THE TETHERED GOAT
Posted by Jack Heslin on 19:49:30 05/20/23
History does not repeat, it does not rhyme, but it does inform.
For those who have never been in a battle, it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the intensity of the action and often the horror that takes place all around you. No matter how big the battle or the war, in the end, it all comes down to your personal experience. People watch movies or read books and have a vicarious experience of war, but nothing touches the moment-to-moment heat of intense combat as a personal experience. Many people talk about war and combat, but few have actually experienced it.
After months of fighting, the Battle of Bakhmut appears to be over. The Russian forces of the Wagner Group have fought an intense, mostly urban battle that has claimed the lives of many, both Russian and Ukrainian. It is clear to me that it would have been impossible for the Wagner Group to succeed in their attacks against the well-fortified defensive positions of the Ukraine defenders without the massive amounts of effective artillery fire, rockets, and bombs generated by the Russian military.
It is axiomatic to say that, in the end, all war is personal for the participants. In March of 1967 my friend, Walt Shugart, was an infantry company commander in the Battle of Soui Tre in Tay Ninh Province of South Vietnam. His infantry company was put out in the jungle as a tethered goat to entice the enemy forces to attack them. His 120-man company was supported by an artillery battery, located with them, which had beehive anti-personnel rounds which essentially turned the 105mm howitzers into giant shotguns. They also had close air-support that could be called in when needed.
As the battle raged, human wave assaults were launched against Walt s company by large enemy formations. At times, the defensive perimeter was breached as the defenders were being overwhelmed. At a critical moment of the battle, the artillery guns fired their beehive rounds at close range directly into the attacking enemy mass. The results were catastrophic for the enemy units. In the end, the Americans losses were 36 dead. The enemy losses were over 600 KIA.
Without the extremely effective fire provided by the artillery guns, the position would have been overrun. As the tethered goat the relatively small American unit was able to lure a large enemy unit into a killing zone which accomplished the mission of destroying them.
History is filled with such examples, both large and small. It appears to me that in many ways, Bakhmut has served as a tethered goat for the Russians. As long as the Ukraine Army continued to pour soldiers into the killing zone it was obvious the destruction of their forces would continue. Without the necessary effective fire support to counter the Russian effort it was unlikely, as it has been from the beginning of this conflict, that the Ukraine military could prevail.
The political decision to commit forces to a mission with little likelihood of succeeding, borders on the criminal.