Obscure Military History: Tank Warfare in the Dominican Republic, 1965


Tanks have rarely been used in battle in the Western Hemisphere — and fights between tanks are even rarer.

But the Dominican Republic in 1965 was one of the exceptions, when Constitutionalist rebels fought the armored vehicles of invading U.S. Marines in the streets of the capital city, Santo Domingo.

Stranger yet, the Dominicans were using Swedish tanks.

What were the Marines — and later the 82nd Airborne Division and the Brazilian army — doing in the Dominican Republic?

Taking sides in a civil war.

The United States had a long history of intervening in the Dominican Republic, even occupying it from 1916 to 1924 and running the customs agency there for its own profit. But after a U.S.-trained National Guardsmen, Trujillo, bullied his way to power with “99 percent of the vote” in the 1930 elections and proceeded to rule as a sociopathic dictator, the United States largely left the nation alone.

Trujillo went on to rename the capital city after himself, established seven mutually hostile spy agencies, murdered nearly 50,000 Dominicans with his secret police and built up the armed forces substantially to the tune of 21 percent of national GDP.

Trujillo spent the money on an air force of 240 planes and a navy with 11 warships—which he intended to menace the Dominican Republic’s traditional rival on the other side of Hispaniola island, Haiti.

He capped it off with an assassination attempt on the president of Venezuela, who had authored a critical human rights report.

Trujillo’s murderous habits ultimately backfired when he was assassinated in 1961 — but what followed was coup after coup, as one military-backed individual was over thrown by another.

The sole exception was Juan Bosch, a center-left intellectual elected in December 1962 with a liberal agenda of promoting political freedom and social reform — and fatally, cutting military spending. The military overthrew Bosch after just seven months in office.

Starting in April 24, 1965 a pro-Bosch coup with support from a faction of younger officers in the army led by one Col. Francisco Caamaño, overthrew the widely unpopular strongman currently in power, Reid Cabral. At first, the old guard of the military, under the leadership of air force general Elias Wessin y Wessin, remained neutral.

Read the Remainder at War is Boring


Russia Activates Two Armored Divisions on Western Front


Russia completes reformation of 1st Guards Tank Army

The Russian Ground Forces has completed the reactivation of the 1st Guards Tank Army in Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) and is to form two new armoured divisions, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.

A session of the Defence Ministry Board, chaired by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, discussed the reactivation as part of the development of Russia’s quick reaction force. The session also revealed that Russia will form two new armoured divisions near the cities of Voronezh (in the WMD) and Chelyabinsk (in the Central Military District: CMD) in 2016.

According to the MoD, the 1st Guards was reformed on 1 February and will be equipped with T-72B3 and T-80 main battle tanks (MBTs). A Russian tank army is typically equipped with 500 MBTs.

Meanwhile, Colonel General Vladimir Zarudnitsky, commander of the CMD, said that the mainstay of the new Chelyabinsk-based armoured division will be cutting-edge MBTs. Chelyabinsk is close to Nizhny Tagil, home of Russian tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, and Col Gen Zarudnitsky’s comments could well indicate that this unit will be the first to receive the new T-14 Armata MBT and other new Armata-based vehicles.

As for the armoured division in the Voronezh Region, the 1st Separate Armoured Brigade has been garrisoned there in the town of Boguchar since 2015. It looks like this brigade will be transformed into a division.

Read the Original Excerpt at Janes

The Lessons of Debaltseve: Armored Vehicles Still Matter


<> on March 11, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

After nearly fifteen years of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, American advocates of heavy armored forces interpreted Ukrainian forces’ defeat at the battle of Debaltseve as an indication that “tanks still matter.” But the key lesson of the Debaltseve fight is a broader one: Combat vehicles of whatever kind must provide the mobility, protection, and lethality that commanders require in order to best integrate armor, infantry, and artillery in a combined arms fight.

On February 18, 2015, after several weeks of heavy fighting in and around Debaltseve, pro-Russian forces surrounded the city. Cut off from friendly forces, government troops withdrew from the city in a manner which the Guardian called “anything but orderly.” In the aftermath of the battle, many reports highlighted one particular aspect of the fighting: The separatists’ use of Russian-supplied armored vehicles to drive home their attack.

In a sense, the separatists’ use of armor to achieve battlefield success could be interpreted as a vindication of the continued need for “heavy” forces in contemporary warfare. Several accounts reported the presence of T-72s and T-80s in eastern Ukraine. In late January, pro-Russian armored columns fought entrenched Ukrainian forces outside Debaltseve. Although the Ukrainians reportedly achieved some successes, separatist forces used their tanks’ mobility and firepower to break the Ukrainian defenses and force government troops to withdraw. But focusing on the use of tanks misses the greater significance of the fighting.

Although armored vehicles played an important role in the fighting, the separatists’ success actually was achieved through the effective use of combined arms operations — that is, the coordinated employment of tanks, infantry, artillery, and other battlefield assets to achieve military objectives. Rebel artillery disrupted Ukrainian vehicle columns withdrawing from the city, forcing many soldiers to leave their vehicles behind and evacuate on foot. The Guardian quoted one Ukrainian soldier: “Guys are running out on foot through the fields because [rebels] are shelling vehicles.” The ability to exercise effective command and control by communicating orders and coordinating actions — an essential element in combined arms operations — also proved vital to the separatists’ success. The separatists coordinated their actions better than Ukrainian forces. As Ukrainian commander Semyon Semyonchenko said: “What hindered us in Debaltseve? We had enough men and material… the problem was with the leadership and coordination of actions.” According to Semyonchenko, the Ukrainian defeat was “the result of incompetent management of our troops.”

Read the Remainder at Foreign Policy