Dig We Must (Author's Solution)
A "conference problem" from 1921
This post provides the text of the “approved solution” to the problem designed by Major Ralph S. Keyser, USMC, for students at the Marine Corps Schools in Quantico, Virginia, in the spring of 1921. Both the problem, and its solution, appeared in the issue of the Marine Corps Gazette for December of 1921.
The problem solved by this solution can be found via the link posted below:
I find it interesting that, while the answer to the other conference problem published in the Marine Corps Gazette in 1921, that of Captain Leroy P. Hunt, was called “a solution,” the elucidation published here is called “an approved solution.”
An Approved Solution — Conference Problem
Night Consolidation of a New Front Line
(I) Major A’s action and orders.
Major A makes a hasty mental estimate of the situation. He realizes that time is an essential factor if he is to complete his mission that night, as it is not dark until 10:30 p.m. and is light by 3:30 a.m., so he has five hours to complete the work; that the new position is an exposed one and complete concealment for the new line is important. He decides to use Company G for the work, and to establish a temporary forward [battalion] command post at the command post of Company F.
He leaves the adjutant in charge of the old [battalion] command post with instructions to notify the information agents of neighboring battalions of our activities and the commanding officers of companies H and E.
He orders the commanding officer, Company G, to meet him immediately at the new command post. He goes forward to the command post [of] Company F, with the battalion intelligence officer and one-half of the headquarters group, where, after a conference with the commanding officers of Companies G and F, he issues the following verbal orders:
You are familiar with the enemy’s situation on our front. There is no change in it.
Our 3rd Battalion’s attack this afternoon was a complete success. They are now consolidating their new position.
We dig a new front line tonight to conform to their new position.
Captain B, at 10:30 p.m., you will conduct your company down the ravine to the position now held by CompanyE and from the road fork here (indicated on map), you will deploy your company and dig a new line on compass bearing of 135 degrees to connect up with the 3rd Battalion [5th Marines] just east of Double Tree Road at this point [indicating on map]. In order to assure that your company wilt be extended uniformly over the entire line, I will have the battalion intelligence officer establish the line by stationing four of his men along it to mark the limits of each platoon sector. He will be responsible that it follows the correct compass bearing.
In addition to regular arms and equipment, each man will carry two (2) grenades, four sandbags and one-half of the men picks, and the other half shovels. The sandbags will be filled as soon as the line is established so as to afford some protection in case of enemy opposition. The strictest precautions will be taken that the enemy does not discover your activity. The entire work will run through a wheat field, so there are excellent facilities for camouflaging the line. No attempt will be made tonight to dig a continuous trench, but men, working in pairs, will dig, kneeling or standing, pits as time permits. Dirt will be scattered in the wheat.
Our artillery will put on a slow interdiction fire on the enemy's lines while the work is in progress.
If there is no enemy interference to prevent, I will send hot food to your company about 2:00 a.m. You will find sufficient tools at the Engineer Dump.
Report to me here by runner when you have completed the work and are secure for the day.
Captain C [of Company F]; you will detail four combat patrols, consisting of two squads each and commanded by a gunnery sergeant or sergeant to protect front of Company G while it is at work.
These patrols will leave your front line at 10:30 p.m. and secretly take up a fighting formation about 100 yards in advance of the line to be dug. By getting in touch with the intelligence officer and his men they can be guided in locating this line. Their mission is to protect the working company from attack and they are not to withdraw from this position until ordered by Captain B. Captain B, you will see that all your men know about these patrols and their mission. In case of attack they are to do the fighting and your men will let nothing prevent them from digging the line.
In addition to their other arms, see that they have two automatic rifles for each patrol and that every man carries four grenades.
Lieutenant D (battalion intelligence officer), select four of your men, and as soon as it is dark go to the road fork here (indicating on map), and from that point lay out a line on a compass bearing of 135 degrees to the Double Tree Road, stationing your four men at equal intervals along it; then be at the road fork to meet Captain B and conduct him on the same compass bearing over the line. Report to me here when the company is in position and starting to dig in.
Major A receives reports when the work is begun and when it is completed and transmits this information to the regimental command post [of the 5th Marines].
(II) Captain B's action and orders.
Captain B returns to his company [Company G] and orders carrying parties to obtain the necessary tools and sandbags, and after issuing a warning order in which he states the equipment to be carried, assembles his platoon commanders and issues the following verbal orders:
You are familiar with the enemy situation on our front. There is no change in it. The attack of our 3rd Battalion was a complete success and they are now consolidating their new position. Our battalion pushes its front line forward tonight to conform to the 3rd Battalion’s new line.
Our company will under cover of darkness tonight dig and occupy a new line from here to here (indicating on map). This line is on a compass bearing of 135 degrees. Platoons will be assembled by 10:30 p.m. and march in normal order down ravine to this road fork (indicating on map).
I, with the company headquarters, will march at head of column. The march and the digging will be done without noise; everyone will be cautioned about this. At this road fork [indicating on map] the intelligence officer will meet us and conduct the company to the line. Be sure you all have your compasses in case anything should go wrong with the plan.
The intelligence officer will have four men stationed along the line to mark the limits of each platoon. You will locate this man and distribute your men uniformly on this front. Each platoon will have about 250 yards. The men will pair off one with pick and one with shovel and unite in digging a kneeling or standing pit, according to time. Each man will carry four sandbags to be filled at once and used for protection against enemy fire. The entire line runs through tall wheat, so I want the position well concealed by scattering the dirt and covering pits with cut grain.
Four combat patrols from Company F will be about 100 yards to our front to protect us during the operation. In case of enemy interference they will do the fighting. Our mission is to dig the new line and we must allow nothing to interfere with our carrying it out. See that you have your pyrotechnics. Hot food will be sent to us at 2:00 a.m.
(III) Capt. C's action and orders.
Captain C [of Company F] sends for [his] platoon commanders and gives them the following verbal orders:
You are familiar with the enemy situation on our front. There is no change in it. The attack of our 3rd Bn. was a success and they are now consolidating their new position. Our battalion pushes its front line forward tonight to conform to the 3rd Battalion’s new line.
Company G is to dig in a new line from here to here (indicating on map) tonight and we are to furnish protection while the work is being done. You will each detail one gunnery sergeant or sergeant, your best man, to command a combat patrol, and send him to me at once for instructions. You will each select two squads [a total of] 16 men, two of them to be automatic riflemen, and see that they are ready by dark. Each man in addition to his other equipment will carry four grenades.
When the patrol leaders report to Captain C, he shows them the map and instructs them as follows:
No change in the enemy on our front. You will each lead a combat patrol of 16 men out tonight as soon as it is dark to protect Company G, that is digging in a new line along here (indicating on map).
Sergeants W and X, you will conduct your patrols out from our lines down to the Double Tree Road and then along this road until you get to about here, where you will find one of our intelligence men. That will be the new line to be dug. You will advance about 100 yards beyond this point.
Sergeant W, you will stay near the Double Tree Road, and you, Sergeant. X, take your patrol to the left (west) of the Double Tree Road, about 300 yards, and in a line with the other patrol. When you get in position, deploy your patrol so as to be in the best formation for fighting.
Sergeants Y and X, you will lead your patrols out of our lines at dark and conduct them to the road fork (indicating on map); from this point you will have no difficulty in locating where the new line is to be formed, as we have men stationed along it.
You, Sergeant Y, will go along this line, passing by the first man, and when you get to the second one advance to the front about 100 yards, and take up a fighting formation. Get in touch with the patrol on your right.
Sergeant Z, you proceed along this line until you come to the first man, then advance to the front about 100 yards and there take up a fighting formation, get in touch with the patrol on your right and the front line troops of Company E on your left rear.
Now men, your mission is to protect Company G while it is at work. You are not to look for a fight, but if the enemy attempts to interfere with the working company you are to engage him and prevent it. You are not to leave your position until you receive orders from Captain B.
In case you do not receive such orders before it is time for you to get safely within our lines before daylight, send back to Captain B for instructions, as he might forget you. Our artillery will be firing on the enemy's lines while the work is going on. If you understand your orders return to your platoons and get ready.
For Further Reading: