Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The DePuy files (VI): If you can, find a way to force the enemy to attack you

Attacking may sound like more fun, Gen. William DePuy told young infantry officers, but the best way to fight is to get into a position where the enemy has to attack you, like infiltrating and putting a battalion on a hill or other key piece of terrain behind him. Then the enemy has to attack ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Attacking may sound like more fun, Gen. William DePuy told young infantry officers, but the best way to fight is to get into a position where the enemy has to attack you, like infiltrating and putting a battalion on a hill or other key piece of terrain behind him.

Then the enemy has to attack you and you're down and waiting and he's up and moving and, gentlemen, no matter how romantic you may be about the attack being the preferred method, my preferred method is staying alive while killing the enemy. The aim is to get him up and moving while you're down and waiting. That doesn't mean you don't go on the offense. But if you can sit down on a piece of terrain right behind his front, in the middle of his airfield or whatever, and he has to come to you, that's what you constantly seek once you become a seasoned soldier.

(Again, my italics. P. 457, Selected Papers of General William E. DePuy)

Attacking may sound like more fun, Gen. William DePuy told young infantry officers, but the best way to fight is to get into a position where the enemy has to attack you, like infiltrating and putting a battalion on a hill or other key piece of terrain behind him.

Then the enemy has to attack you and you’re down and waiting and he’s up and moving and, gentlemen, no matter how romantic you may be about the attack being the preferred method, my preferred method is staying alive while killing the enemy. The aim is to get him up and moving while you’re down and waiting. That doesn’t mean you don’t go on the offense. But if you can sit down on a piece of terrain right behind his front, in the middle of his airfield or whatever, and he has to come to you, that’s what you constantly seek once you become a seasoned soldier.

(Again, my italics. P. 457, Selected Papers of General William E. DePuy)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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