Underground Operations: Some Considerations

December 27, 2019

We believe the greatest dangers posed to modern society come from the air in the forms of intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombs, and armed drones. The Federation of American Scientists, however, explain that US soldiers face subterranean dangers too as explained in a new manual entitled, “ATP 3-21.51 Subterranean Operations -November 2019.”

Subterranean warfare is one of the oldest and most successful forms of combat. Ancient civilizations built underground fortifications to fend off their enemies or used them to transport supplies or as escape routes. In World War II, the Japanese built underground bunkers in their island hopping campaign to fight the Allied Powers. During the Vietnam War, the Vietcong constructed elaborate tunnel systems that ranged for miles and were booby-trapped. In October 1978, a tunnel was discovered on the North and South Korean borders. The North Koreans planned to use the tunnel to attack Seoul and it was estimated the 30,000 armed troops could march through it.

Subterranean warfare may seem primitive, but it remains one of the most effective means of combat. Current conflicts within the Middle East and Syria rely on tunnels and the Hamas use tunnels to protect Israeli leaders from air raids:

“Whether to protect vital assets and capabilities, mitigate weapon system and sensor overmatch, to strengthen a larger defensive position, or simply to be used for transportation in our largest cities, subterranean systems continue to be expanded and relied upon throughout the world. Therefore, our Soldiers and leaders must be prepared to fight and win in this environment.”

While tunnels and underground bunkers prove to be reliable, the greatest dangers may come from soldiers and other personnel forced to serve underground.

“Soldiers descending into unknown subterranean spaces often face a sense of isolation, entrapment, and claustrophobia due to the temperature changes, navigating a strange maze of passageways, lack of natural light and air movement, and other factors prevalent in subterranean spaces. Additionally, spiritual, philosophical, cultural beliefs, and previous experiences with subterranean spaces may affect a Soldier’s psychological well-being. The darkness and disconnection from the surface environment affects an individual’s conception of time. Entering unknown subterranean spaces may reduce a Soldier’s perceived sense of security, even before direct fire contact with the enemy.”

No matter the training, a stressful environment will take its toll on a soldier’s mind. Technology to the rescue? Not yet.

Whitney Grace, December 5, 2019


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta