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Book Review – Storming the City

U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam; by Alec Wahlman; University of North Texas Press; 400 pages; 22 b&w photos, 8 maps

 

 

 

Alec Wahlman’s Storming the City: U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam should be required reading for anyone concerned with the future of warfare in the 21st century.

With populations worldwide increasingly migrating to cities, and with cities themselves becoming sprawling metropolises – some predicted to grow into megalopolises of several cities combined – future battles are ever more likely to be fought in urban terrain. Wahlman, an analyst for 14 years at the Institute for Defense Analyses, looks at four U.S. military battles in urban areas – Aachen (Germany, 1944); Manila (Philippines, 1945); Seoul (South Korea, 1950); and Hue City (Vietnam, 1968) – and how the Army and Marines fared in fighting them.

Storming the City cover

Storming the City: U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam; by Alec Wahlman; University of North Texas Press; 400 pages; 22 b&w photos, 8 maps

The amount of research Wahlman has done is evident in every page of the book. While there is a wealth of information packed densely into every chapter, the book is concise and very readable.

Each chapter is preceded with a short narrative history of each battle, but they do not go into any great detail; this is not really a history book that focuses on the course of these battles.

Rather, Wahlman analyzes each of them through the lens of nine different aspects: operational context; the foe; the assault; command, control, and communications; intelligence and reconnaissance; firepower and survivability; mobility and counter-mobility; logistics; and dealing with the population. This organizational scheme simplifies the reader’s task in understanding the operational evolution and effectiveness of the U.S. military in urban fighting, and in comparing and contrasting the four battles.

Wahlman’s analysis of each of these battles is where his focus lies, and he shapes many details into sharp, objective, insightful analyses that make for fascinating reading. Urban warfare has increased steadily in importance, and yet has traditionally been neglected with respect to developing doctrine. This book is a welcome contribution toward shedding more light on the subject.

For anyone wishing to know the shape warfare is likely to take on the urban battlefields of tomorrow, Storming the City: U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam provides enlightening and even imperative reading.