Dig a foxhole or die!
Foxholes have been used for defense in war for a long time. They offer protection to soldiers, and easy access to supplies stored within during an encounter.
Soldiers without a shovel have used rifle butts, sticks, flat rocks, or anything they can find that digs faster than their fingernails. Even fingernails are used if that is all they have available. If nothing else, the items men have used to dig with in battle should leave no doubt to the importance of a hole to crawl into.
Choose your position
Find a good location to dig. Find a good time to dig. Try not to dig under the enemies watchful eyes; unless you want them to. A dummy foxhole might cause the enemy later, to waste their efforts targeting an area where dummies or no one is hiding.
Assess the fighting area. Ideally you want a foxhole that can cover other foxholes in the area. Build your hole in a place that provides you a good view of the situation. At the same time, you should still be accessible to fellow soldiers.
The easiest and fastest way to dig a foxhole is with a good shovel. Keep your shovel with you at all times. It could save your life. Avoid building your foxholes near large trees; tree roots are difficult to dig around.
Size is determined mostly by the weapons being used, and the size of the men who will be occupying the hole. There should be 2 men per hole; 1 man on guard while the other one sleeps. A single man hole is still useful, and the techniques for building them are the same. The only difference is the hole will be smaller.
- Length of the hole will be slightly wider than the length of the weapons being used. This allows both men to swing their weapons in all directions, without entanglement.
- Width is as little as possible. Maybe a little more than the diameter of the fattest man, times 2.
- Height should be no more than shoulder level, and is determined by the shorter of the 2 men. Ideally both men will be close to the same height.
Once the dimensions are drawn out, start digging. Not too deep at first, so you can recheck your measurements. Dig the hole straight down in the front and back, without any sloping. The sides themselves might be sloped slightly, but only to make it easier to get in and out of the hole.
As 1 man is digging, he shovels the dirt where the other man can fill sandbags. As the sand bags are filled, stack them in front and to the sides of the hole; about two feet high. Leave some openings in front to see and shoot through, and in the sides to see and shoot through as well. The sides are also used to get in and out of the hole, free of dirt or sandbags, but as narrow as possible.
If no sandbags are available pile the dirt a little bit further away from the hole around the front and rear. Be sure to leave openings in front to see and fire through. Sandbags of course are easier to place and keep in position, but use what you’ve got. Sheets or blankets can be used to carry dirt to other areas, or to hide out of sight.
Build a roof
Put strong branches, or wooden supports, across the top of the hole. By resting the wood over the sand bags in front, and the dirt in the back, make sure it is sloped backwards so grenades can roll off. By sloping it backwards the grenade won’t roll down into your face.
Cover the wood with waterproof material if you have it, and then sandbags, dirt, rocks, bricks, whatever is in the area. The wood must be strong enough to support over 1 foot of material. Plywood is best but may be impossible to find. 17 inches of cover is supposed to withstand the impact of a single mortar round. I would go for more; the more cover the better, if the wood will support it.
The floor of the hole should be slanted about 20 degrees out from the center going in all directions. It should not be finished until the final stage, assuming you have the time. By leaving it last it is easier to custom fit the hole to those who will be living there. Not too short, not too tall.
Build a sump pit
There are at least 2 thoughts on this subject
- Grenade trap: At each end of the hole, dig a small pit that can trap any grenade that might enter your hole. The reason why the floor is slanted is that grenades can roll or be kicked into these sumps. These sumps should be at least twice the size of any ordinance that might make its way into your hole.
- Storage pit: A small pit where you can store the rest of your artillery, grenades, ammunition, etc. Make it deep, so it can fit the supplies you may need during battle.
Depending on what you are up against may decide which type sump you use. If grenades are a problem, I would choose the first suggestion. If grenades are not a problem, then the second suggestion might be better. As in wearing seatbelts, when the fighting erupts you can’t change your mind. Perhaps a better solution is to dig alcoves in the lower front side of your hole. This keeps supplies dry and out of the way, and the sump still serves its purpose against enemy grenades.
Some people say you can cover your roof with a poncho or waterproof material. If you do this, you are probably sacrificing the camouflage benefits if the material you use doesnt blend in. If you used waterproof material as a foundation for your dirt (described above), then you will not need another layer on top. If you are short of waterproof material and have only a raincoat or poncho, then the rain will likely come through the roof if you decide to wear it. Decisions, decisions?
Dirt by itself makes adequate camouflage, depending on the land you are digging in. You can also add branches, grass, bushes; whatever is local to the surrounding area. When using live vegetation, be sure to use the roots, and the dirt that clings to it. If your roof has a lot of dirt in its makeup, this could ensure that the vegetation you use continues to thrive, and not turn brown from the heat of the sun. Don’t use too much vegetation on top. This could trap a grenade, instead of rolling harmlessly behind you. Watering your plants might prove helpful, but only if water is plentiful. Never water in daylight, or early morning. The color change of freshly watered areas could be a dead giveaway to your position.
Where there is no brush, construct your roof in a way where it can break up the dark shadow the hole makes.
A BULLET WILL PENETRATE 30 INCHES OF LOOSE SOIL. Loose soil that you dug out from your foxhole will not protect you from enemy gunfire. Soil that is removed, may be packed into a low, solid parapet.
Find a forked stick or suitable object that you can use in front of the openings, to rest your rifle for easier shooting.
Learn to sleep standing up.Written by Scott M. Eaton
Created on … June 23, 2011
For more on building a foxhole; It’s time for “Mail Call”!
In this clip, R. Lee Ermey teams with a group of local historians to demonstrate what it takes to dig a “foxhole” and a “fighting hole”.
Click on the video link below.
How to Dig a Foxhole (5:02) TV-PG