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Landing





Military history shows that an attempt to prevent a really bold
landing is never successful. The defense must either scatter its
forces along the coast to be protected, or concentrate its full
strength to cover one point, while the assailant, through the mobility
of its transport, can keep its landing plan uncertain, and under the
protection of long-range guns on the ships can throw more troops
quickly on the land than the defense is able to concentrate in the
same time. A simultaneous landing at different places is hazardous if
the opponent can muster considerable strength. An expedition is seldom
so large that disadvantages arise through landing at one point. On the
other hand, it would require a great many battleships for the
protection of numerous landing places. A division of the forces
weakens all of them, and great difficulty would be found in uniformly
managing the start of the operations for want of time and means.
Therefore, it is recommended, when the situation permits, to select
one central place for landing.

For the disembarking a harbor is of course the most advantageous; less
advantageous but always favorable is an enclosed, protected bay; the
most unfavorable is the open coast. Yet a landing on the open coast
would encounter little resistance if it is carried out with great
speed. If the chosen landing place be near a bay or a seaport town, it
would be the mission of the first landed advance guard to seize this
port, to make it possible for the transport fleet to disembark the
mass of troops, horses and materials. The occupation of a good harbor
will greatly hasten the unloading, prevent a hostile attack from the
sea and add greatly to the ability of the landing corps to carry on
the operations. If a seizure of a port is not possible, the landing of
the entire expedition must take place by means of prepared
disembarking contrivances. Every transport must be equipped for
landing on an open coast.

The best landing place is a site nearest the object of the operations,
which would force the opponents to a decision before they were
thoroughly prepared. Clear coast regions within range of the ships'
guns are desirable, as is also quiet, deep water near to the landing
site.

It is possible to land within range of important hostile garrisons and
fortifications. Russian landing maneuvers have demonstrated the truth
of this statement. Fortifications are effective against landing
enterprises only when sufficient troops are on hand to defend the
coast. If the assailant is successful in landing a detachment of
troops out of the range of the fortifications, the latter would be
ineffective for defense. The best security, however, for the initial
landing is its unexpected delivery. Reconnoitering of the coast site
by boats sent beforehand is an absurdity, for the opponents
immediately become acquainted with the landing plans and are given
time for preparations for defense. Of great importance for rapid,
well-regulated landing is uniform management through the signal
service of the ships and the telephone service on land, which can be
installed advantageously. In anchoring the ships must be the correct
distance apart, to avoid crowding.

The execution of the landing as a rule is as follows: The advance
guard rides ahead, on the last stretch, with its own escort of
battleships, and lands, if possible, unawares, usually at night. If
the landing be on an open coast, the mass of troops which follow
should immediately throw up earthworks. The entire disembarking must
be made with great speed, for the quicker the landing is accomplished
the less the danger of being disturbed. The most favorable time for
attacking the coast is at dawn, for the landing can take place unknown
to the enemy and day be used for disembarking. As the ships do not
carry a sufficient number of patent boats for landing on an open
coast, special flat-bottom boats should be prepared for unloading
horses and heavy material. The English employ collapsible boats for
landing men, which accommodate a crew of fifty, while the Russians
have flat-bottom boats capable of holding two hundred men, or one
complete cannon. It is recommended that we be permitted to try the
Russian model, which has been well tested. Small power boats should be
employed for tugging, as rowing would be a waste of valuable time. To
permit horses to swim ashore is to be condemned, for it would cause
confusion and delay, and we know from experience that a large number
are sometimes lost. The Americans, in their landing in Cuba, lost
seven per cent. of their horses. For the landing of artillery and
heavy materials small landing bridges must be erected on the beach,
for which prepared material is carried on the transports. The
assembling of the troops must not be permitted on the beach, for all
space there must be kept for the landing of supplies.

If a landing near a harbor is successful, the advance guard will
strive to take the same unawares, to seize those coast sentinels at
hand and to destroy the telegraph and signal service along the coast.
If all this is successful, the transport fleet will be signaled to
draw near. The advantage is apparent in landing in a large harbor or
bay, which affords the possibility of protection from a sea attack,
through the mining of the waters or through the guard of a limited
number of battleships. Earthworks, equipped with cannon and machine
guns, must be thrown up for the protection from the land side.

The piers must be distributed to make sufficient room for
disembarking. The existing plans for improvising landing bridges and
gangways should be extended, in order to expedite the landing. The
piers and bridges will be used for ships carrying horses, artillery
and heavy materials, while the infantry land by boats, under the
protection of large guns on shore or of the escorting battleships,
should the battle fleet maintain command of the sea. The landed troops
should be supplied provisions for many days so that they can begin
operations independent of the supply trains.

The time required for landing is considerably less than for loading.
The natural desire of the troops to land quickly helps to shorten the
time. One writer gives the following data: Lord Cochran landed 18,000
men on the open coast of America in five hours; in the Crimean War the
English accomplished the disembarking of 45,000 men, 83 guns and about
100 horses in less than eleven hours. The French are slower on account
of their handling of supply trains. The Russians, in their landing
maneuvers in the Black Sea, have landed a slow division in eleven and
one-half hours, where the steamers had to anchor five to six
kilometers from the coast. The marine writer Degories figures that
under average conditions it is possible to land 25,000 infantry, 1,000
cavalry and 60 guns in six hours. If the landing can be made in a
harbor, this time can be essentially lessened.

After the disembarking of the expedition, the further task of the
transport fleet and its escort of battleships depends on the maritime
strength of the country attacked. If the assailant continues in
command of the sea, the transport fleet can remain as a floating base
for the landed corps and can effect the reenforcement of the
expedition. If the assailant is not in command of the sea, then the
transport fleet must attempt to evade the operations of the hostile
fleet, by an immediate retreat to home waters.





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Previous: Sea Voyage



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