Thomas Wictor

Trench warfare in Syria? Time for flamethrowers

Trench warfare in Syria? Time for flamethrowers

Syria has gone back a hundred years, returning to trench warfare. For the sake of the people on our side, flamethrowers must be introduced. Here’s what Colonel Steve Warren—spokesman for Combined Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve—recently said.

I’ll tell you, that’s a tough fight right now. From what I’ve seen, the imagery I’ve looked at, it’s very much a World War I style situation. You’ve got trench lines, bunkers, berms, and it’s a fairly static fight right now. There is – in small spots of tremendous tactical ferocity, but they’ll battle heavily over feet or inches even.

During both world wars, flamethrowers invariably forced the enemy to surrender. In the case of the Japanese, they refused to give up, but they still ran from their caves and bunkers and were killed. I’ll explain how flamethrowers should be used in Syria to spare the lives of those who are fighting all the combatants who must be defeated.

First, let’s watch the absolutely abysmal training displayed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), and the Islamic State. The fighting took place in Deir Ezzor.


It’s south of the Islamic State “capital” of Raqqa.

They’re rabble. All of these men were simply given weapons and sent out to fight. They have no skills whatsoever. We see an Islamic State projectile hit near the SAA and SDF (red arrow).


Men immediately run right to that spot, putting themselves directly in the line of fire.


Some shoot their AK-47s with one hand, reducing their weapons to noisemakers. Nobody is providing cover; these men haven’t been trained in “fire and maneuver.” You’re supposed to divide yourself into two echelons. While one echelon advances, the other fires on the enemy, forcing him to keep his head down.

This guy fires full auto from the hip, expending an entire magazine of ammunition in a pointless display of machismo.


Then the Clown Hand-Grenade Duel begins. First an Islamic State terrorist pops up from his trench and tosses a grenade. No sniper shoots him.




The reason his grenade didn’t hurt anyone is because he’s an idiot. Hand grenades are either offensive or defensive. If you’re hiding in a trench the way he is, you throw a defensive grenade, which sprays metal fragments in all directions. He used an offensive grenade, a device that relies on concussion or blast effects to get the enemy.

Offensive grenades are meant to be thrown by fighters out in the open, who are at risk of being killed by the explosion of their own weapon. They don’t produce fragments, and their effect is much smaller than that of defensive grenades.

So the Islamic State terrorist threw a grenade that didn’t do any damage. Now an SAA or SDF guy throws a grenade (red arrow).


It falls short, exploding on the parapet of the trench, endangering all the Syrians.


Another Islamic State offensive grenade.



Another SAA or SDF grenade thrown blindly.



Nobody on either side has been trained. This is a cargo-cult version of combat.

Flamethrowers work best in a trench

You may find this hard to believe, but I hate war. The above scenes make me very sad. War is the ultimate human failure. However, if you’re going to fight, you have to fight to win. Don’t prolong the agony with half-measures.

The Russians are not providing Assad with effective air support. When you bomb cities into rubble, all it does is create millions of hiding places for the enemy. The Islamic State are tunnelers, so Putin is simply making each battle harder and longer.

Modern flamethrowers were developed in World War I for the express purpose of clearing trenches, tunnels, and fortified positions. The only way to clear a trench is to enter it and fight your way down the length, killing everyone you come across. These days soldiers use grenades. Kentucky National Guard Military Police Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star for her actions on March 20, 2005. She’s the only female soldier in US history to be cited for valor in close-quarters combat.

Sergeant Hester stopped her vehicle, the middle vehicle, at a flanking position enfilading the trench line and the orchard field where over a dozen insurgents were engaging the squad and convoy. She then directed her gunner to focus fires in the trench line and the orchard field. Sergeant Hester dismounted and moved to what was thought to be the non-contact side of the vehicle. She ordered her gunner to continue to fire on the orchard field as she and her driver engaged insurgents in the orchard field with small arms.

Sergeant Hester began engaging the insurgents with her M203 [grenade launcher] in order to suppress the heavy AIF [anti-Iraq forces] fire. Sergeant Hester followed Staff Sergeant Nein to the right side berm and threw two well placed fragmentation grenades into the trench, eliminating the AIF threat. Sergeant Hester and Staff Sergeant Nein went over the berm into the trench and began clearing the trench with their M4 [carbines].

Sergeant Hester engaged and eliminated three AIF to her front with her M4. They then made their way to the front trench and cleared that as well. After clearing the front trench, cease fire was called, and she began securing the ambush site. The final result of the ambush was 27 AIF KIA (killed in action), 6 AIF WIA (wounded in action), and one AIF captured [out of 50].


Hester had to enter the trench and kill the enemy with grenades and her carbine. Flamethrowers—when used correctly—are the most fearsome psychological weapon in the world. The enemy will often lose the will to fight when he sees a single flame jet fired into the air.

To clear a trench with flamethrowers, you’d fire artillery, mortars, and machine guns at the enemy, forcing him to stay under cover. A detachment of two flamethrower operators, at least four hand-grenade throwers, and at least ten riflemen would then advance. In the trench, one flamethrower operator and a rifleman would take the lead, followed by the hand-grenade throwers, another rifleman, and the second flamethrower operator. The remaining eight riflemen would stay out of the trench, four on either side.

Hand grenade-throwers would fling their weapons far in front of the column, forcing the enemy back. The flamethrower would be used on those who hid behind barricades or in dugouts.


Outside the trench, the eight riflemen would provide covering fire and warn of upcoming dangers.

In World War I, “trench cleaners” often carried as many as twenty hand grenades each. Men had to be specially trained to effectively use this weapon. Experts were decorated with sleeve badges.


As the video from Deir Ezzor, Syria shows, you can’t just give people hand grenades. You have to teach them how to use the weapons.

What about flamethrowers? Well, the US still has the M9E1-7, packed away in warehouses by the thousands.

It’s filled with napalm. I guarantee that flamethrowers would shorten the battles, resulting in far fewer casualties. We should start shipping flamethrowers to the Arab League. I’m sure their soldiers would accept them without any qualms.

The Italians refuse to talk about it, but they still use the flamethrower in combat.

Tirrena_ T-148:B

That’s the Tirrena T-148/B, being fired by a man of the Folgore Parachute Brigade in Iraq, 2005. This weapon was seen in the 2008 film Rambo, or Rambo: The Fight Continues, or Rambo IV.


The father of modern special-warfare tactics is Bernhard Reddemann, commander of the German flamethrower regiment in World War I.


His men called him the “Prince of Hades.”

Before the war, he was Europe’s most respected firefighter, an inventor and innovator who created much of the equipment and techniques still in use today. Because Reddemann perfected flame warfare, he was viewed as a traitor by the firefighting community. From 1918 he was a global pariah; this experience embittered him to the point that he joined the Nazi party and wrote enraged articles about the stupidity of the general public.

Not only our enemies in the World War but also weak sisters and old maids in the homeland believed at that time that the flamethrower should be denounced as an “inhuman” weapon. However, it was not at all inhuman and was indeed perhaps more humane than many other weapons used in wars because its main effect was the moral shock it produced in our enemies, which was so great that they scarcely ever attempted physical resistance.

Reddemann was right. The flamethrower is the only weapon that makes people more afraid the more they’re exposed to it. In the hands of a skilled operator, a flamethrower can be used to fire around corners by bouncing the napalm off trench walls. Curved-trajectory shooting can reach people crouching at the bottom of a trench.


Flamethrowers also consume oxygen in structures, caves, and vehicles. The occupants immediately emerge; then it’s up to them if they want to surrender or die.

In order to avoid being called inhumane, we’re being inhumane, allowing wars to go on and on and on. Where’s the morality? I can show you video of men in Syria with their faces blown off, but they’re still alive. They were wounded by artillery or explosives, which cause the worst and most injuries in all wars.

Since 2001, a total of 1645 American service members have undergone major limb amputation due to battle injuries. About 88 percent of amputations resulted from wounds caused by explosives. An improvised explosive device (IED) doesn’t offer you the opportunity to surrender.

Here’s a French flamethrower sapper photographed May 26, 1919, after World War I ended.


He’s been awarded the Croix de Guerre with two silver stars, meaning his heroism was mentioned twice in dispatches, at the division and corps level. Since he shortened the war and saved lives, I think he deserved his medal.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

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