Sunday, July 14, 2002

The Defense of Hill 781: An Allegory of Modern Mechanized Combat

The Defense of Hill 781 is a 1998 book in the same vein as the 1905 classic The Defense of Duffer's Drift by Swinton. While Duffer's Drift concentrated on small unit tactics, however, Hill 781 uses an '80's US reinforced mechanized infantry battalion. There are six different vignettes given in Hill 781, with a concentration on modern combined arms tactics. The book is on the US Marine Corps Commandant's reading list.

Table of Contents

  1. First Impressions
  2. Dawn Attack
  3. Change of Mission
  4. Defense in Sector
  5. Deliberate Attack
  6. Night Attack
  7. Battle Position Defense
  8. The Fruits of Victory

Author James R. McDonough states the lessons learned from the original Duffer's Drift as the inspiration for this book, and keeps it in a humorous setting much as the original. In Hill 781, the officer is Lieutenant Colonel A. Tack Always, an Airborne Ranger who, in life, chided his fellow non-Airborne soldiers and avoided commanding heavy infantry, as he felt two jeeps were too much trouble to keep running in the field.
However, one day, to demonstrate to his soldiers that one could eat three MREs in one day and survive, Always expires and awakes to find himself in Purgatory. Purgatory turns out to be the US National Training Center in Nevada, where Always must atone for his arrogance in life by commanding a reinforced mechanized infantry battalion through a series of confrontations. Only by performing well will he be allowed into Heaven.
Chapters 2 through 7 detail missions given to Always' battalion. Each time, it details the process through which the plan is created. Two maps are given, the first of the objective and Always' troops and planned movements; the second as above, but with the enemy's forces on it. After each mission, the success or failure of the mission is discussed, and inforative points of the mission are stressed.
I enjoyed the book. While primarily intended as educational, it wasn't a dry textbook and was easy to read. It gives interesting insight into the planning and execution of an action as well as well as the myriad things that might go wrong.
The Defense of Hill 781 is currently out of print, but is easily found at Bibliofind, Biblion, or
The Defense of Hill 781: An Allegory of Modern Mechanized Combat
James R. McDonough
Presidio Press, 1988
ISBN: 0-89141-310-3

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