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Convoy to Scatter

In Iraq, he said, the Marine units sometimes fought in these buddy pairs rather than fire teams, with one man covering the other during the weapons reload process. Because that's the Achilles heel of the shooter, when you have to change mags. And knowing this, he said, the Mumbai attackers operated in said pairs.

One of the problems with shelter in place is what happens when the attackers get smart.  When the gunner finds a roomful of kids, sheltering in place, it's a target-rich environment.  And the only opportunity the victims have to to overcome the shooter is the reload process. Fortunately Adam Lanza had no buddy to cover him. If there were a pair of Adam Lanzas, or a pair of Fort Hood shooters then things might have proven more difficult.

The other source of data about sheep vs wolves is naval history. Interestingly things work better for the sheep when there's a sheepdog. During the Second World War convoys were often accompanied by destroyers. Two convoy battles illustrated the contrasting results of convoy JW 51B and convoy PQ 17.

In the case of JW 51B the convoy was attacked by a very powerful German surface force. The British convoy escort commander Robert St Vincent Sherbrooke, who told his merchantmen to run the other way while he took on the German attackers with his puny destroyers, notably the HMS Onslow. Time and again he attacked, despite heavy damage to his destroyers and grievous injury to himself, delaying the Kriegsmarine until the cruisers HMS Sheffield and Jamaica arrived on the scene. None of the 14 merchantmen in his charge were lost. Sherbrooke won the Victoria Cross.

In the case of PQ 17 the sheep were told to leave the sheepdogs. "Convoy to scatter," said the admiralty.  And the result was disaster. Alone and slow, the merchantmen were picked off.

The experience of JW 51B was re-enacted on a far vaster scale in the Battle off Samar when the entire Japanese battle fleet descended on a force of US escort carriers guarded only by a few destroyers and destroyer escorts. It was probably the finest hour of US destroyers. The bulk of the escort carriers escaped as the DDs took on the whole Japanese fleet. LCdr. Ernest E. Evans, captain of the Johnston, received a posthumous Medal of Honor for doing a Sherbrooke. Or perhaps Sherbrooke was doing an Evans. The sheepdogs had proved their worth.

One is tempted to conjecture that lockdown or even an organized flight works best with a sheepdog, even if the sheepdog is only minimally fanged. The sheepdog can throw the attacker's plans for a loop and makes defense much more effective. By itself, a lockdown may be useless but in conjunction with a sheepdog,  its effectiveness may be enhanced dramatically.

Conjecture: you are always better off with a sheepdog if a wolf shows up.

I am almost tempted to think that if that Marine Captain had indeed been present in Mumbai during the terror attack, he would have found some wrench to throw in the attacker's works. Wasn't that how it worked in Flight 93?  When people think and do something motivated by the instincts of survival, they can often be quite effective, especially if they have a fang or two. Of course that is often not how the bureaucracy wants things. They want you waiting for instructions. But doing something intelligent in an attack is probably what works.


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