Marines Field Guide

Marines Field Guide

Offensive Combat

The purpose of offensive combat is to destroy the enemy or his will to fight.

Point of Advance Guard

The point precedes the advance party along the axis of advance (the general direction of movement for a unit). The distance between the point and advance party is prescribed by the commander of the advance party. Its mission is to prevent an enemy in the immediate vicinity of the route of march from surprising the following troops, and to prevent any undue delay of the column. Possible ambush sites such as stream crossings, road junctions, small villages, and defiles are thoroughly probed by the point.

A. The squad leader of the point generally places himself just to the rear of the leading fire team. From this position, he can most effectively control his squad. He is far enough to the rear to avoid being pinned down by the initial burst of any enemy fire, and yet far enough forward for continuous reconnaissance which enables him to make his estimate of the situation and decision in a minimum of time. The squad leader of the point and the fire team leaders must continually check to see that all members of the squad are alert and vigilant at all times. Weapons are carried ready for instant use. Whenever possible, the point uses arm-and-hand signals for communication.

B. The point engages all enemy elements within effective range. If the enemy resistance is weak in comparison to the strength of the point, the squad leader initiates a plan to close immediately with the enemy and destroy him. If the enemy resistance is greater than the strength of the point, the squad attacks in a manner that forces the enemy to open fire and disclose his disposition and strength. Such aggressive action materially assists the advance party commander in arriving at a correct estimate of the situation. When the point makes visual contact with an enemy along the route of march but beyond effective range, the advance party commander is notified and the advance continues until contact is made with the enemy.

Rear Point

In the same manner that the advance party dispatches a point forward, the rear party employs a point to cover its rear. The formation of the squad serving as the rear point is similar to that of the point of the advance guard, but in reverse order. The squad generally employs a vee or a column formation. The rear point stops to fire only when enemy action threatens to interfere with the march. The rear point cannot expect reinforcement by other troops. It repels all enemy attacks vigorously. If the enemy threatens to overrun the rear point, a covering force from the rear party takes up a position to cover the rear point. When forced back, the rear point withdraws around a flank or along a designated route so as not to mask the fire of the covering force.

Flank Patrol

A. A flank patrol may be ordered to move to and occupy an important terrain feature on the flank of the advance, or to move parallel to the column at a prescribed distance from it, the distance depending on the speed of the column and the terrain.

B. When moving on foot parallel to the column, the patrol adopts formations based upon considerations of terrain, speed, and self-protection.

C. The patrol moves so as to prevent the enemy from placing effective small arms fire on the column. It investigates areas likely to conceal enemy elements or provide them good observation. The patrol observes from commanding ground and moves rapidly from point to point, keeping between the protected unit and possible enemy locations.

Movement From the Line of Departure to the Assault Position

When the squad leader believes he has reached a point where his squad can no longer advance without sustaining casualties, he orders one or two fire teams to fire on the enemy positions while the remainder of the squad moves forward under the protection of this covering fire.

A. Fire and Maneuver. Fire and maneuver is the process whereby elements of a unit establish a base of fire to engage the enemy, while another element maneuvers to an advantageous position from which to close with and destroy or capture the enemy.

B. Fire and Movement. Once the maneuver element meets enemy opposition and can no longer advance under the cover of the base of fire, it employs fire and movement to continue its forward movement to a position from which it can assault the enemy position. In a maneuvering squad, fire and movement consists of individuals or fire teams providing covering fire while other individuals or fire teams advance toward the enemy or assault the enemy position.

C. Maneuver Element. The mission of the maneuver element is to close with and destroy or capture the enemy. It advances and assaults under covering fire of the base of fire element. The maneuver element uses available cover and concealment to the maximum. Depending upon the terrain and effectiveness of the covering fire, the maneuver element advances by team movement; within the team, by fire and movement, employing rushes, or creeping and crawling as necessary. Regardless of how it moves, the maneuver element must continue to advance. If terrain permits, the maneuver element may be able to move forward under cover and concealment to positions within hand grenade range of the enemy.

1. Single Envelopment. A squad maneuvering against the enemy's flank is normally covered by a supporting attack conducted by another squad acting as the base of fire. The maneuvering squad moves toward the flank of the enemy so as to place itself in a position to make an assault. The maneuvering squad takes advantage of available cover and concealment, keeping the enemy unaware of its movements until the assault begins. The single envelopment splits the enemy's defensive fires; part focuses on the base of fire (supporting attack) and part on the maneuvering squad (main attack), and allows the maneuvering squad to attack over ground of its own choice.

2. Frontal Attack. When there is no opportunity for maneuver to either flank of the enemy, the maneuvering squad moves directly to the front. The squad leader orders one fire team to advance under cover of fire of the remainder of the squad. Fire teams advance as rapidly as possible to new firing positions, using the cover and concealment available. When a fire team reaches a new firing position, that fire team opens fire. The part of the squad that was providing the covering fire ceases fire and under cover of this newly established covering fire moves forward, using the available cover and concealment. This process is continued until the squad is in position to assault the enemy. The frontal attack is the most frequently used form of maneuver by the rifle squad. The frontal attack requires less time and coordination and is easier than the single envelopment. However, the attack moves against the enemy's strength and prepared fires and there is little chance he will be surprised.

D. Method of Advance. When making either a single envelopment or a frontal attack, a rifle squad has three methods by which it may move. The squad may move as a unit in a series of squad rushes, as fire teams in a series of alternating fire team rushes, or the members of the squad may move forward singly by individual rushes. The volume of the enemy's fire will determine which method the squad will use. In all three, the element of speed is necessary.

Enemy Counterattack

The major concern of the assaulting unit leader once the enemy has been driven from the objective is to retain control of the objective. If the enemy allocated troops to defend the objective in the first place, it is reasonable to assume that he will allocate troops to try to take it back. It is safe to say that it is not a question of whether or not the enemy will counterattack, but rather a question of when. In trying to determine when the counterattack will take place, it must be realized that the enemy knows that his chances of success are better if he counterattacks quickly before there is time to build a strong defense. By launching his counterattack quickly, he also knows that the forces now holding the objective will be somewhat disorganized and under strength due to casualties. By striking quickly, the enemy will not give the new defenders time to bring up fresh troops. All things considered, if the enemy acts quickly, his chances of taking the objective back with a relatively small force are better than if he delays while assembling a larger counterattack force. The prudent Marine will expect an enemy counterattack even before the last enemy positions on the objective have been neutralized. Preparations to repel the counterattack must commence immediately after taking the enemy position.


Consolidation is the rapid organization of a hasty defense in order to permit the attacking unit to hold the objective just seized in the event of an enemy counterattack.

In receiving the attack order, the squad leader was assigned the mission of seizing and defending an objective or a sector of an objective. The task now is to place sufficient firepower into position to defend that sector. In positioning the fire teams in the hasty defense, there is not sufficient time to prepare standard fighting holes. The squad must use natural depressions, shell craters, or old enemy positions, if available, and quickly improve them to provide minimum adequate cover. The emphasis here must be to effectively defend the assigned sector by fire and to get the squad under cover quickly, not perfectly.


Exploitation normally occurs after a successful assault and seizure of the objective. It begins immediately after or in conjunction with the consolidation and reorganization phase. It is a continuation of the attack aimed at destroying the enemy's ability to conduct an orderly withdrawal or organize a defense. Pursuit by fire and/or continuation of the attack are methods used to exploit success.

A. Pursuit by Fire. When the assault through the assigned objective is completed, the squad fires upon the withdrawing enemy forces until they are no longer visible or are beyond effective range.

B. Continuation of the Attack. The purpose of continuing the attack is to maintain pressure on the retreating enemy and destroy his combat power. When ordered, the rifle squad continues the attack. The squad leader repeats all the steps performed for previous attacks. Frequently, the urgent need of a higher command to maintain momentum requires that these steps be done rapidly so that the attack can be continued with minimum delay.

Next > Defense