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Cabanatuan case study described in Leavenworth Papers – COA Statement and Sketch

This assignment also uses the Cabanatuan case study described in Leavenworth Papers #11 by Dr. Michael J King.

For this assignment, you will complete two parts: (1) the statement and (2) the sketch.

Your statement must include a mission statement, commander’s intent, decisive operation, shaping operations, and a description of fires, intelligence, sustaining operations, and risk. Your sketch must depict each squadron, unit boundaries, control measures, and the command post, observation posts, and aid station.
Note: The COA S&S is due after you have submitted the MDMP Exam and have received faculty feedback. The faculty feedback from the Exam will better prepare you for the COA S&S. The COA S&S is worth 20% of the C600 block grade.

You are the S-3 of the 6th Ranger Battalion conducting mission analysis on 27 January 1945 at the Ranger base camp at Calasiao on the Lingayen Gulf.  Provide a complete movement estimate that LTC Mucci and his staff would use to develop plans and analyze various courses of action.  Although you have the benefit of hindsight, write your running estimate as you would have on 27 Jan (in the present or future tense) rather than as an AAR in the past tense.  Although there are some guides and formats to a generic estimate, as well as a sample medical estimate included with this examination, you can modify those formats or develop one to help you present your analysis to LTC Mucci.  Your movement estimate should include, but is not limited to:

  • Time available to conduct the operation before the Japanese decide to move or murder the POWs, and how much time to allocate to planning, preparation and execution.
  • Maintaining secrecy in varied terrain during day and night operations.
  • The appropriate balance of speed and security.
  • The best time of day to initiate actions on the objective.
  • The anticipated distances covered by, time required to, and rates of movement for:
    • the Ranger advance to the POW Camp
    • actions on the objective
    • the movement of Rangers & former POWs and 6th Army to a link-up point
    • Japanese counterattacks.
  • How Filipino civilians and guerrillas, as well as the US Army Air Corps can help expedite friendly forces or impede enemy forces.


Area of Interest

       The situation at hand places the Rangers in a unique position to conduct rescue operations at the prisoner of war camp in the Philippines known as Cabanatuan.  The nature of this rescue operation considers the fact that Japanese have taken over this island from the native Philippines and have used it to conduct military operations.  The prison, or target location is situated within an area that is clear of vegetation. The prison camp is lightly guarded and is used as a transient station for enemy troops.

  1. Characteristics of the AO

– Terrain

The terrain is very flat and open.  Little vegetation exists providing minimum cover and concealment. If any at all.


The weather for the 29 January is hot and humid and very typical for this jungle environment.  The sun will rise very early near 6 AM and set late near 9 PM.  The Moon will provide nearly 100% illuminations for the next 3 days warranting consideration on the timing of the raid.

Enemy Forces

       There are considerable enemy forces within the area.  The intelligence estimated that there are between 100- 300 Japanese soldiers residing in the camp.  While only a percentage are there guarding the camp, while another percentage, is resting and or transitioning.  Near the camp however a formidable enemy force of 1000 lies northeast of the camp across the Cabu River.  An estimated reserve force of 5000-6000 is stationed in Cabantuan City.

Friendly Forces

      The friendly forces within the camp are mostly weakened and frail POW’s that are operating at 50% capability or less.  Ranger Unit. Scout Unit. Guerillas.

Civilian Considerations

       The success of this mission will largely depend on the ability of friendly forces to work with the civilian population located along the way to the prison camp.  The native Guerilla forces will ultimately play a large role in ensuring these relations are aligned in a useful manner.


      Both the enemy and friendly numbers within the prison camp are estimated based on air surveillance photos and local intelligence.  These numbers will be further refined as intelligence assets gather current information.  The health and wellbeing of the POWs are not completely clear either.  Their ability to be rescued will be dependent upon their physical strength and health.


Task Force rescues POWs from prison camp using combined raid with guerilla forces by 30 January 1945 in order to prevent mass casualties of those captured soldiers.

  1. Analysis

In determining the right Course of Action it is necessary to first determine time constraints inherent in the mission.  Intelligence estimates that NLT 30 Jan is the deadline before POW executions are to begin.  Another possible COA may be based upon the enemy forces relocating the POW’s to another location.  Due to the situation the time and nature of the attack, the raid should occur at dusk or dawn.

Key to the success of this mission is the unit’s ability to maintain a concealed position during the movement operations. The ability of the unit to successfully operate in the night will be of great assistance in creating an advantage on the battlefield.   The incorporation of the local guerilla forces will also be key to maintain a secure and safe pathway for the POWs.

The selection of a link point will be key in determining the success of this mission.  POW’s should be required to walk as little as possible during this rescue effort.  POW’s should not be expected to be in very good health and some ambulatory efforts will also be needed. The overall success of this mission will depend on the ability of combining the many different forces that have been designated for this rescue operation.  A successful blend will be needed in order to execute this mission with success.  Tempo will play a large role in the battle and the ability for the raiding forces to overwhelm the enemy with shock and pace that will capture the momentum of the effort.

Assignment 2

REQUIREMENT #2: The Problem   (10 Points.  Approximately one-half of a double-spaced page)

Using previous course material, the Military Review article, and the student aid, articulate LTC Mucci’s problem including at least ONE critical element for each mission variable (METT-TC).

LTC Mucci’s problems can be articulated and organized using the METT-TC acronym and applying what is known to this model.  The mission itself is critical due to the nature of the effort.  The rescue attempt requires a highly coordinated effort with many different organizations and units.  The ability to cohesively incorporate these varying pieces will determine the success of the effort.  The enemy is problematic due to the unknown number of these forces occupying the camp as well as their strength to fight.

The terrain is problematic due to the fact that it does not offer much cover or concealment and is relatively flat.  The weather is hot and humid providing a problem for the operation.  The night time illumination due to the full moon also presents a problem for cover.  The troops and support available for this mission is problematic due to the necessity of coordinating with a large group of foreign guerilla fighters.  The time available is problematic due to the expected evacuation or murder of the soldiers.  The civil considerations in this case also are problematic due the proximity of many civilians in and around the area of operations.

Assignment 3

REQUIREMENT #3: The Mission   (10 Points.  Approximately one double-spaced page)

While developing his commander’s estimate, LTC Mucci brainstormed three different words to use for his ESSENTIAL TASK in the mission statement: Liberate, Raid, Secure.  Citing your references, (a) provide a current US Army doctrinal definition for EACH of the three words (or dictionary definition if no doctrinal definition exists), and then (b) select and justify which one to include as the essential task in the Rangers mission statement.   Note: You are not required to write a mission statement—only to select and justify which one word LTC Mucci should use as the essential task in his mission statement.

Part a)

Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 1-02 offered the following definitions for the relevant terms in this case study:

RAID – (DOD) An operation to temporarily seize an area in order to secure information, confuse an adversary, capture personnel or equipment, or to destroy a capability culminating with a planned withdrawal.

SECURE – A tactical mission task that involves preventing a unit, facility, or geographical location from being damaged or destroyed as a result of enemy action. (FM 3-90-1) See also assault; breach; denial measure; destroy; reduce; suppress; tactical mission task.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined LIBERATE as “to free someone or something from being controlled by another person, group, etc. To give freedom or more freedom to someone. To take or steal something.”

Part b)

The essential task in this would be the proper liberation of the soldiers.  The commander’s intent is focused on rescuing the lives of the worn down POW’s and reestablishing their humanity.  This is liberation is key because these POW’s offer no real tactical advantage over the enemy.  The morale from the liberation of the POW’s can be collectively lifted throughout the ranks when such liberation occurs.  This method of leadership is based on the qualities expressed in the idea of freeing the POW’s.

Assignment 4

REQUIREMENT #4: Purpose and Task (30 Points total.  6 Points each.  One to two double-spaced pages.  See example response.  You must write in sentences rather than bulletized form.)


    • The Filipino Guerrillas
    • The Alamo Scouts
    • 1st Platoon Charlie Company
    • 2nd Platoon Charlie Company
    • 2nd Platoon Foxtrot Company
    • The Filipino Civilians
    • The Radio Team in Guimba
    • The 6th US Army

For each element selected, (a) list the most important contribution (TASK) that it made during the operation, (b) explain why that contribution was needed (PURPOSE), and (c) explain how that contribution was synchronized with at least ONE other action that preceded, followed or occurred concurrent with it. When possible, use a tactical mission task from current US Army doctrine, even if the author did not use a proper task.

             The Filipino Guerrillas coordinated with locals to provide secure passage on the movement towards the rescue site.  This coordination was an exercise in timing itself as the correct synchronization between these elements was based on a timed plan. The Guerillas’ ability to conduct prior planning and coordination in this area allowed the synchronization to occur.

1st Platoon Charlie Company raided the front entrance of the prison camp to allow for the 2nd Platoon Charlie Company to perform rescue operations.  This unit’s mission was to ensure that the gate was open for the POWs to escape.  This event was to occur after 2nd Platoon Foxtrot began the assault from the rear.

2nd Platoon Charlie Company rescued the POWs by securing them and leading them out of the prison camp.  This was the entire purpose of the mission and was the main effort.  When this event was completed a red flare was shot to communicate the evacuation segment of this mission.  The success of this effort also depended on 1st Platoon Charlie Company’s ability to gain entrance to the camp and destroy the enemy positions.

2nd Platoon Foxtrot Company attacked and secured the rear entrance of the prison camp to provide cover for the other units.  This unit’s action was key due to the supportive element of its mission.  The key to main attack began with this unit’s deceptive rear attack.  These events synchronized the beginning of the main attack or raid itself.

The Filipino Civilians supported the evacuation effort for the POW’s by providing logistical support.  During the evacuation, the civilians gave continued aide and assistance in the form of carts, food and water. Their involvement was critical in the overall success of the mission and as the column marched throughout the night and early morning their positioning allowed for continual reinforcement of the forces and especially the POWs.

Assignment 5

REQUIREMENT #5: Commander’s Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs)

(10 Points.  Approximately one-half of a double-spaced page)

Construct a logical IF, AND/OR, THEN sequence justifying LTC Mucci’s decision to assault on 30 January.   You are not required to include OR in your response, but should include elements related to the enemy, your own multinational force, the POWs, and local support.  (Keep in mind that a decision to delay on 29 January does not justify an assault on the 30th, because conditions could have been worse.)

IF the POW’s still remain in the camp by 30 Jan

AND proper coordination between local populations are in place

AND weather conditions are permitting

AND a manageable enemy force of under 1000 soldiers occupies the prison camp

THEN we can conduct this mission with a high chance of success on this date.

Assignment 6

REQUIREMENT #6: Commander’s Judgment (10 Points.  Approximately one-half of a double-spaced page)

Compare and contrast LTC Mucci’s decision to delay actions on the objective on 29 Jan with his decision to conduct actions on the objective on 30 Jan.  In other words, explain how the conditions on 29 Jan differed from those on 30 Jan, resulting in LTC Mucci’s decision to delay on 29 Jan and assault on 30 Jan. (Keep in mind that his reason for delaying was different from the benefit of delaying.)

             According to King’s accounting of this battle, LTC Mucci did not attack due to the heavy presence of withdrawing Japanese soldiers.  He wrote “Rounsaville, Nellist, and Pajota all told of large numbers of Japanese troops in the area. The highway in front of the camp had been heavily traveled by withdrawing Japanese during the previous twenty-four hours and two to three hundred enemy were bivouacked on Cabu Creek, a mile north of the compound. Pajota”s men also reported that at least one Japanese division was at Cabanatuan City less than four miles to the south. The number of Japanese in the area convinced Mucci that a delay in the operation would be prudent, and he decided to postpone the raid for twenty-four hours,” (p.58).

LTC Mucci conducted operations on the latter day in the hope that the enemy soldiers would vacate their positions and allow for the raid to occur with less enemy presence. The need to delay 24 hours was based on the need to attack at night. The necessity of night in the mission to provide concealment was critical in this battle.

Assignment 7

REQUIREMENT #7: COA Analysis, Comparison & Recommendation   (20 Points.  Three to four double-spaced pages)

On 27 January, while the Rangers are still in their base camp planning and preparing for their mission, LTC Mucci approaches you and says: “I’m very concerned the locals may not be able to provide enough carts to move the POWs back to Guimba.  Please wargame these three contingencies and give me your recommendation and rationale.”

  • Continue to move toward Guimba, recognizing that movement will be slow.
  • Stay in the camp and defend while the 6th Army sends a regimental combat team to link up with us.
  • Move outside the camp to the first concealed location, and establish a defensive perimeter while the 6th Army sends a regimental combat team to link up with us.

A recommended approach is to (a) list the most relevant facts and assumptions, (b) establish & define the measurable evaluation criteria, (c) analyze each COA against each evaluation criterion, (d) compare the COAs, and (e) make and justify a recommendation.

 Facts and Assumptions

The news regarding the lack of carts originating from the local civilians presents certain

problems for the unit’s ability. It may be assumed that the POW’s cannot make it to the base camp without the carts.  It can also be assumed that there may be other means of transport of the POWs.  If it is a fact that the civilians cannot provide these carts then the march will definitely take a longer period of time to complete.  The lack of carts may provide an assumed need to act more efficiently and in a quicker manner as well, perhaps commencing the mission sooner than expected.

It is also assumed within the three offered contingencies that the mission is dependent upon assistance form 6th Army and that the force is incapable of liberating the soldiers without some sort of outside help.

  1. Evaluation Criteria
  • Force Protection
  • Effectiveness
  • Economy of Force
  • Commanders Intent
  1. COA Analysis

Contingency 1:

The first contingency offered suggests that the unit continue to move towards Guimba and simply forgoing the cart assistance on the way.  The force protection criteria for this course of action can be framed as problematic.  The lack of carts will expose the entire unit in a more severe way than without this critical resource.  This is not to say such carts cannot be foraged throughout the journey, but attempting the mission without this critical resource emplace puts the force and a greater risk.  The plan is somewhat effective in that it will take steps towards the eventual release of the POWs.  The effectiveness is threatened by the fact that even if the POWs do escape, their imminent risk is exposed shortly after without having the ability to travel in quicker manner.

This contingency does attempt to economize its total force in a positive way.  The directive to continue on with the mission without a key resource demonstrates the ability to get the most out of this unit.  The alignment with the commander’s intent is somewhat in question due to the overall effectiveness of this result.  The intent is to indeed rescue the POWs and capture it on film, so it appears that in this viewpoint, this criteria is strongly represented in this COA.  The risk to this plan is based upon the collective unit’s ability to travel safely and securely without the added convenience of the carts.

Contingency 2:

The second COA highly considers the first criteria of force protection.  By assuming a defensive posture, the unit can create fortified positions that will secure, the short term, added force protection.  This criteria is very strongly represented in this COA.  The defensive posture appears to be not strongly effective in securing the POWs.  The deadline time period requires swift action, and remaining in place to await resupplies may not be effective.  On the other hand, if replacements come quickly, which is an assumption, than the plan could be basically unaffected by the changing circumstances.

This COA also strongly aligns with the Economy of Force Criteria.  The lives of the POWs are very important, however the conserving the power of the elite force assembled for their rescue requires some patience and conservation of power.  The commanders’ intent could or could not be strongly aligned with this COA.  The commander’s intent criterion for the COA largely depends on the time frame in which suitable transportation can be arranged, if at all for the escaping POWs.

Contingency 3:

The third COA offered once again places the troops at a high level of force protection.  The defensive posture, although outside the camp does offer more exposure.  The COA does expose the force protection levels of the 6th Army regimental combat team however.  This is appears to be a very effective COA as it takes the initiative and keeps the pace of battle moving forward. The effectiveness of this contingency lies in the ability to quickly resupply the forces with the necessary transportation equipment.

The economy of force is somewhat supported in this COA.  The added help by the combat regiment may be in the larger context a risk to operations in the area on a larger scale.  This COA is strongly supportive of the Commander’s Intent criteria and demonstrates a creative and willful execution of the overall meaning and purpose behind this special effort.

  1. Compare

Decision Matrix

  Force Protection Effectiveness Economy of Force Commander’s Intent
COA 1 1 2 3 2
COA 2 3 1 2 1
COA 3 2 3 1 3

COA 1 Total = 8

COA 2 Total = 7

COA 3 Total = 9


  1. Recommendation

The recommended action is COA 3.  While the decision matrix presented in this case a very analytical and quantified solution, it is also backed up by gut instinct, reason and common sense. The COA presented in this case is well balanced and keeps the initiative of the mission in high esteem.



ADRP 20. Terms and Military Symbols. September 2013.

King, M. J. (1985). Rangers: selected combat operations in World War II (Vol. 11). DIANE            Publishing.

FM 6-0. Commander and Staff Organization and Operations. May 2014.

FM 5-0, (FM 101-5). (2005) Army Planning and Orders Production. January 2005.

Merriam- Webster Dictionary (nd).  “Liberate.” Viewed 3 September 2015.

Sides, Hampton (2001). Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most    Dramatic Mission. New York: Doubleday

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