Tuesday, February 7, 2017

SHTF Tuesday Self-Education Series Book Review: From the Library: The Last Hundred Yards

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 techniques described within are effectively universal and are a good use of your time to read, practice and do until you are comfortable with them.  Remember, even if you are not using these techniques, somebody else probably will use them against YOU should America slide into profound domestic difficulties... a subject that I know is of great concern to many of you out there.

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.

"The Last Hundred Yards" is part of our Tuesday Book Review series ~ Written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales and attending law school in flyover country. You used to be able to follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski until he got banned for too much badthink. He now prowls the Social Media landscape on Gab.ai.

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Anonymous said...

Howdy All,

1. I had a copy of Mr. Poole's LHY back when I was on active duty, and during my Reserve time lent it to one the NCO's in my section and never saw it back. It's good stuff. Last year I decided I needed a copy again and made contact with Mr. Poole. I had three of his other shorter books, "One more bridge to cross", Tactics of the Cresent Moon, Militant tricks, and purchased a full set. I also horse traded an extra LHY instead of the three others already on the shelf. Good guy to deal with, he answers his own phone.


Stop said...

Thanks ML27 for your share! Back in the day, this book could only be purchased in the PME book section at the PX's. I was surprised that it is now available on Amazon.
Nice to know that Poole is just as approachable in person as he seems in his work. Clearly this (his body of published work) is a labor of love from someone who cares and loves to teach.

DTG said...

Hi, this is, indeed, a superb reference for SUT! I've had it on my 'recommended reading list' over at my site since I've had the site. Posterity Press is Poole's site; at least it used to be, and you can still get it there for $28 if everything still works the same. Back in the day, if you called, you usually talked to Poole himself, and you had to have a DD214 to get a copy.

For the newer folks, try his book, "The Tiger's Way," which is just about everything except the artillery. Almost all of Poole's books deep dive into the tactics of OPFOR in a given AO.

Great review!

HalfElf said...

I have several of them, and have provided my son with a copy as well since he just made Corporal in the USMC. It should be required reading as a PME, in addition to being issue for baby O-1's when they are released on their first unit.

Unknown said...

On the Posterity Press site, you still need to call and provide DD214 info. Prices on Amazon are in the $100 range.

John Arnold said...

Thank you for this article because it’s really informative, I love reading your article and I hope that I will read some more about this stuff, it’s really informative and very entertaining. Thanks a lot and have a great day. 

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