- Breaking the Mold: Tanks in the Cities
This analytical monograph is a recent contribution to a long and distinguished record of publications by the Combat Studies Institute. Kendall D. Gott's narrative, which is primarily based on secondary sources, presents five interesting case studies on the evolution of doctrine and tactical employment of tanks in urban warfare.
The first case deals with the destruction of the historic city of Aachen, Germany, in October 1944. The author contends that M4 Shermans and M10 tank destroyers effectively provided the infantry with fire support. The study describes the successful ad hoc adaptability and cooperation of armor elements with the infantry. The second representation describes the successful deployment of U.S. Marine Corps M48 tanks and M50 Ontos. With no urban warfighting doctrine to depend on, these mounted Marines adjusted to events and brought mobility and heavy firepower in direct support of riflemen in house-to-house fighting in Hue, Vietnam, in early 1968. In the third case the author shifts and explains the successful adjustment of Israel Defense Forces' armor elements that were trained for open warfare, spearheading the drive up the coast through port cities and into Beirut, Lebanon, in 1984. The next interesting case concerns the failed Russian initial armor assault on Grozny, Chechnya, in 1995. Only after the use of massive firepower was Grozny eventually reduced to rubble. The Russians, Gott argues, were not adept at employing their armor elements due to a lack of training, poor communication, and spotty combined arms coordination. Finally, the narrative ends with the November 2004 Fallujah operation in Iraq. Of the five cases presented, the author maintains that Fallujah featured the most successful employment of armor in a hostile urban environment. He credits this to armor leadership and combined arms training, resulting in Army and Marine tankers mounted on Abrams tanks executing a joint operation that had all the essence of mobility, shock, and firepower. Interesting is the author's explanation of the different styles in the tactical employment of armor elements by the Army and Marines. He maintains that the Army tends to be more methodical in its employment of armor in urban warfare but more liberal in the use of heavy ordnance. The Marines on the other hand "tended to rely on the shock and audacity of their small unit attacks." However, the reliance on heavy fire support is called for "only after an attack is stalled" (p. 104).
In the cases presented the author adequately analyzed the evolution of doctrine and the operational capability of tanks to deal with urban warfare. The case studies are well organized, and, after each analysis, an excellent review of lessons is presented. The maps are very useful. However, a few times, the author relied too much on a particular secondary source, as in the Hue case study. An example is Eric Hammel's Fire in the Streets. Other than this very minor issue, Breaking the Mold is highly recommended across the [End Page 1324] military educational spectrum, especially since urban warfare in years to come will be frequent and challenging.