Mud! Self-Propelled Howitzer Mired in Mud

A Ukrainian self-propelled howitzer and its ammunition carrier are mired in mud. This scene will become all two common as both sides venture into the wet and cold conditions associated with a Ukrainian winter. Though mud itself is nothing new, its ability to frustrate commanders and soldiers alike is quite remarkable, and this is an excellent opportunity to discuss mud, the weather, and their ability to affect military operations.


Military planners define “friction” as that which makes the easy difficult and the difficult impossible, and weather is one of the most common sources of friction when conducting military operations. Historically, armies that could move quickly and which could sustain themselves maintained the initiative and achieved victory in battle. Napoleon found success in Northern Italy against numerically superior allied forces by placing his army between allied armies and then rapidly marching and counter marching to concentrate against first one and then the other, defeating them in detail. The mobility of the Wehrmacht allowed them to concentrate combat power against a combined Anglo-French host, and maneuver employed in concert with artillery and air power allowed the Germans to achieve decisive results at the critical point on the battlefield. The mobility of Panzer was only partly responsible for German victory in France in 1940, and much of their success was due to the trucks which kept forward units supplied and sustained the advance.


Few elements on the battlefield can hinder movement, limit mobility, and disrupt logistics like mud. Napoleon himself discovered this during his retreat from Moscow, and the German Army discovered it again on the Eastern Front in World War II. During World War I, relentless rain transformed Flanders into a sea of mud. British soldiers participating in the Third Battle of Ypres, known simply as Passchendaele, came to see mud as a more lethal foe than the Germans. The unceasing rain rendered arial bombardment impossible, and the waterlogged roads made it impossible to move heavy guns. Soldiers waded through a glue-like sea of mud which could suck the boots off a soldier’s feet or could drown a wounded man and moving a casualty by stretcher required six men. The mud was a soul-sucking entity that sapped the strength and will of men, horses, and mules, limited movement and mobility, and frustrated efforts to sustain armies committed to the front. Weather can frustrate commanders at all levels, and I can personally speak to the frustration caused by mud when one of my vehicle commanders, my wingman, became mired in a field as the foe with which we were exchanging fire bracketed our position with mortars.


Historically, General Mud has fought for Russia, but now they find themselves facing their former ally. Weather conditions un undoubtedly hinder both sides, as evidenced by this video, and will undoubtedly slow the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Russians will face similar problems as the killing fields around Avdiivka and Bakhmut are reduced to a quagmire. The Russian Army, however, finds itself on the long end of a tenuous supply chain, relying on rail and trucks to sustain their already poorly supplied forward units. While the weather and mud will limit mobility for both sides, the strain on logistics will have a greater detrimental effect on Russia’s ability to sustain operations.


About the Author

Author's Photo

Cam

Cam served as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, deploying to the Horn of Africa and participating in combat operations in Iraq. He currently works in the maritime industry and in the defense sector as an instructor of combined arms planning and operations. An avid sailor, Cam founded and directs Triumph Sailing, a nonprofit that supports veterans and first responders through adventure and fellowship on the water. Triumph Sailing just completed its big yearly event, an offshore race in the Gulf of Mexico with an all veteran crew. You can support the mission and next year's sailing season at Tri-Sail.Org.

Published 7 months ago

A Ukrainian self-propelled howitzer and its ammunition carrier are mired in mud. This scene will become all two common as both sides venture into the wet and cold conditions associated with a Ukrainian winter. Though mud itself is nothing new, its ability to frustrate commanders and soldiers alike is quite remarkable, and this is an excellent opportunity to discuss mud, the weather, and their ability to affect military operations.


Military planners define “friction” as that which makes the easy difficult and the difficult impossible, and weather is one of the most common sources of friction when conducting military operations. Historically, armies that could move quickly and which could sustain themselves maintained the initiative and achieved victory in battle. Napoleon found success in Northern Italy against numerically superior allied forces by placing his army between allied armies and then rapidly marching and counter marching to concentrate against first one and then the other, defeating them in detail. The mobility of the Wehrmacht allowed them to concentrate combat power against a combined Anglo-French host, and maneuver employed in concert with artillery and air power allowed the Germans to achieve decisive results at the critical point on the battlefield. The mobility of Panzer was only partly responsible for German victory in France in 1940, and much of their success was due to the trucks which kept forward units supplied and sustained the advance.


Few elements on the battlefield can hinder movement, limit mobility, and disrupt logistics like mud. Napoleon himself discovered this during his retreat from Moscow, and the German Army discovered it again on the Eastern Front in World War II. During World War I, relentless rain transformed Flanders into a sea of mud. British soldiers participating in the Third Battle of Ypres, known simply as Passchendaele, came to see mud as a more lethal foe than the Germans. The unceasing rain rendered arial bombardment impossible, and the waterlogged roads made it impossible to move heavy guns. Soldiers waded through a glue-like sea of mud which could suck the boots off a soldier’s feet or could drown a wounded man and moving a casualty by stretcher required six men. The mud was a soul-sucking entity that sapped the strength and will of men, horses, and mules, limited movement and mobility, and frustrated efforts to sustain armies committed to the front. Weather can frustrate commanders at all levels, and I can personally speak to the frustration caused by mud when one of my vehicle commanders, my wingman, became mired in a field as the foe with which we were exchanging fire bracketed our position with mortars.


Historically, General Mud has fought for Russia, but now they find themselves facing their former ally. Weather conditions un undoubtedly hinder both sides, as evidenced by this video, and will undoubtedly slow the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Russians will face similar problems as the killing fields around Avdiivka and Bakhmut are reduced to a quagmire. The Russian Army, however, finds itself on the long end of a tenuous supply chain, relying on rail and trucks to sustain their already poorly supplied forward units. While the weather and mud will limit mobility for both sides, the strain on logistics will have a greater detrimental effect on Russia’s ability to sustain operations.


About the Author

Author's Photo

Cam

Cam served as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, deploying to the Horn of Africa and participating in combat operations in Iraq. He currently works in the maritime industry and in the defense sector as an instructor of combined arms planning and operations. An avid sailor, Cam founded and directs Triumph Sailing, a nonprofit that supports veterans and first responders through adventure and fellowship on the water. Triumph Sailing just completed its big yearly event, an offshore race in the Gulf of Mexico with an all veteran crew. You can support the mission and next year's sailing season at Tri-Sail.Org.

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