Thursday, May 17, 2018

Installment 4.15: Logistics, logistics, logistics

One of the quirks of the route from Sacramento to SD-LA is that the first three hundred miles of the route is through the flat, almost featureless Central Valley.  Lacking contour, the land is difficult to defend in the traditional sense and defending forces must rely on the slender reed of attrition and chopping at the logistical tail.  The Cali forces with the 122mm howitzers and drones OWNED the first 300 miles.

The last sixty miles of the route snakes through the San Gabriel Mountains.  As it common for roads that run through mountainous terrain, the road takes maximum advantage of the valleys that run in favorable directions. 

Valleys, by definition, are bounded by elevated positions.  Elevated positions and reverse slopes are optimal for defensive positions.  It was clear to all that the serious work of the Battle of SD-LA was going to occur in the last sixty miles.

The only viable battle plan was for the leading forces of the Cali invasion to bivouac on the plains north of the San Gabriel mountains and wait for the trailing elements to join them.  Then to throw all of the artillery and air elements to secure the sixty mile passage and to blast through the gap at the fastest possible speed.

It seemed certain that a quarter million armed men would surely be able to blast through the feeble defenses of the rag-tag rebels, join up with federal forces in SD-LA and crush the rebellion.

At least, that was the plan.

The seven battle groups of the invasion were strung out along the length of the Central Valley when the lead group threw up the first shelters.  Since they intended to stay for a week, they erected hoop-house shelters that were covered with mesh reinforced plastic film.  In fact, they were commercially available green houses.  Each hoop-house was 24’ wide by 80’ feet long and they housed one hundred-sixty soldiers, four rows of soldiers sleeping feet-head-feet in the row.

The harassing fire through the night and the accelerating cholera epidemic turned the hoop-houses into a fetid hell.  As a premonition of the upcoming run through the mountains, the SoCal forces were able to fire rockets from behind the looming hills and the 122mm howitzers will ill-suited to rooting them out.
Early in the harassment campaign the defenders realized that the Cali officers would soon crack down on the profligate use of return fire from the artillery.  Early in the invasion the 122mm howitzer crews would fire three times when one shell would have been sufficient. 

One of the mortar crews hit upon the idea of occasionally placing an up-armored rocket beside a standard rocket.  The first rocket was fired remotely and the 122mm crews obligingly fired three shells at the point-of-origin.  Then the second rocket, which had been snuggly encased in a stout, concrete culvert pointed in the proper direction, was launched remotely. 

The artillery crews assumed that every rocket and mortar crew had up-armored and invariably fired SIX shells at each challenge.  Whenever the response drifted below six shells the crews started adding the second, armored rocket back into the mix.  Word was quickly passed to the defending forces along the length of the Central Valley.

Logistics quickly became a nightmare for Cali after the last battle group left Sacramento.  The logistical convoys moved too fast for drone support and there was no self-propelled artillery to send with the convoys.

Attacks against the convoys ranged from caltrops scattered on the pavement to puncture tires to improvised explosive devices along the road to high-jacking the truck as it waited in line for loading and the subsequent theft and redistribution of the cargo.

Snipers shot through windshields.  Fuel tanks were drained in the night.  Brakes were jimmied.  Incendiary devices were placed atop exhaust manifolds.  Rattlesnakes were placed in cabs.

The robust resupply capability that is the foundation of modern combat forces never materialized.  But what should have been a major concern was masked by the burgeoning cholera epidemic.

Larry Dascher, the head of the Cali Military, was conversing with the lead element of the invasion.  “How many of your soldiers have the cholera?” he asked.

“I can field 40% effective.” The officer leading the first battle group responded.
“That means that 60% of your soldiers have been diagnosed with cholera.” Dascher said.

“No.  That means that 100% of my soldiers have cholera and 40% of them can stand, hold a gun and return fire.  They might be shitting their guts out, but they can return fire.  Just don’t ask them to walk while doing it.” The first battle group officer responded.  He was just a bit testy because it seem like months since he had enjoyed a full night’s sleep.

“Our medical officers say that most of the symptoms should abate after seven days.  Seems like you should be out of this soon.” Dascher said.

“Well, you send those medical officers out here.  I can use all the help I can get.”

“Tell them the first cases still require IV support seven days after first symptoms and it will probably be three weeks before they recover half of their capability.  Tell them my medics predict a ten-to-twenty percent mortality rate if we run out of IVs.”  Yeah, he was more than a little testy.

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