Page 83 - Jackson Journal
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                 This becomes a self-supporting wall, a bastion
onto itself, without dead space. The Special Forces patrol base also resembles a traditional trace but occupied by only a squad sized element. Here, each member of the team supports the flank of a bastion, interlocking their fields of fire to create a very familiar star.
The interlocking fields of fire are not the only legacy left to us by the trace itallienne though it may be the only part of the history that the new Soldiers leaving Fort Jackson will have been exposed to. Some of the higher-level considerations of unit defense were also first codified in the development of the trace itallienne. Fifteenth century Italians also built their fortifications, not with just an enemy’s Infantry in mind, but also their Artillery. They constructed the trace itallienne with the intent of maximizing the defender’s ability to observe the battlefield and direct effective fire while obscuring their own positions from their opponent’s direct fire and observations. These fortifications achieved this goal by constructing outer earthwork ramparts that gave way to a moat, dry or wet, before presenting the low silhouette of the fortification’s walls. This practice is very much in keeping with the Army’s current doctrine of a Reverse Slope Defense. The Reverse Slope Defense, as described in FM 3-21.20: The Infantry Battalion, 3-24, uses natural ridgelines to mask a battalion from direct fire as they take position on a nearby ridge of lower elevation. The higher ridgeline protects the defenders in much
the same way as the walls of the trace itallienne
do, and as an attacker crests the ridge line to
attack the defended position, it provides the same defensive strength as the outer earthworks of the
older fortresses, forcing the enemy to forgo a long range engagement and become vulnerable after cresting the ridgeline, coming under direct fire from the defender as they descend the first slope and then attempt to win the farther one. This again proves the point of Duffy that the defender has
all the advantages when the battlefield is properly prepared. It also informs the modern tactician that many of the concepts practiced on the battlefield are time-tested ideas based on the realities of direct fire weapons and that any attempts to improve on our current tactics should be weighed against the evidence of centuries of warfare.
The technology has changed, but not the defensive tactics. Interlocking fields of fire is a primary consideration in any defense, then or
now. Most Soldiers training at Fort Jackson will assume some historical precedent for the tactics they are taught, and most will learn from their Drill Sergeants that the battle drills they are learning now are the same, refined drills that saw our troops through World War II. What may be a surprise to them, however, is that something that might seem relatively modern, interlocking fields of fire when setting up a defensive position actually has a history of more than 500 years.
SSG Benjamin Battiste is a Cadre member at the Night Infiltration Course. He has a Master’s in History from the University of Nebraska.
Trace Itallienne
  Aleksandar, Deroko, Christopher, Duffy, Djordje, Gavanski, Richard, et al. “Are Vauban’s Geometrical Principles Applied in the Petrovaradin Fortress?” Nexus Network Journal. Springer Basel, January 1, 1964.
Dawes, Billy, Defensive Training Group, Defensive Training Group, About Defensive Training Group, Defensive Training Group, Defensive Training Group Post, Defensive Training Group Post, and Defensive Training Group Post. “Defensive Formations: The Triangle Patrol Base.” The Defensive Training Group, September 25, 2015.
Duffy, Christopher. Siege Warfare. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985.
LeFavor, Paul D. U. S. Army Small Unit Tactics Handbook. Fayetteville, NC: Blacksmith LLC, 2015.
Mallett, Michael Edward., and Christine Shaw. The Italian Wars, 1494-1559: War, State and Society in Early Modern Europe. London: Routledge, 2015. Rogers, Clifford J. MILITARY REVOLUTION DEBATE: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe. S.l.: ROUTLEDGE, 2019. Vauban Sébastien Le Prestre de. A Manual of Siegecraft and Fortification. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968.
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