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Reconnaissance by fire (recon by fire), also known as speculative fire, is a warfare tactic used in which military forces may fire on likely enemy positions to provoke a reaction, thus confirming the presence and position of enemy forces.[1]


World War II[]

Reconnaissance by fire was widely adopted by the Allies in World War II during the war in the European theater against the Axis. Armored units would typically advance in column behind light armored scouting units. At the same time infantry would be present to provide support in the event of ambush by German panzerfaust or antitank[Clarification needed] teams. This method proved too slow to keep pressure on retiring enemy forces. Instead, U.S. armored columns continued to advance at speed, training cannon and machine guns alternately to fire to cover both the left and right of the axis of advance. The column would fire its weapons more or less continuously into any suspected enemy positions as they appeared, suppressing and distracting the aim of enemy gunners and antitank teams.[2] Supply echelon convoys using trucks equipped with .50-cal. M2 Browning machine guns also used the tactic when traveling through areas not completely cleared of enemy forces.[3][4]

Vietnam War[]

During the Battle of Ia Drang of the Vietnam War, a U.S. Army battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, noticed that his men had a large amount of ammunition. He ordered his men to fire at anything suspicious at an agreed synchronised time. The large amount of fire at that time led a group of undetected infiltrating enemy soldiers to believe that they had been discovered and charge the Americans, leading to their destruction.[5]


  1. "Recon By Fire". OPFOR. July 2, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  2. Jarymowycz, Roman J., Tank tactics: from Normandy to Lorraine, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, ISBN 1-55587-950-0 (2001), p. 212: The .50 cal. M2HB fitted to tanks and M3 half-tracks was frequently employed against German rearguard forces including snipers and anti-tank teams, often firing into locations merely suspected of hiding such forces[Clarification needed]
  3. Abramski, Anthony V. (Pfc.), Eyewitness Account of Pfc. Anthony V. Abramski, Citation In Support Of Congressional Medal of Honor Award to 2nd Lt. Audie Murphy at Holtzwihr, France, 26 January 1945
  4. Jarymowycz, Roman J., Tank Tactics, p. 212
  5. Galloway, Joseph L. (1990). "The word was the Ia Drang would be a walk. The word was wrong." U.S. News

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