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A Skirmish in Nicaragua (Problem I)
Historical Map Problem
At dawn on 27 February 1928, a pack train, convoyed by a Marine patrol, pushes out of Estelli, Nicaragua, along the trail to Yali, loaded with supplies for the company of Marines on outpost duty there.
The train consists of forty pack animals; and the patrol of three squads, a gunnery sergeant, one sergeant, a hospital corpsman, and a messenger, all under the command of a lieutenant. The last three are mounted, the remaining men on foot.
This is the first patrol for all the men, but they perform the job in an excellent manner. For in spite of the difficult terrain and the heavy mud of the trail they make the thirty miles to Yali in remarkable time, arriving just after dark.
The company of Marines at Yali was one of several units in the area engaged in the mission of maintaining order until a Nicaraguan force could be trained to take over that task. Now, the chief disturber of the peace was General Augusto César Sandino. He had been one of the leaders in the recent successful revolution. But when the fruits of victory were distributed Sandino felt that his portion was a lemon.
Accordingly he withdrew his forces to northern Nicaragua and placed himself in opposition to the government and the "Invaders", as he termed the Marines. Several bands of brigands in that area joined his banner so that he was nominally at the head of some thousand men. It was the threat of Sandino's band that forced the Marines to convoy all pack trains carrying supplies to their far-flung outposts.
Therefore, upon the safe arrival of the train and convoy at Yali, all hands felt that a perilous task had been well done and looked forward to a couple of day's rest before the return journey. But their hopes were shortly blasted, for they were no more than bedded down when orders came directing the patrol with its pack train to proceed at daylight the following morning to Condega, where another outpost company was stationed. Accordingly the patrol set out the next morning for Condega.
That village appeared, on the map available at the time, to be only some 12 miles from Yali. The day's march should be an easy one. But the trail was much more difficult than that of the preceding day, and men and animals were fagged out when the lieutenant halted his patrol about 1:30 PM near the road junction at A.
Upon inquiry there he learned to his consternation that he was still 17 miles from Condega. He then asked if there were any large ranches in the vicinity, and found that there was one at Darali. There were two roads to that point. One led over the mountain and was the shorter route to Condega; the second went through a defile but the going was easier.
Both roads were cut through heavy woods filled with dense undergrowth- potential ambush at many points. The lieutenant now considers the terrain, the roads, the condition of men and animals, the distance to Condega and the character of Sandino's band and comes to a decision.
Under conditions such as these, resembling as they do bush or jungle warfare, marches are normally made during daylight hours, starting after daybreak and ending in time to take adequate security provisions for the camp before dark.
You are the lieutenant. What do you decide to do?
This exercise serves neither as an argument for particular courses of action nor a criticism of decisions made in specific circumstances. Rather, it exists to give participants opportunities to immerse themselves in problems faced by a real person at some point in the past, and, in doing so, cultivate such martial virtues as decisiveness, critical thinking, creativity, situational awareness, and functional empathy.
The next step in this exercise is the presentation of the historical solution, which can be found here. If you wish to reap full benefit from this decision-forcing case, please refrain from reading the historical solution until you have come to a decision.
Please feel free to use the comment section to describe your solution to this problem. In doing this, please take care to avoid any information that would spoil the problem for your fellow readers.