05 June 2012

The Battle of Hoth - An Exam Question

Many thanks to my Maneuver Warfare Instructor, Professor Carl Bradshaw, for having a sense of humor.  It had been an long an interesting semester and I encountered, as the last question on the final exam, the writing prompt below.  Please note that I got a 100% on the final, 20% of which was based on this question.
Describe a battle in terms of the tenets, doctrine, or principles of maneuver warfare. What concepts led to the success or failure for a particular organization?

The Battle of Hoth in 3ABY represented a clear example of combined arms maneuver over static defense. The inexperience of the strategic leadership of The Alliance to Restore the Republic resulted in their Hoth encampment being fortified to withstand a determined assault - yet the Alliance forces had neither the troops nor the equipment to stand off a serious attack by the Galactic Empire, as the historical account of the battles bears out.

The defenders displayed a complete lack of insight into the necessary requirements of maneuver warfare in their defensive operations. In digging into static positions, they denied themselves any sort of agility to maneuver. Their concept of combined arms integration was poor - indeed they employed their air cavalry assets in direct attack on the enemy armor column. This was a deseperate measure that resulted in some Imperial losses at the cost of irreplacable Rebel pilots and aircraft. The employment of leg infantry supported by outdated heavy weapons did little but result in heavy infantry casualties when faced with Imperial armored assets. The static nature of the Alliance defenses allowed the Imperial commander, Major General Maximillian Veers, to control the tempo of the operation and employ his forces as a scalpel, rather than a hammer.

The initial Imperial plan called for surprise, but this advantage was lost due to the ineffecient maneuvering of Admiral Kendal Ozzel's naval forces. Once the amphibious assault was underway, MG Veers made the decision to land his troops out of range of the Alliance defenders and pursue an overland assault deploying his forces in a two-pronged attack that included a diversionary head-on assault, and a secondary force commanded by Veers himself that was focusing on the true objective - the Alliance's infrastructure and power generators.

MG Veers displayed a clear sense of objective in selecting the infrastructure as the main objective of his attack, as the destruction of the generator system would render much of the Rebel defenses inoperable, thereby allowing his forces to advance with an even greater degree of superiority. His concentration of heavy armor and scout armor coupled with mechanized infantry showed an awareness of integrated combined arms, although one could argue that with proper air cover MG Veers could have avoided any armor losses at all. His delay in employing his dismounted infantry until after the Rebel line had been broken was a keen example of force protection, while the head-on thrust of the diversionary force against the Rebel center demonstrated both audacity and misdirection. Using just enough of his armor in the decisive attack against the generator facilities while leaving enough to make the frontal attack convincing showed a concern for economy of force, and ensuring that his subordinates all had recieved copies of his OPORD and a clearly stated commander's intent assured unity of command.

The plan was sufficiently simple as to be executed with minor changes on-the-fly, compensating for the loss of the expected element of surprise. One heavy diversionary attack to fix the enemy and one maneuver force to destroy the initial objective was a clear, simple and historically effective plan on the part of MG Veers.

A failure to anticipate the Imperial commander's intent on the part of Rebel General Carlist Rieekan resulted in the only effective anti-armor assets the Rebels had at Hoth being directed against the diversionary frontal attack, and allowing MG Veers and his party to approach the true objective almost without resistance. The end result was the most decisive defeat of the Alliance to Restore the Republic during the Galactic Civil War, and cost the Alliance dearly in personnel and materiel.

<Please take this in the spirit in which it is intended, given our TDG lessons>


  1. Wouldn't it be a fair estimate to say that it was an attrition victory for the Alliance? Given the cost of Rebel infantry at the time (dirt), and the few amount of speeders lost and general low quality of Rebel equipment in general, as opposed to the AT-AT's(alot), fuel expidenture of the Imperial fleet(which was massive and had to be repositioned) and quality of Imperial gear(not dirt) it seems like it physically cost the Imperials more to win this fight. Granted trying to force an economic victory over the Imperials was not an option, but a big part of war is in fact making the enemy spend more money to do less, which I believe the Alliance achieved in this and many other battles.

  2. Sir, how would it go if somehow the Imperial armor support is neutralized?

    How hard would it be for the Imperial infantry in that case?