This book review is for Americans interested in the tactical operations of small units. The scope of this work, while mostly geared for Platoon sized elements, encompasses techniques that span from individual skills to concepts that are best employed at the Battalion or Regiment (or whatever your affiliated branch or persuasion's equivalent is).
The book being reviewed here is H. John Poole's “The Last Hundred Yards” - The NCO's contribution to Warfare. It is published by Posterity Press and bears ISBN 0-9638695-2-3.
As an interesting aside, it has a foreword by Bill Lind. As a curmudgeon and renowned out of the box thinker, Lind sets the bar high for all who follow. To quote directly from Bill Lind in the foreword, “The Last Hundred Yards is the most detailed, most complete look at techniques in maneuver warfare. No FMFM even comes close... the value of the book goes beyond techniques. It also addresses tactics”. I have had this very copy on my shelf since about the year 2000. I have referred to it often for inspiration and insight when scripting OPFOR in exercises or working on unit training. After reading this review, if you have not already bought a copy, please visit my Amazon link to help fund more reviews and articles, as well as to add to your arsenal of ideas.
The reason this book exists is for the sole purpose of preserving and passing on small unit tactical skills, techniques and procedures (TTP). The existing catalog of government produced military manuals often falls short in providing some of the details that a private party such as H. John Poole can provide. Doctrinal manuals are fine for the basics and an overview, but what you will find in here is what has been used in combat and what works. The scope of conflict is largely written from a Vietnam era to more contemporary state on state regular combat. Guerrilla and Insurgent war is not really the scope of this work.
The book leads off with getting a grip on what "winning" means, and what that involves. You must define winning in your context... is it making it another day, or is it dealing a decisive defeat to a defined enemy? Don't look to the Department of State or SecDef for enlightenment, because they really don't know either. Had they, they would have said something in the last 40-50 years of substance on this. There is a direct correlation between vaguely worded objectives and the creeping defeat America has been forced to endure at the hands of it's leadership. And no, “Nation building” is NOT a real objective.
Neighborhood Protection Teams (NPT) or other elements representing the political and survival will of what really are tribal elements would do well to pay heed to “Table 1.1: What May Be Required to Win at Low Cost”. In my 1996 edition, this is found on page 4. For those with a blank slate before them, or looking for a common sense guide star, you will find it right there. Much like you derive all else from F=ma and “right, red, returning”, if you are wondering what you need, refer to Table 1.1 and get back on track.
“No Infantryman or small unit is ever fully trained” - H. John Poole
I could at this point go on a protracted riff of all the sources and quotations in the book. That would be a distraction in this context, but Poole places some gems in here that are well worth reading, understanding and absorbing. In contrast to the “technique” of physical annihilation that American forces default to, pay heed to Sun Tzu and his desire to win with as little actual fighting as possible. This concept, while counter intuitive, may be useful as America creeps towards the outbreak of the next civil war. I harbor no illusions that such a concept will be universally applicable, particularly if civil unrest and conflict becomes protracted. Look how the war of Yugoslavian breakup went. The psychotic and genocidal actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Serbian Army and Croats are probably a better guide for how things would end up here. Your opinion may vary, but the artificially stoked animosities (#BLM, LaRaza, gangs) and imported sources of strife (just look in your local grocery... if you have halal goat, that is an indicator) are powerful trends that will leave a dent in history.
Up to Chapter 8, Poole discusses combining methodologies and concepts of war. This is all great background information that helps glue your larger education together. In Chapter 8, Poole discusses a topic that you will have to look long and hard to find elsewhere... that of reassessing the role of weapons. We all take for granted that specific weapons are for specific things. Here, Poole expands the horizon by thinking way outside the box on what use various weapons can provide. Interestingly, he includes deception as a use of weapons. In the end, all of these techniques and ideas are to get the most utility from a given expenditure of resources. This idea of economy is a force multiplier and should interest the professional as well as the NPT.
Part Two of The Last Hundred Yards specifically addresses technique. It is in this portion that I find this work most closely aligned with Max Velocity's “CONTACT!” (see my review of Contact! HERE). It is about 280 pages of pure content for the inquiring mind. Patrols, contact, indirect fire, ambush, counter ambush... point men, traversing battlefields... and some really forward thinking material on urban defense and offense. That this book is not mandatory reading in any branch of the military should be seen as an indicator that the Brass is not serious about winning. It is more than a shame, it is a CRIME that this book is not issued to every Marine, to every Soldier. It matters THAT MUCH. The application will rest with the Staff NCO and boot Officer, but must be understood by all in the Platoon. If YOUR son is “in harm's way”, you might want to get him spooled up with his own Poole library. It is a potential life saver. I previously reviewed two other of Poole's work, "Militant Tricks" HERE and "Phantom Soldier" HERE.
Poole has added an interesting item to the genre by including an “Inventory Test” that is the whole of Appendix A. It is a 100 question, multiple choice test with the answers on the last page of the Appendix. It is a way for you to reinforce what you learned and get more out of his book. I found it informative and thought provoking. It may be some of the best condensed knowledge you may see in a while!
Appendix B is “Guidelines for a Free-Play Exercise". This may be somewhat useful for giving some ground rules and considerations for any peaceful “force on force” training a NPT or similar unit could do. It is, however, geared towards a conventionally equipped force with MILES gear (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) and a mountain of blank ammo.
One minor beef that I have is the prolific use of dated graphics just a tad better than dot-matrix to render pictures and diagrams found in military manuals and reproduced in the work. They work to get the point under discussion across, but in my opinion could be improved upon. This is really my only minor gripe in what is a stellar book. It is as if I was quibbling over the purity of gold that a benefactor had given me. I am thankful to H. John Poole for writing this and I hope that his work resonates with a new generation of readership as America realizes that it is in a new and quite uncertain era.
You can read some of my previously published book reviews found on the shelf of my personal library HERE.
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