Urban Warfare Project

John Spencer

As the world is increasingly urbanized, military forces must be prepared for cities to become battlefields. The Urban Warfare Project Podcast, from the Modern War Institute at West Point, features insightful discussions with scholars and practitioners as it sets out to explore the unique characteristics of urban warfare.

  • 51 minutes 12 seconds
    Engineers in Urban Warfare

    What do engineers bring to urban operations? How do the basic capabilities resident in engineer units—like those in the US Army—enable maneuver forces to achieve their objectives when operating in cities? For commanders, what are the most important considerations to account for when employing engineers in combined arms operations, and what effects can they expect from specific engineer tactics and equipment? This episode examines those questions and more as John Spencer is joined by Lieutenant Colonel John Chambers, an engineer commander in the 1st Infantry Division.

    24 May 2024, 10:05 am
  • 42 minutes 58 seconds
    Defeating the Urban Enemy, with General David Petraeus

    John Spencer is joined on this episode by retired General David Petraeus. He served thirty-seven years in the US Army, culminating his career with six consecutive commands as a general officer, including five in combat. He served as the commander of coalition forces in Iraq during the troop surge there, commander of US Central Command, and commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. Following his retirement from the Army, he served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He earned a PhD from Princeton University and is the coauthor of the recent book Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine. He brings both scholarship and deep, firsthand experience fighting enemy forces in urban ares to this conversation.

    26 April 2024, 11:44 am
  • 36 minutes 44 seconds
    Concrete Hell

    In this episode, guest host Jayson Geroux is joined by retired Lieutenant Colonel Louis DiMarco, a professor of military history at the United States Army Command and General Staff College. Dr. DiMarco is the author of the influential 2012 book Concrete Hell: Urban Warfare from Stalingrad to Iraq. In the conversation, he discusses how he became interested in urban warfare and describes the urban warfare history course he developed and continues to teach at the Command and General Staff College. He also highlights a number of historical urban battles while also noting the themes that have consistently featured throughout urban operations history.

    12 April 2024, 11:57 am
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    Studying the October 7 Terrorist Attacks

    Many will be familiar with the major facts about the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel. Over 1,200 people were killed and another 240 kidnapped and brought to Gaza as hostages. But what do we know about the specific sites—more than twenty in total—that the attackers selected as targets? What about the specific tactics they employed? And since many of the sites targeted were in built-up, inhabited areas, what lessons on urban warfare can be extracted from the attacks? John Spencer explores those questions and more, based on firsthand research, in this episode.

    15 March 2024, 4:00 pm
  • 34 minutes
    Forecasting the Future of Urban Warfare

    In this episode, John Spencer is joined by retired Colonel Kevin Felix. He served 30 years in the US Army, with his last assignment as chief of Army Capabilities and Integration Center's Future Warfare Division. He describes the Army’s different approaches for thinking about and studying the future of warfare, including major efforts beginning in 2014 to focus on global urbanization, including by incorporating it into wargames like Unified Quest. The discussion highlights the complex challenge of predicting the future, developing warfighting concepts informed by those predictions, and ultimately making decisions about what the future of warfare will require of the US Army.

    1 March 2024, 10:34 am
  • 50 minutes 3 seconds
    Helicopter Missions in Mariupol

    During the 2022 Battle of Mariupol, approximately three thousand Ukrainian defenders, vastly outnumbered by Russian forces, were quickly surrounded in a steel plant with their backs to the Sea of Azov and little hope of anyone coming to their rescue. Running out of ammunition, short of medicine, and with casualties mounting, they were in desperate need of resupply. A bold plan was conceived, which would involve risky helicopter flights to the besieged defenders. In this episode, John Spencer is joined by retired Colonel Liam Collins. Together, they discuss their research in Ukraine and what they learned about these resupply operations during the battle.

    16 February 2024, 11:18 am
  • 42 minutes 16 seconds
    Urban Warfare 101

    Over several dozen episodes, the Urban Warfare Project Podcast has explored many of the unique challenges of urban warfare. But what is urban warfare, exactly? The simple answer is that it's simply combat that takes place in the man-made terrain of cities. But going deeper, what are the variety of urban patterns and urban functions, for example, and how do they influence the conduct of military operations? What about building types and construction materials? And how do all of these variables inform the way militaries conceptualize urban environments? These questions and others form the foundation of our understanding of urban warfare and are addressed in this special episode.

    19 January 2024, 11:10 am
  • 54 minutes 56 seconds
    Inside the Fight for Mariupol

    When Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, one of their first targets was the city of Mariupol. The battle that followed is an epic story of resistance in which a very small number of Ukrainian fighters defended the city for over eighty days against a Russian force five to eight times their size, preventing the Russians from diverting to other parts of Ukraine. In this episode, John Spencer is joined by Aiden Aslin, a British citizen who took part in that battle and was captured by Russian forces there in April 2022. His experiences offers a unique view of how the Battle of Mariupol unfolded, and the details of his captivity as a Russian prison of war for over five months offer a glimpse into an often unseen aspect of the war.

    5 January 2024, 9:25 am
  • 41 minutes 33 seconds
    An Urban Warfare Christmas Wish List, 2023 Edition

    Iraq, Syria, Nagorno-Karbakh, Ukraine, and now Israel. The past year has seen no shortage of urban warfare. In this holiday-themed episode of the Urban Warfare project, Colonel (CA) John Spencer is joined by two urban warfare scholars to talk about the unique capabilities, ideas, and initiatives they hope Santa will bring. Major Jayson Geroux is a member of the First Canadian Division Headquarters and Mr. Stuart Lyle is the urban operations research lead for the UK-based Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. From urban operations training and education to unique equipment designed specifically for the challenges of urban environments, the discussion highlights what is necessary for militaries to improve their preparedness for urban warfare.

    22 December 2023, 11:43 am
  • 47 minutes 10 seconds
    Inside the Battle of Marawi

    In this episode Dr. Charles Knight joings John Spencer to discuss the Battle of Marawi. A senior lecturer in terrorism, asymmetric conflict, and urban operations at Charles Sturt University and a senior researcher at the University of New South Wales, Dr. Knight has researched and and written about the 2017 battle, in which the Philippine Army fought against Islamic State fighters over the course of five months. With the two sides fighting through the streets, alleys, and buildings of Marawi, it was one of the biggest and most high-intensity urban battles of the modern era.

    8 December 2023, 1:55 pm
  • 52 minutes 2 seconds
    The Law of War and the Urban Battlefield

    The laws of war govern the initiation and conduct of armed conflict. What can be legitimately targeted? What constitutes a war crime? The laws of war provide answers to these questions and others. They apply everywhere, but there are unique considerations in certain environments—especially in cities. The hostilities in Gaza over the past several weeks offer a case in point. To examine the laws of war and their application in urban areas, and to specifically explore the case of Gaza, John Spencer is joined in this episode by General Charles Dunlap, a retired major general and former deputy judge advocate general of the US Air Force who is now a professor of the practice of law and executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke Law School.

    24 November 2023, 2:04 pm
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