giddy supported by massed offensive airpower. The GCE commander also reports that the light armored company and mechanized battalion on the right flank are under attack but holding their own, as is the battalion at Gooselub. But he reports that he cannot make contact with the motorized battalion at Mount Giddy, which apparently has been overrun. Within 12 hours scattered situation reports indicate that enemy mechanized and armored forces have reached Nevertheless, where they are being engaged by the reserve tank battalion, and are beginning to bypass Huffy headed north along the littoral plain.

By all accounts a major offensive has penetrated your left front and is pouring unchecked into your rear. As the MEB commander, what will you do?

The Requirement

Develop a MEB plan that includes a general concept operations (with intent) and broad missions for your GCE, ACE, and combat service support element as appropriate. (Leave it to your staff to work out the details.) Then provide a brief explanation of your plan. Send your solution without delay to the Marine Corps Gazette, c/o Tactical Decision Games, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish several solutions in two months’ time.

“Take that Wood”

By Bradley J. Meyer


You are the commander of the 4th Marine Brigade, 2nd U.S. Division. It is early on 9 June 1918. Your mission, assigned by the commander of the 2nd Division, is to “clear Belleau Wood on 11 June 1918.” This is a matter of particular importance to higher echelons of command, as the majority of the American public thinks that the Marines have already cleared Belleau Wood.

Probably because of the level of attention focused on Belleau Wood worldwide, the French have agreed to support your attack with quite a large amount of artillery fire, namely 50 batteries worth. They are also prepared to fire off a large amount of ammunition, namely 6,000 rounds of 155mm shells and 28,000 rounds of 75mm shells. You may set the targets and priorities for this fire however you think would best support your attack.

On 6 June, two of your battalions attacked the wood, which was believed, at the time, to be unoccupied. 3d Battalion, 6th Marines (3/6) ran into a strongly posted German line a couple of hundred yards from the southern edge of the wood. Machine guns with intersecting fields of fire prevented any further progress, even though 3/6 took over 40 percent casualties. There were many large boulders along the German line; the Germans, in many cases, posted their machine guns behind the boulders, thereby securing protection from fire from the front while firing the machine guns at an angle to the front. These arcs of fire intersected. No rifle grenades were available during these attacks, a fact that the Marines have bitterly complained about. It was noted during this fight that there were several relatively covered routes into the southern edge of the woods, working off the gully that runs between Lucy-le-Bocage and Bouresches.

3d Battalion, 5th Marines also attacked on 6 June, across a wheat field. (See map.) They received heavy fire on their left flank from behind a knoll on the western side of the wood, Hill 169, and also from the tree line directly to their front and right flank. Only the company of 3/5 farthest to the right, the 47th, made it into the woods relatively intact. That was because a small ridgeline protected them to some extent from the fire coming from the left. Survivors of the 47th also reported abandoning their original formation, four rows of skirmishers spaced five yards apart with rifles at high port, in favor of “spreading out in the wheat and taking the old formations we had used so many times in the cane fields of Santo Domingo.”

You have available for the attack two infantry battalions, 2/5 (75 percent strength), under Maj Frederick Wise, and 1/6, under Maj John Hughes (“Johnny the Hard”). Also available is the 6th Machine-Gun Battalion (four companies, each with sixteen heavy machine guns (Hotchkiss, Model 1914), led by Maj Edward Cole. The attack on Belleau Wood, while of great importance, is part of a larger Allied counteroffensive against the German offensive originating at the Aisne River. The rest of your Brigade is required to hold Hill 142 and the village of Bouresches, localities gained in the 6 June attacks.

Currently all American units have been pulled out of the woods, with the exception of the 80th Company of 3/6, located in the extreme southwest corner of the Wood (northeast of Lucy-le-Bocage). This has been done to give free rein to the action of the artillery. There is no detailed information on German dispositions, but it may be assumed they hold the wood in approximately regimental strength. Because of the small size of the battlefield and the amount of time available, the attack units can approach the wood from any direction south of the Lucy-Bouresches road or west of the Lucy-Torcy road.


BG Harbord, what are your orders?


Quickly formulate your plans and issue your orders. Provide a brief discussion of the rationale behind your actions. Submit your solution by email to or to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 06-18, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.