Backcountry Survival  
 
Cold Weather Survival

Introduction  

Individual Clothing and Equipment  

Small Unit Living  

Skiing and Snowshoeing  

Movement  

Combat Techniques  

Small Unit Leaders  

US Marines Forum  

Definitions and Glossary  

Related Sites  
British Army Surplus

Chapter 6 - Combat Techniques

Section I. THE INDIVIDUAL AND NORTHERN WARFARE
6-1. Problems of Northern Warfare

Two opponents face the soldier in northern warfare-the enemy, who must be defeated, and nature, which must be made an ally. We fight the enemy, but we must accept nature as it is, making nature fight with and for us. Proper clothing and equipment will help overcome the hazards of nature. Training teaches the individual how to use natural conditions for movement concealment, and protection, as well as how to operate efficiently when the weather is good or bad, and in all types of terrain. The trained soldier moves, fights, lives, and works easily and confidently because he knows his job.

6-2. Nature of Northern Warfare
a. During winter the vast, empty spaces of the northern regions permit unrestricted maneuver and movement for troops sufficiently equipped and trained to operate in these circumstances. Dispersion is simplified; hostile artillery and mortar fire can be evaded or avoided. A mobile force can gain surprise and
strike deep in the flanks and rear areas of the enemy, disrupting his lines of communications and finally destroying him. However, the mountainous areas of the northern regions will have the same limitations to movement as those in more temperate climates.
b. The principles of war remain unchanged. Tactics used in the northern latitudes are the same as anywhere else in the world. The waging of successful warfare in the extreme cold depends on the use of a great number of techniques. For the purpose of carrying out their mission, all individuals and units concerned must be indoctrinated and thoroughly trained in these techniques.
c. There is always opportunity for each soldier as an individual to display his initiative. Initiative is shown not only in combat, but also in the small things which can be done to make life more comfortable and more interesting in the North.
d. In the isolated areas of the North it is most essential that a system of teams be developed. Pair men together as “buddies” and insure a higher standard of efficiency, safety, and morale. If it can be avoided, never send one man alone on a mission—at all times try to keep “buddies” together.

Section II. INDIVIDUAL WEAPONS AND INSTRUMENTS
6-3. Effects of Northern Conditions on Weapons and Instruments

The year-round necessity for supervised care, cleaning, and maintenance cannot be overstressed. Effects of cold weather on various types of weapons are covered in detail in appendix D.

6-4. Care, Cleaning, and Maintenance
a. Weapons will function under extreme conditions, provided they are properly maintained. Normal lubricants thicken in cold weather and stoppages or sluggish actions of firearms will result. DURING THE WINTER, WEAPONS MUST BE STRIPPED COMPLETELY AND CLEANED WITH A DRY-CLEANING
SOLVENT TO REMOVE ALL LUBRICANTS AND RUST PREVENTION COMPOUND. The prescribed application of special northern oils should then be made.
These lubricants will provide proper lubrication during the winter and help minimize the freezing of snow and ice on and in weapons.
b. Soldiers must insure that snow and ice do not get into the working parts, sights, or barrels of weapons. Even a small amount of ice or snow may cause malfunction of the weapons. Muzzle and breech covers should be used. Before firing, the weapon must be examined carefully, especially the barrel, which may be blocked with ice or snow and will burst when fired. Snow on the outside, if not removed, may drop into the breech and later form ice, causing malfunctioning of the weapon.
c. Condensation forms on weapons when they are taken from the extreme cold into any type of heated shelter. This condensation is often referred to as “sweating.” For this reason weapons should be placed near or at the floor level where the temperature will be lower and there will be less condensation. Every effort must be made to remove condensation as soon as possible or the film will freeze when the weapons are subsequently taken into the cold. The ice so formed may seriously affect the operation of the weapon unless it is manually operated until the moisture freezes. This prevents the parts from freezing together and allows continued operation. If security conditions permit weapons should be left outdoors, in racks or unheated shelter.
d. When weapons are taken into a heated shelter, “sweating” may continue for as long as 1 hour. When time is available, men should wait 1 hour and then remove all condensation and clean the weapon.
e. During the freezeup and breakup seasons, the danger of rust and corrosion is at its greatest. In the winter the lack of moisture in the air decreases this danger, but the problem of ice and snow will necessitate frequent checking and cleaning of weapons.
f. Should parts of a weapon become frozen, warm them slightly and move them gradually until unfrozen. If the weapon cannot be warmed, all visible ice and snow should be removed and parts moved gradually until action is restored. Ice in the barrel can be removed with warm (standard issue) gun oil if slow warming is not possible.
g. When firing, do not let the hot parts of the weapon come in contact with the snow. The snow will melt and, on cooling, form ice. When changing barrels, do not lay them on the snow; rapid cooling may warp them.
h. Snow, even of the lightest variety, has a tremendous smothering effect on fragmenting munitions. Even a few inches of light snow can drastically affect the lethality of this type munition. Understanding this, commanders must insure that antipersonnel mine directional paths are cleared in snow to prevent loss of velocity to fragments and deflection of fragments by snow. Grenadiers should always attempt to obtain airbursts by placing fire on the brush in the target area rather than in the snow. Indirect fire weapons should make maximum use of airbursts provided by time and proximity fuzes.

6-5. Ammunition
Extreme cold does not materially affect the accuracy of weapons nor the performance of small arms ammunition. Ammunition should be kept at the same temperature as the weapon. It should be carried in the bandoleers and the additional ammunition placed in the pockets of the outer garment and in the rucksack. Ammunition clips, and magazines must be cleaned of all oil and preservative and must be checked frequently; all ice, snow, and condensation
should be removed. Cartridge containers, magazines, and ammunition drums must be kept closed in order to prevent the formation of rust or ice.
a. Ammunition should be stored in its original container, raised off the ground, and covered with a tarpaulin. Ammunition so stored should be suitably marked in order to locate and identify it in the event it becomes covered with snow.
b. Resupply of ammunition may be restricted. All personnel must be made aware of the necessity for ammunition economy and fire discipline. Loaded clips, magazines, or single rounds dropped into the snow are quickly lost; therefore, careful handling of ammunition is essential.

6-6. Care and Maintenance of Special Items
a. The liquid in the lensatic compass, aiming circles and in weapons sights congeals in extreme cold This situation will cause sluggish movement of the arrows and bubbles and increase the probability of error. The compass should be carried near the body in inner clothing in order to keep the liquid warm and thin. Other instruments and sights should be kept as warm as possible and should be exposed to the cold only during periods of actual use.
b. Binoculars and other liquid-free optical instruments are not affected by cold weather. However, condensation does form when these instruments are taken from cold air into warm air. Therefore, these instruments should be left outside.
c. Extreme cold will lower the efficiency of all batteries and eventually they may freeze. Batteries must be kept from freezing and, if possible, men should carry radio and flashlight batteries close to the body in order that full efficiency will be available when needed.
d. Low temperature dry cell batteries may be issued for cold weather use. These batteries are distinguished by 2000 series-type numbers, such as BA–2030 for a flashlight battery. These batteries must be stored at temperatures near 0° F to conserve their shelf life.

Section III. FIRE AND MOVEMENT
6-7. Blowing Snow and Fog

a. These restrictions will affect both friendly and enemy forces, Full advantage must be taken of them in order to effect concealment, surprise, and eventual success.
(1) Defense positions should be located on high ground, thus forcing the enemy to attack uphill in deep snow. Each weapon must be assigned a field of fire and emplaced on an improvised platform which will insure fire being brought to bear at man-height level on the likely enemy approaches. Thus during fog, storm, or darkness, effective unobserved fire can be brought to bear.
(2) In areas of fog, if possible, outpost and observation post positions should be located where warmer air or wind eliminates fog or at least makes it less dense.
b. By proper reconnaissance and the use of trailmarkers it may be possible for an attacking force under cover of fog or blowing snow to approach very close to the enemy before the final assault. During blizzards or blowing snow the attacker should, if possible, attack downwind or at a slight angle to it in order that he will force the enemy to face into the full force of the storm.
c. Ice or vapor fogs are very common in extreme low temperatures. Such fogs are primarily the result of natural phenomena, but also result from many other causes such as vehicle exhausts, cooking, breathing, and weapons firing. Fogs of this nature hang overhead and could be clear markers of a position. They will also limit visibility. The observed fire of automatic and direct fire weapons is handicapped considerably by the fog, smoke, and whirling snow caused by muzzle blast. Placing observers away from the weapons positions may be necessary to control the fire. Placing tarpaulins under the guns, or packing or icing the snow, will assist in reducing the effect of muzzle blast. Pauses in firing or change of position may be necessary in order to obtain
better fire effect.

6-8. Fire Positions
a. Digging firing positions in soft or hard snow is relatively easy and quick. In a static position every effort must be made to improve the position and, if time permits, to dig it into the frozen ground. The use of explosives to dig emplacements and fires to thaw the ground will help. A position in the snow is only temporary and cannot withstand artillery and continuous small arms fire. Icing of the position or use of tree trunks and branches will afford added protection (fig. 6-l). Sandbags filled with snow may be used quite effectively for this purpose.
Figure 6-1
b. The digging oppositions in snow and the types constructed are, in general, similar to those discussed in FM 5-15. Foxholes, trenches, and other types are used.
c. Every effort must be made toward improvement of positions; snowblocks, iceblocks, sandbags, logs, and branches can be used to strengthen them. In addition, water may be poured onto the snow to form ice. In static positions, when time allows water mixed with dirt, sand, or gravel can be poured into wooden forms. This is called “icecrete.” The icecrete must be well tamped as it is poured to make it compact. Usually there is no necessity for removing the forms unless the wood is required for other purposes. Icecrete is darker than ice and will absorb more heat from the rays of the sun, causing melting. Icecrete construction must therefore be covered with snow, both to overcome its melting and to camouflage its contrasting color. Icecrete is much stronger than ice, provides considerable protection from small arms fire and shell fragments, and is a useful material for preparation of defensive positions. Icecrete, however, is brittle, and sustained fire reduces its protectiveness, thus requiring frequent repairs.
d. The action of winds and tides during winter rips the sea ice surface and then forces the ice into high piles extending in lines for miles, These ice barriers afford excellent firing positions and protection because of their thickness and the fact they command the usually flat expanses between ridges. Iceblocks can be cut from numerous sources and used to strengthen a position. The ice should be covered with packed snow which will help camouflage and assist in eliminating the possibility of ricochets, shell fragments, and lethal ice splinters.
e. In a woods the thickest and strongest trees provide the best protection for the individual. In order to use the added protection afforded by the trees, perimeter positions should not be on the edge, but should be slightly deeper in the woods, depending on its density and consistent with the required fields
of fire (fig. 6-2), A tree 50 cm (20”) in diameter will provide protection from small arms fire. If the tree selected is smaller, packed snow, dirt, branches, or deadfalls may be used to increase protection.
f. The improvement of fields of fire in woods is most important. The lower branches of trees, up to 2 meters (6’) high, which restrict fields of fire must be removed. Underbrush and perhaps even a few trees will have to be cut; however, do not strip the area. In the first phase of improvement, crisscrossing snow tunnels under the trees is carried out. Then, if time allows, those fields are extended wider and deeper. In the final phase, obstacles and traps are constructed and mines laid in these areas (fig. 6-2).
Figure 6-2

6-9. Use of Ski Poles and Sleds in Firing
a. When firing in snow, it is necessary that a firm support be used, as snow will compact. On hard packed snow the weapon may slide. Therefore, any item available in the area or in the men’s possession should be used to insure a solid base; e.g., branches, skis, snowshoes, or sleds.
b. Skis and ski poles can be used in a variety of ways to form weapons rests while firing on the move. Figure 6-3 illustrates the standing position. Use this position only in hasty situations, as when surprised by enemy fire.
c. Ski poles may be used as an elbow rest or as weapon support when firing from a kneeling position in shallow crusted snow (fig. 6-4). For firing in deep, soft snow the position of the poles can be reversed for added stability.
d. When firing from the prone position, the skis or ski poles may be used as an elbow rest or as supports for the weapon (figs. 6-5, 6-6, and 6-7).
e. Automatic weapons may be fired from the prone position using a snowshoe or ski pole basket as a rest for the biped (fig. 6-8). A fairly wide strip of canvas maybe permanently attached to each leg of the biped. On opening the biped, the canvas will stretch out between the legs over the snow and stop the legs from sinking.
f. To prevent weapons from sinking in deep snow, machine-guns may be fired from sleds in case of emergency (fig. 6-9). The weapons can be mounted either with regular or improvised mountings. However, it is essential that weapons be placed in a dug-in position as soon as possible.
Figure 6-3 Figure 6-4 Figure 6-5 Figure 6-6 Figure 6-7 Figure 6-8 Figure 6-9

6-10. Strength of Snow, Ice, and Frozen Ground for Cover
a. General. The soft, spongy ground of the North in the summer, and the snow surface in the winter, have a smothering effect on fire from all types of weapons. Hard frozen, bare ground or ice, when not covered with snow, greatly increases the number of ricochets and fragmentation effects. The resistance or protection offered by snow, ice, or frozen ground against enemy fire is variable.
b. Penetration. A rifle bullet rapidly loses its penetrating power depending on the density of the snow. Snow packed in layers tends to deflect the bullet at each new layer. Loose snow spread over a defense position will help smother ricochets. The minimum thickness for protection from rifle bullets and shell fragments is shown in the following table:
Table 6-1

6-11. Effect of Snow, Ice, Frozen Ground, and Muskeg on Shells and Grenades
a. Loose snow greatly reduces the explosive and fragmentation effects of shells. The depth, type of snow, and ammunition are naturally the main consideration. The use of a delayed action fuze will generally cause the shell to penetrate the snow blanket and explode underneath, smothering and reducing the effect of the fragmentation. One meter (3’) of snow will provide some protection against most light artillery fire. A superquick fuze setting
will increase the effect of artillery fire, while airbursts will inflict still more casualties on surface targets.
b. In the summer the many areas of muskeg and water will also limit the effects of artillery fire. On ice or frozen ground, and during periods of freezup, the effect will be greatly increased as the result of flying ice splinters and frozen clods of ground. In these seasons and areas, covered positions must be increased in strength. Overhead protection must be sought whenever possible.

6-12. Crew-Served Weapon Positions
a. Detailed information and guidance for construction of emplacements and shelters is contained in FM 5-15. The dimensions are applicable for both winter and summer. The gun emplacements for MG’s, rocket launchers, and recoilless rifles are square-type positions. The gun platform can be made from packed snow and is about waist high. Open space must be left behind the gun to allow for the back blast of the rocket launcher and recoilless rifle.
b. Mortar positions in snow are normally round shaped (fig. 6-10). Because of the frozen ground a mat made from tree branches or sandbags filled with snow must be placed under the baseplate when firing. See FM 5-15 and FM 23-90.
c. Bunker-type positions will give better protection for the gun crew against enemy fire and weather than will open positions (figs. 6-11, 6-12, and 6-13). A hasty bunker-type position is normally built as follows:
(1) A square shaped hole is dug in the snow, the dimension depending on the purpose of the bunker position.
(2) A heavy log or a tree trunk is placed lengthwise on each side of the snow hole. They are supported by four heavy, forked poles.
(3) A layer of logs is placed crosswise in the top of the two support logs.
(4) A layer of boughs is placed on the first layer of logs in order to prevent melting snow from dripping into the bunker.
(5) Two or three more layers of logs are placed on the top of the boughs.
(6) Finally, the roof is covered by smoothing and packing the snow in order to eliminate any sharp features that may produce shadows.
(7) A small embrasure reinforced with sandbags and snow is left open, in the direction of the field of fire.
(8) The rear entrance is covered with a white tarpaulin or a white camouflage suit.
Figure 6-10 Figure 6-11 Figure 6-12 Figure 6-13 Figure 6-14
d. Tents are often used in temporary defense positions to shelter the men. They must be close to the combat positions and should be in defilade. The tents must be dug into the deep snow, or even into the ground in order to protect the men against enemy fire. The tent ropes must be well anchored by using deadman anchors or upright poles placed deep in packed snow. Immediately outside the tent, defense positions must be dug for use in case of sudden
alert (fig. 6-14).
e. When near the surface the covering snow is easy to dig with individual entrenching tools; the difficulties will start when ground is reached. Several small holes should be dug in the ground and attempts made to break the frozen ground between them. The men should temporarily exchange the different types of entrenching tools in order to make the digging faster. During darkness, or in areas not under the enemy’s direct observation, heavy tools such as picks, crowbars, and shovels are used so that positions can be completed rapidly.
f. Using explosives provides the easiest and fastest way to break the frozen ground. However, the use of demolitions will be restricted when under enemy observation. Composition C–4, tetrytol, and TNT are the best explosives for use in northern operations because they retain their effectiveness in cold weather. Dig a hole in the ground in which to place the explosive and tamp the charge with any material available to increase its effectiveness. Either electric or nonelectric circuits may be used to detonate the charge. For a foxhole, 10 pounds of explosive will usually be sufficient. Another formula is to use 2 pounds of explosive for every 30 cm (1’) of penetration in frozen ground. Shaped charges can be used very efficiently to make holes in frozen ground as described in TM 5-349.
g. Some improvised means as listed below may be used to break the frozen ground when no others are available:
(1) In rear areas frozen ground can be thawed by starting a campfire in the place where it is desired to dig.
(2) Two or three handgrenades tied together can be used to blast a hole in the frozen ground.
(3) Existing craters caused by enemy or friendly artillery fire can be utilized.
h. Often the tops of ridges or hilltops will be rocky and with very little snow on the ground because of wind action. If the time and situation allow, the snow situation can be improved by erecting snow fences in the place planned for defense positions. Within a few days the snow fences will collect drifting snow in bank-like forms in which it is easy to dig positions.

Continue to Fighting Techniques

 

© 2005 BackcountrySurvival.com. All Rights Reserved