Storming the City - U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam, Alec Wahlman

Storming the City - U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam, Alec Wahlman

This book focuses on four American urban battles, each fought against a different enemy (the Germans at Aachen, the Japanese at Manila, the North Koreans at Seoul and the North Vietnamese at Hue), but each ending with an American victory.

The focus is less on a detailed narrative of the battles and more on urban warfare techniques and the good and bad points of the US performance in each battle.

The book falls into two sections - Second World War and post-war. Each starts with a look at pre-existing US doctrine for Urban Warfare, demonstrating a tendency for the topic to be neglected between wars. The author then looks at each battle in turn, examining how the doctrine was implemented, and any changes or improvements that developed during the battle.

The first three battles are most similar - in each case the Americans initiated the battle and were thus on the offensive from the start. At Hue the North Vietnamese began the battle with a surprise attack on the city. The Americans were also operating alongside their South Vietnamese allies, so weren't entirely in command of the attack. In general the US response at Hue wasn't as good or as well organised as in the earlier battle, with units committed piecemeal. They were also slow to realise how serious the attack was, perhaps falling for their own propaganda about the progress of the war.

The book ends with a comparative section, analysing the strengths and weakness of the US approach to Urban Warfare, with the skills of small unit commanders and the willingness to use large amounts of artillery emerging as key strengths. There is a general feel of decline over the course of these four battles, with Hue being the least impressive performance. This is a useful volume, looking at a key aspect of military operations, but one that was often neglected at the time.

1 - Urban Warfare in American Military Thought Before Aachen
2 - Aachen - October 1944
3 - Manila - February 1945
4 - Urban Warfare in American Military Thought after World War II
5 - Seoul - September 1950
6 - Hue - February 1968

Author: Alec Wahlman
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Year: 2015

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