Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lessons from the Wolfpack

I'm most of the way through John Keegan's Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda, and while it was a slow start, I'm really enjoying the section on WW II.

Keegan just got done discussing the German U-boat campaign. Here's a few things I learned.

First, the U-boat was actually an inferior weapon compared to those it was going after. Yet, it was able to use its one advantage - that it was effectively invisible - to beat a much more powerful enemy.

I guess that amounts to more evidence that small can beat the pants off big.

Next I learned that U-boats traveled in wolfpacks, rather than on their own like the US subs did. A key aspect of these wolfpacks was that they were closely controlled via a central authority.

The result of this grouping and control was that the U-boats could simulate a much larger presence. For example, they could string out to form a large net to find ships, or they could cluster together and simultaneously attack for a bigger impact.

In other words, small, when properly coordinated, can also be big.

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