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The Beginnings of the End Game of LTTE - Page 2

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The Beginnings of the End Game of LTTE
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With 593 unable to cut off the A35 from the North, battleplanners set to work. Emulating Operation Trudy Jackson led by Lieutenant Eugene Clark that relayed detailed intelligence on enemy defences, sea tide ranges, whether the beach could hold assault vehicles back to General Douglas Mcarthur during the Battle of Incheon, amphibious reconnaissance teams were dispatched particularly to map out the lagoon for a successful penetration corridor and for advanced surveillance of the MULLATIVU town defences. Such reconnaissance missions were carried out extensively for roughly a week before D-day. The reason being unlike the UPPARU lagoon at VAHARAI, the NANTHIKADAL lagoon is much deeper in some areas and the target length to cross was much wider. Further vital intelligence were gathered with SLAF's recon aircraft. Thanks to shrinking territory the recon assets of the SLAF have been able to keep tabs on most locations on a consistent basis when larger swathes of territory during the initial stages somewhat overstretched the SLAF's recon capability. With these scouting the battleplanners were creating a flank. Flank attack is ideal since it allows the commander to appear where the enemy least expects you to. The idea is not to hit the enemy head on but hit him in the side where he might be weak. If a formation comes from the front towards 100 men, all 100 can shoot at it, but if it comes from the side and if the defence line is only 3 deep, then only 3 can engage the incoming formation. Hence it can literally roll down the flank and crush the defender 3 at a time.

On D-day as planned exploitation forces were poured into the MULLATIVU town bypassing the two sand bunds that lay South of the town and cut off the A35 and A34 from some points while 591 made a head on assault on the bunds. By 25th January the town had fallen.

Another reason for this manoeuvre was the narrow frontage of 2Km that was available for 591 to exploit. Further that hampered any forward advance was the open land that provided scant cover and concealment for attacking squads and their buddy teams. The multiple bunds also meant that any Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) that ferried squads across open land were not able to provide any more close support beyond the first defence line which was again open ground which is easily visible for the defenders' forward observers.

A similar predicament was faced by the 553 brigade that was inching South towards the Sea Tiger base CHALAI from CHUNDIKULAM. The thin isthmus of land meant this brigade too had to conduct its assault on a narrow frontage with a width of roughly 1Km. Further was the fact heavily mined beachfronts and four sand bunds that lay ahead. In some instances engineers reported to have cleared a deadly gourmet of nearly 800 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines within a 200m stretch. Knowing the tough route ahead 55 commanders decided to induct 552 brigade later towards the assault. Securing their flank from further inland was 581 brigade. This augmented the security of the 55 divisional thrust because moving ahead on a 1km corridor presents inherent risks of being easily cutoff since any Tiger counterattacks either from the seafront via boats or from inland requires a penetration of a mere 1km to cutoff forward operating units of 55.

The inherent disadvantages of a narrow frontage are manifold. One particular operation during World War II highlights the disadvantages of a narrow frontage. After the D-day landing on June 6th 1944 Allied Commander Bernard Montgomery conceived two major operations; Goodwood and Cobra to breach the German defences and initiate a swift breakout of the lodgement phase of the assault beach landing. The first of the two operations, Goodwood was to be commanded by Lt. Gen. Miles Dempsey with the objective to drive the Germans from the banks of the river Orne and Southern Caen. Despite an overall frontage of over 15Kms to exploit, Monty and Dempsey had planned the primary thrust using a narrow frontage of only 2km. Hence the three tank divisions of Miles Dempsey's allied forces were concentrated on this very narrow 2Km stretch of an overall front which spanned over 15Kms. This way Montgomery intended to provide maximum preponderance with a high local Force to Force Ratio (FFR) head on at this point to achieve a breakthrough while rest of the frontage was expected to conduct supporting attacks with a lesser numerical edge.

Because the frontage was narrow the resulting traffic congestion delayed the 8th corps to mobilise all 3 tank divisions into action on the first day as planned. Even during second day of battle the 7th armoured core saw little combat. Due to this immobility the actual initial local FFR at the point of attack was a much lower figure than what Monty calculated to be at the planning phase. Even though Monty had his reserves they are usually excluded  from local FFR calculations precisely because their mobility makes it possible for them to fight in many possible places rather than on any particular frontage. The Germans however had anticipated and were preparing for a British offensive in the vicinity of Caen and had placed their reserves nearby to facilitate rapid commitment should such an offensive occur.



 

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