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Lord of the Rings Debate: How the Battle of Helms Deep Was Won

Lord of the Rings Debate: How the Battle of Helms Deep Was Won

The Angry Staff Officer

Security, World

NineLine Films/The Two Towers/YouTube Screenshot

The forces of Rohan were able to mount a successful defensive operation at the Hornburg through mutually supporting positions, clearly defined fallback criteria, and sound leadership using mission command.

As an engineer officer, I care passionately about just a few things: castles, engineer buttons, and combined arms breaching. And while there were no engineer buttons at Helm’s Deep – a simple oversight, I’m sure – that engagement encompasses a wide swathe of engineer lessons learned.

Yes, this means we’re delving back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, to keep him from getting any well-earned rest by pestering him for military insights from his work of fiction, The Two Towers. Specifically, from the engagement between the coalition forces of Rohan and the hybrid threat of Saruman’s army.

And for those of us who care about such things, this is not the actual battle of Helm’s Deep, because that place referred to the ravine behind the fortress. Properly, it is called the Battle of the Hornburg. But since people can’t read maps properly and then some of those people make movies, it has become known as the Battle of Helm’s Deep. And you wonder why historians drink.

This engagement is quite different from that at Minas Tirith which was handled in a previous post. While that was a multi-domain operation with a wide array of forces, this engagement is in essence a light infantry – or even cavalry – defense of key terrain, opposing the most rudimentary of combined arms breaches. That was NTC, this is JRTC. The problem statement becomes, can a light cavalry force fight as heavy infantry inside obstacle belts and still preserve enough combat power to retain the initiative once the enemy attack has culminated?

It all boils down to overmatch and trading space for time, which are two pieces of the modern battlefield that might be very familiar for some readers, especially the ones wearing the obnoxious hats and spurs.

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