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Obstacle Clearance Under Fire
The War in Ukraine (2014-2023)
More than most, historians know how difficult it is to make sense of human events, whether great or small, after they have stopped moving. We should therefore realize the futility of attempts to predict the outcome of current affairs, the elements of which are still very much in motion. Rather, the best that we can do is make comparisons between what is happening now and what has already happened, thereby giving people a degree of context that might otherwise be absent.
Because of this, I will neither endorse nor contest the prediction, made recently by Mick Ryan in Futura Doctrina, that, where the present war in Ukraine is concerned, “The Coming Fight will be Different.” Rather, I will limit myself to offering some resources that will shed some light on the problem of clearing an obstacle zone in the course of a major offensive.
The first of these to come to mind is a splendidly detailed study on obstacle clearance during the second battle of El Alamein (October 1942.) Filled to the brim with data, documents and diagrams, this compendium will reward careful readers with an enduring appreciation for the many moving parts involved in obstacle clearance under fire. Those who prefer a more continental case study will find much to ponder in an earlier investigation of Mine and Countermine Operations in the Battle of Kursk.
Readers who prefer to start their engagement with the problem of obstacle clearance under fire by looking at equipment will find much to ponder in the extensive literature on the armored engineer vehicles of the 79th Armoured Division. A number of these can be found on the page devoted to "Hobart’s Funnies” on the Readers’ Companion to On Armor.