Terrain can be a force multiplier

veteran’s corner

Tom Krabbenhoft

As I perilously make my way around snow-piled corners in town driving my low profile car I always notice the trucks driving a bit faster, nice to have that height advantage. Stopping ability is not enhanced, no matter what you drive thanks to the ice. It led me to think about terrain which can be overlooked. In the best laid plans this can prove dreadful and deadly.

Terrain can be a force multiplier. It can enhance defense, offense, conceal movement, hamper enemy movement and the list goes on.

Proposals of a border wall have been scoffed at by many. A border wall does not need to be entirely man made. Nature can offer effective borders. Water, mountains and deserts are examples of natural walls.

A case study of a natural border wall is Rome and the Carthaginian general Hannibal. Hannibal so terrified the Roman’s he is credited as the inspiration for the boogie man. He moved 90,000 troops, 12,000 cavalry troops and 39 elephants across the Alps. This was thought impossible at the time. Once over the Alps he used terrain to his advantage to hand the mighty Roman army several defeats. He did this by luring the armies into wide open plains where his fast moving cavalry troops would eliminate them.

Another stellar example of terrain advantage, where it became a force multiplier was battle of Thermopylae. The movie 300 was based on this battle. Narrow mountain passes were occupied and held by the Spartans. They were standing up to the million man army of the Persians. The occupied pass with its funnel characteristics allowed the Spartans to control the flow and pitch of battle. The walls kept the Spartans from getting flanked. The massive number of Persians able to draw swords on the Spartans was very low. The Spartans eventually lost the battle. The high number of causalities destroyed the moral and confidence of the Persians. Losing a little known sea battle while annihilating the Persian fleet ensured the Greek city victory.

In early WW2 the US was planning operations in New Guinea. Table top planning dictates infantry can march 4 mph and our pack mules can carry X amount. We need to march X miles and it will take X long. It all looks solid when you look at a map. Reality meets the road. There was no factoring in the dense jungle terrain and lack of roads. The wet environment and soil softened the hooves of our hardy Tennessee pack mules which rendered them useless in the jungle. The US troops did not make the march in the estimated time. The lack of terrain analysis by US leadership could have been a major defeat. Thankfully a naval blockade against the Japanese resupplying their troops saved New Guinea and US lives.

Thanks to Specks bar for helping to raise funds for veterans causes. They do this throughout the year. Thanks Dee and the crew over there.

Reminder, the Moorhead American Legion will be having a Front Fenders concert. This will take place February 4th, 7:30pm. This will kick off “freezing for a reason.” Events will follow all weekend. Check out FM Legion Riders FB page, Frostival.com for more information.


Story ideas or anything veteran related contact me at 11btwk@gmail.com.  

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