The (Missing) Urban Warfare Study

[This post was originally published on 13 December 2017]

And then…..we discovered the existence of a significant missing study that we wanted to see.

Around 2000, the Center for Army Analysis (CAA) contracted The Dupuy Institute to conduct an analysis of how to represent urban warfare in combat models. This was the first work we had ever done on urban warfare, so…….we first started our literature search. While there was a lot of impressionistic stuff gathered from reading about Stalingrad and watching field exercises, there was little hard data or analysis. Simply no one had ever done any analysis of the nature of urban warfare.

But, on the board of directors of The Dupuy Institute was a grand old gentleman called John Kettelle. He had previously been the president of Ketron, an operations research company that he had founded. Kettelle had been around the business for a while, having been an office mate of Kimball, of Morse and Kimbell fame (the people who wrote the original U.S. Operations Research “textbook” in 1951: Methods of Operations Research). He is here: https://www.adventfuneral.com/services/john-dunster-kettelle-jr.htm?wpmp_switcher=mobile

John had mentioned several times a massive study on urban warfare that he had done  for the U.S. Army in the 1970s. He had mentioned details of it, including that it was worked on by his staff over the course of several years, consisted of several volumes, looked into operations in Stalingrad, was pretty extensive and exhaustive, and had a civil disturbance component to it that he claimed was there at the request of the Nixon White House. John Kettelle sold off his company Ketron in the 1990s and was now semi-retired.

So, I asked John Kettelle where his study was. He said he did not know. He called over to the surviving elements of Ketron and they did not have a copy. Apparently significant parts of the study were classified. In our review of the urban warfare literature around 2000 we found no mention of the study or indications that anyone had seen or drawn any references from it.

This was probably the first extensive study ever done on urban warfare. It employed at least a half-dozen people for multiple years. Clearly the U.S. Army spent several million of our hard earned tax dollars on it…..yet is was not being used and could not be found. It was not listed in DTIC, NTIS, on the web, nor was it in Ketron’s files, and John Kettelle did not have a copy of it. It was lost !!!

So, we proceeded with our urban warfare studies independent of past research and ended up doing three reports on the subject. Theses studies are discussed in two chapters of my book War by Numbers.

All three studies are listed in our report list: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/tdipub3.htm

The first one is available on line at:  http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/pdf/urbanwar.pdf

As the Ketron urban warfare study was classified, there were probably copies of it in classified U.S. Army command files in the 1970s. If these files have been properly retired then these classified files may exist in the archives. At some point, they may be declassified. At some point the study may be re-discovered. But……the U.S. Army after spending millions for this study, preceded to obtain no benefit from the study in the late 1990s, when a lot of people re-opened the issue of urban warfare. This would have certainly been a useful study, especially as much of what the Army, RAND and others were discussing at the time was not based upon hard data and was often dead wrong.

This may be a case of the U.S. Army having to re-invent the wheel because it has not done a good job of protecting and disseminating its studies and analysis. This seems to particularly be a problem with studies that were done by contractors that have gone out of business. Keep in mind, we were doing our urban warfare work for the Center for Army Analysis. As a minimum, they should have had a copy of it.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

Articles: 1516

4 Comments

  1. I would really like to see a thorough study on Stalingrad, especially for simulation purposes. It is surrounded by so many myths.

  2. Well, we were contracted to do a study on Stalingrad as the fourth phase of our urban warfare study. The contract was going through the DOD contract process and I had already collected a lot of the Russian records we needed when the contract was suddenly canceled on less than 30 days notice. We were never ever to get it back.

    I to would like to do a thorough study on Stalingrad.

  3. The study was lost – hat a waste. Surely someone associated with it must have a copy in their bottom draw.

  4. John Kettelle, the former president of the company (Ketron) did not have a copy and could not locate one. I gather it was classified, which precludes anyone from privately holding onto it. I do not rule out that it is stored in some government agency file somewhere, and if the classified files have not be thrown away, they are going to be or have been transferred to the National Archives. We had a similar situation with many of the reports from SORO (Special Operations Research Office). At some point, I was going to blog about that also.

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