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Fire Superiority

Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual

Do not study this chapter until you begin your extended order drills.

If the authors of this text were requested to select for you the most

important of all information that you will receive during your

instruction at a training camp, they would advise you to take home that

contained in this chapter. If you have learned fully so much you will

have done well. If you have failed to comprehend as much as this, you
br /> will have returned to your homes lacking in important knowledge.

If you are on the battle-field and propose to crush the other side

(defeat the enemy), you have got to do one thing: you have got to make

your rifle fire better than his, and you have got to keep it better.

The proposition is this: The enemy is on the defense. He is in a

number-one, first-class trench. It is constructed with steel, concrete,

and sandbags. It has all the improvements that science can devise. Your

business is to attack and crush the enemy. How can you advance over

exposed ground against such a position? The man behind all those modern

improvements has got to stick his head up more or less when he fires. If

the volume and rate and accuracy of your fire is greater than his, he

will grow timid about the matter. His fire will become less effective.

That is to say, he cannot have fire superiority. When your side has fire

superiority, it not only can advance upon such a position but it can do

so without ruinous losses, and with hope of success.

To obtain this fire superiority it is necessary to produce a heavier

volume of accurate fire than your opponent can produce. We can get a

proper conception of the ideas involved by imagining two firemen in a

fight armed with hose. One has a larger hose and a greater water

pressure than the other. All else being equal, we can foresee clearly

who will be the victor and who will be defeated. The more water one

throws into the other's face, the less accurate and effective will the

other's aim become. This is equally true with bullets. Put a man on the

target range, where no danger whatsoever is involved, and he may fire

with a nice degree of accuracy. Put him on the battle-field with a great

number of bullets whizzing around his head, and he must be a trained

veteran to fire with the same accuracy. This is true simply because we

have been made that way.

The volume and accuracy of fire depend upon several considerations: (a)

Of primary importance is the number of rifles employed. Let us imagine a

battle-line one mile long. It is obvious that we cannot have one man

firing behind another. We don't want to destroy our own men. They must,

therefore, be placed side by side. Each man must have sufficient room to

operate his rifle. Experience tells us that we must not have more than

one man per yard. We thus see that our battle-line of a mile can only

have about eighteen hundred rifles. (b) The rate of fire affects its

volume; an excessive rate reduces its accuracy. If you were hunting

tigers, you can easily imagine where one well-aimed and well-timed shot

could be of more use to you and more harm to the tiger than half a dozen

shots fired too rapidly. (c) If the target is large, is clear (can be

easily seen), and is but a short distance from you, your fire, for

reasons that do not require explanations, can be more rapid. Greater

density increases the effect. Suppose a hundred deer were grazing on a

hill; you would be more likely to kill some deer than if only a half

dozen were there. (d) The position of the target influences the effect

of fire. Suppose that ten men were lined up in a row against a wall and

that it is your business to kill the lot with a rifle. If you are in

front of them, ten shots at least will be required. But it is possible

for you to take a position in prolongation of the line (on its flank)

and kill the entire number with one bullet. (This also illustrates the

extreme vulnerability of flanks.)

What are the important steps that must be taken if you are going to get

this fire superiority? 1st, Fire Direction. 2d, Fire Control. 3d, Fire