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In analyzing and criticising this action, let us initially consider the activities of the enemy. What
prompted the Germans to select and locate their battle position on the reverse slope of Hill 122 – a
position located well within the edge of the woods? Tactical principles of defense indicate that: 1, The
primary prerequisites of a defensive position are observation, fields of fire, obstacles, and adequate
cover end concealment. 2, The relative importance of these factors is dependent to a great degree upon
the strength and type of troops, armament, mission, and, of course, the enemy capabilities. It is true that
the Germans did not have troops to spare; however, his soldiers were battle hardened and well trained
for individual and small unit combat as parachute infantry are required to be. He had superior
observation from the north elope of Hill 122, his outpost location, until he was driven back to his battle
position. The Hill itself, and the dense woods, vines, and thickets provided obstacles difficult to
surmount by attacking forces. Perhaps not difficult to traverse on foot, but troublesome for attacking
units to maintain control, to locate and determine his dispositions, and to bring effective fire upon him.
Finally, the German had excellent concealment – concealment of individuals, weapons, and of his entire
main line of resistence. The latter reason primarily dictated that he select his battle position deep in the
woods and on the reverse slope of Hill 122. His defenses were well concealed – thus an attacker could
not be certain that the plan of attack was sound. It was forced to attack blindly. Preparatory artillery and
mortar fire would necessarily be fired blindly and ineffectually. The German concealed position on the
reverse slope afforded him freedom of movement, troop control was simplified, and consequently
morale was higher. Finally, the individual German soldier could not open fire until the attackers were
well within effective range; his position was not prematurely disclosed; he was able to stop the attack
with short, heavy volumes of fire time after time; and he grasped opportunities to surprise, ambush, and
counterattack offensive elements. The German employed and exploited concealment, old as the art of
war itself, to its fullest possibilities. In this connection, i. e., a battle position located in a woods, an
extract from a German manual published in 1941 is quoted as follows: “In defending a position in
woods, the following should be observed: 1, The main line of resistance should either be a considerable
distance outside the woods, or well within the woods. In the latter case, the outposts should be at the
edge of the woods.”
In considering the attack of the German position in the Foret de Mont Castre, we ask if it was
necessary that the position be attacked frontally or whether it was required to be attacked at all. The
position was the key to the Mahlmen Line. It is obvious that possession of this feature was tantamount to
further advances to the south, since the defensive position was predominantly located on the hill, neither
envelopment nor bypassing was feasible. The order to attack frontally was not an alternative means to an
end – it was the only course of action available to higher commanders.
Penetration of the defensive battle position was being accomplished by the 3rd Battalion when
initial counterattacks from both flanks and the rear were being executed by the Germans. At this
moment the battalion was 500 yards in advance of the adjacent battalions. In order to continue the attack
to the southeast, Company K, the reserve unit, was committed to the attack by passing through
Companies I and L which were engaged with the enemy on their respective flanks. The consequent loss
of mass in the assault echelon proved costly in time and personnel. Company K, after a substantial
advance, found its position untenable and was forced to withdraw. It is felt that the employment of
another battalion to exploit the 3rd Battalion penetration of the German main line of resistance could
have been accomplished with outstanding results. Had this action been taken, Companies I and L,
located in advantageous positions to concentrate their efforts on the shoulders of the penetration, would
have been able to assist the adjacent battalions in overrunning the enemy battle positions. In this
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