Monday, July 13, 2020

Quest: Vimy Ridge redux

Sammy was embarrassed. Not just personally, but more importantly, professionally.

Sammy was a nerd.

As a young man, before Ebola, he read classic Science Fiction. One of the books in the pantheon was Gordon Dickson’s book Dorsai.

Dickson pointed out that battles in the vastness of space could only happen by mutual consent. The distances were so great and even massive space battleships were like motes of dust on the far side of the Pacific Ocean.

General Spackle was fond of comparing his forces to the forces of World War I. In some ways it was a valid comparison. The technologies were not that far apart.

Where Spackle was way off base involved the number of fighters per mile of front.

One battle in WWI that Spackle demanded that his Lieutenants study was the Battle of Vimy Ridge. A force of Canadian soldiers attacked the German force holding Vimy Ridge. That battle took place from April 9 through April 12, 1917. So considering the differences in climate, it was an almost exact analog for the battle looming at the end of April in Michigan.

The ridge was approximately 4.5 miles long and offered favorable elevation for the defenders. The difficulty in excavating trenches, on the other hand, mitigated against the defenders.

The defenders were under-manned (estimated to be 70%-to-80% of the T-o-O) and resupply was fifteen miles to the rear. The Buffer-Zone was also under-manned according to the original Tables of Organization and resupply was thirty miles to the rear.

The parallels continued. Spackle was willing to let the attackers earn acres of ground as long as it placed his fighters in advantageous positions around the salient. That is, Spackle encouraged his defense to bend as long as the attackers paid a heavy price in blood and as long as the attackers pushed themselves into a “fire sack”. That was a strategy similar to the German defense plan.

Where the two scenarios diverged wildly was that the Germans had 8000 defenders per mile of front and the attackers threw five times that number per mile at the defenders.

And those were just the primary fighters. Reserves were in addition to that number.

The Buffer-Zone, in contrast, had about five hundred fighters defending thirteen miles and many of them were biased toward the north end where the interstate was.

Essentially, Spackle had forty fighters per mile defending the southern eight miles of front. And they were not stacked on the line. Rather, they were deployed-in-depth to support the bend-but-dont-break philosophy Spackle was promoting.

It was a recipe for disaster if the attackers achieved surprise and poured a significant amount of their force along a second axis of attack in the sparsely defended southern two-thirds.

The operative verb is “achieved surprise”.

Sammy knew that sensors were cheap. They were little more than a beer can or “Red Solo” cup with a magnet and coil. Amplifiers were cheap. Batteries and small solar panels were cheap. Software is replicated at almost zero cost.

The expense in sensors is in the installation.

The sensors east of the Buffer Zone had been installed by Sammy, himself. It had been done in the dark of night under arduous conditions.

Comparatively speaking, it would be a walk in the park to install lines of sensors within the Buffer-Zone. It could be done in the light and fighters could be trained to do it.

He started to transmit an order to Dmitri for sensors to populate three picket-lines within the Buffer-Zone. One along the eastern boundary. One along the western boundary. And one along the spine of the land between the West Branch (ironically on the east side of the Buffer-Zone) and Doan Creek.

Then a voice from the past reached out to him. He could not remember where he had heard or read it, but it was crystal-clear “Failure to plan for failures is to passively accept all consequences that spring from that failure”

Sammy doubled the order of seismic sensors.

There as absolutely no reason to not deploy picket-lines of sensors WEST of the Buffer-Zone, between the Buffer-Zone and Capiche.

The worst-case scenario, from a failed mission standpoint, would be if the defenders failed to engage the attackers and they punched through the defenses and then had freedom-of-movement in the rear of the Buffer-Zone. The Buffer-Zone would lose logistical support from Capiche and nobody would know where the attackers were or where they would attack next.

Then, as an afterthought to his afterthought, Sammy added a gross-lot of acoustical mics to is order. He also included a very short note that captured his thinking. Anything Dmitri could do to pre-program the equipment for the mission would be much appreciated.



  1. The only WW1 Allied force to capture and hold Vimy Ridge was the Canadian Corps. There were no "hangers-on" was a Canadian-planned, led and executed operation. Both the French and British were surprised that it succeeded where their respective soldiery failed.

    1. Thank-you for your correction.

      The Canadians were very ably led.

    2. For people who read the comments, I changed some of the text. I erroneously identified the forces that took Vimy Ridge as British Commonwealth soldiers instead of the more specific Canadian soldiers.

      It was my error and Favill graciously pointed it out.


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