|Battle of Hope|
|Conflict||World War Z|
|Place||Hope, New Mexico, USA.|
|Result||Decisive US/Human victory|
The Battle of Hope was the first battle in the campaign to reclaim the United States from the zombies. It was fought seven years after the disastrous Battle of Yonkers. The entire battle was an experiment to test the effectiveness of the new model army that had been trained in the years since zombies became the dominant life form on the planet outside of the Safe Zones. Thus, the location of Hope, New Mexico had no strategic value: the entire point was picking a town named "Hope" for the battle that would take the fight to the zombies. The entire operational plan was to march a large army group beyond the Rocky Mountains defensive line, engage and destroy a disproportionately high number of zombies, then retreat back after proving that the new tactics worked.
Improvement from Yonkers
The new tactics and equipment developed during the past seven years were atonement for the mistakes made at the Battle of Yonkers.
At Yonkers, soldiers inexperienced at facing the undead panicked. Furthermore, while soldiers at Yonkers were told that the only way to kill a zombie is with a head shot, and while the military has for decades taught failure drills, wherein the shooter deliberately aims at the head of the target since it provides the only reliable way of instantly ending a threat, the soldiers lost all of their training and forgot basic shooting skills. In the years leading up to the Battle of Hope, the new model army trained extensively in the same tactics. They were trained to use the new Standard Infantry Rifle (or SIR, usually pronounced "sir" with affection) to consistently make accurate long-distance head shots, though this is something that could be accomplished with any existing long gun in the already-existing arsenal. In addition, captured and chained zombies were used on training courses in extensive combat drilling to remove the soldiers' panic about facing them.
On the unit level, the plan was to "out G the G". Soldiers were taught to fire with mechanical precision in a steady stream of head shots that might last for hours, alternating with a partner: one soldier fires while the other reloads, though this was already something that was taught to every soldier as well as part of basic maneuver warfare strategy.
Unlike Yonkers, the new army was not made to wear heavy MOPP gear. Nor did uniforms have any camouflage: concealment serves no point against zombies. Ultimately, camouflage would result in more friendly fire than anything: thus uniforms were now navy blue (resembling police SWAT team uniforms). More importantly, the new uniforms were made of a special fabric weave, still a government secret, that consists of many interwoven metal fibers; this makes it difficult for zombies to bite through, though it still allows the soldier's body to breathe and not become overheated.
The new primary firearm of the U.S. Armed Forces was the Standard Infantry Rifle - reverently called the "SIR". Fully automatic weapons were proven during the interim period to be wasteful against zombies in regards to ammo conservation, as only consistent headshots make every round of ammunition count. Earlier engagements used "scythe theory" - a notion that large amounts of enfilade fire from full-auto weapons such as machine guns could simply cause ranks of zombies to fall down dead like a scythe cutting through wheat; in practice, it only breaks the spine and midsection of the zombies, causing them to become "crawlers" - zombies without legs, who will keep crawling to their prey with their hands and bite at the ankles. The new tactics employed against the zombies revolved around the philosophy of "one shot, one kill", with soldiers training with metronomes to keep a low but constant rate of fire designed to get the most out of both accuracy and speed. SIR rifles are semi-automatic, ensuring soldiers cannot panic and attempt a "scythe attack", and the SIR was designed first and foremost for accuracy, range, and durability, sacrificing rate of fire, though these are not characteristics that are traded off on, since the parts that enable burst or automatic fire are components of the trigger group and have little to do with external ballistics and how physically tough the weapon is. This served to make soldiers focus on shooting one zombie at a time with a headshot, without wasting bullets; this is the only real way even an assault rifle can be used to begin with, since they're practically never fired on automatic, and soldiers are not trained to do so. Further, the SIR was so extraordinarily reliable and durable that former infantryman Todd Wainio claimed his SIR had never jammed, even after being hauled in dirt and mud for weeks.
Special incendiary rounds (Pyrotechnically-Initiated Explosive or PIE rounds, also known as "cherry pies") were developed, to aid in decontamination by burning most of the zombie's brain matter when it was shot the first time. These rounds create an extremely small explosion inside the skull, ensuring a headshot would destroy the brain.
For close range work, the United States Marines devised the Standard Infantry Entrenchment Tool as a new replacement shovel and emergency melee weapon. The SIET was usually called the "Lobotomizer", or "Lobo" for short. It was sort of a cross between a shovel and a double bladed battle axe. It can be used for digging entrenchments, but was really designed as an efficient weapon for cleaving into zombie skulls at close range. Further, they were made out of metal from scrapped cars, making them extraordinarily cheap to mass produce.
The top brass utilized periscope like devices so as to give them a commanding view of the entire battlefield, even over the piled bodies of the slain zombies.
The US military had to force itself to face the reality that a single jet dropping a bomb on a zombie horde, was far less efficient than sending in an equivalent force of infantry: the most efficient method of killing an infantry-based enemy (zombies) is with other infantry. If it cost $1 million to fuel, maintain, and arm a plane, $1 million worth of fully equipped infantry could kill far more zombies, unless the plane was carrying several bombs, and the infantry could cost a great deal more to get into place, and could be far more costly and impractical after everything was considered, not to mention that the plane can perform its mission to support ground troops with no risk at all of anything happening to the pilot; extremely well-trained and well-equipped infantry are incredibly expensive. Thus, some of the US Air Force was mothballed, left in cold storage hangars. Remaining flights were just used for supply runs - never against zombies.
A major reason Yonkers was such a disaster was that the US military commanders in charge at the time were trying to use outdated Cold War tactics, centered around attacking Russian tanks, though the tactics described did not resemble how a military force would engage tanks. Furthermore, Yonkers was meant to be a showcase of the "technological edge" that they had over the zombies; unfortunately, most "advanced weapons" are anti-vehicle weapons, centered around destroying tanks and planes, not large numbers of enemy infantry, though the weapon systems described were largely anti-personnel or dual-purpose systems. The result: The nation watched with utter horror as on national television, an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, arguably the most sophisticated combat vehicle in the world, plated in steel-encased DU armor, fired a massive 120mm cannon, using depleted uranium-cored sabot armor-piercing rounds, that, when used on most Soviet tanks, blew the turret clean off, firing into a crowd of a million zombies, to seemingly no effect. The tank's three machine guns and thousands upon thousands of rounds of ammunition were also ineffective. Seven years later, all of these "pinnacles of US military might" were now rotting on a desolate abandoned battlefield in New York, in the heart of thousands of miles of zombie-infested territory. In the Battle of Hope, vehicles were only used in a support role: just Humvees to transport boxes of ammunition and other supplies for the infantry, some equipped with special frontal attachments to essentially turn it into a bulldozer.
At Yonkers, soldiers were ordered to dig foxholes (a form of protection against small-arms and artillery fire, neither of which is used by zombies) and play a secondary role while the tanks "handled" the zombies. At the Battle of Hope, infantry were deployed in two lines (one fires while one reloads) and in a box formation centered around the ammo-carrying humvees much like the Raj-Singh manuever; the celebrated Indian commander, General Raj-Singh, had eventually lost with that strategy only because his men had run out of ammo to continue fighting. Infantry at Yonkers had likewise run out of ammunition, because they weren't expected to do much "real" fighting. Now, more than enough ammunition and supplies for the infantry was carried in the trucks, and distributed regularly.
In addition to this strategy, grid-pattern distance markers were set out in advance, and soldiers were ordered to wait to shoot zombies only when they crossed a precise distance, instead of shooting randomly. This quickly made all of the zombies pile up in an ever-growing wall of corpses, slowing the advancement of the following zombies that had to crawl over them. Several soldiers were assigned as "Sandlers": waterboys who supplied ammo to shooters or replaced them if they were overheating or tiring (many soldiers at Yonkers collapsed from exhaustion, despite the battle lasting for such a short time that the soldiers were able to run through a reduced standard load of ammunition). Army physicians and psychologists were also on hand to monitor the progress and alertness of the soldiers, ordering them to rest if they show signs of strain or fatigue, and replacing them with a fresh infantryman.
The biggest factor of Yonkers failure was arguably the loss of morale; after living through three months of the The Great Panic, forced to labor for hours in heavy body armor and MOPP gear on a hot summer day, watching all of their "Wonder Weapons" fail horribly on a relentless army of walking dead, and last of all watching their comrades being ripped apart and eaten alive on Land Warrior video feed inside their very helmets, the soldiers had lost their will to fight in spades.
This time around, the U.S. Military was not taking chances of that happening again. Every platoon now had a specialized mental health doctor assigned to it. These doctors had spent years of individual evaluation and examination, and knew the complete history, personality, behavior and personal limits of every single man and woman assigned to them.
During the battle, the doctors would go back and forth observing the soldiers in their unit, watching their performances for subtle indications of physical, mental, or emotional stress and fatigue. Just as a soldier was about to reach the limit where his or her battle effectiveness would begin to drop, their doctor (and as Wainio said, they somehow ‘’always’’ knew) would tap that individual on the shoulder for a “Fiver”. The soldier’s position on the firing line would then be replaced by a Sandler, while the soldier took a five-to-ten minute break. They could stretch, rest, drink, grab a bite of rations, use the latrine, then return to his spot on the frontline. These short breaks made a world of difference, both to individual morale and health, and to both individual and group combat effectiveness. These doctors would go on with their units on the Road to New York, determining when the stress had proven too much for some and removing those before they became a risk to those around them.
Before the Army even arrived, special K-9 squads had been deployed around the town of Hope to distract the undead until the Infantry could set up positions and distance markers. The dogs would be trained to lure the horde to the opposite side of the town, then once preparations were complete, would receive orders via radios in their collars from their handlers to make a dash towards the Army's front line, with the Gs in slow pursuit. The few zombies that were encountered in the immediate area were killed with silenced weapons, so as not to alert more zombies to their presence.
The battle itself lasted for hours, from one day through the night and then to dawn the next morning. Sound speakers played the song "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden loudly to lure zombies from all across the countryside via the chain swarm effect; the moans of these zombies attracted more zombies, and so on, until all of the zombies from a large swath of the region were descending on Hope. The music served the secondary purpose of getting the solders "pumped" and ready for battle, increasing morale (for the troops who liked "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden).
Eventually, the zombies themselves began showing up in full view. Then waiting till they came into ranges where successful head shots were assured, the soldiers opened fire with deadly accuracy. Round after round slammed into the G's ranks dropping every line. The box formation meant that the soldiers were not outflanked, and large red-colored floodlights were deployed to make sure they could keep fighting even through the night as more zombies kept flowing in from surrounding areas. Soon, dead zombies piling up at precise range markers accumulated into an artificial barricade, a growing wall of corpses that incoming zombies had to slowly crawl over. The infantry just had to shoot the heads of the ones that popped over the top, adding a new corpse to the wall.
The PIE rounds used by soldiers gave off a distinctive glow with a successful headshot when exposed to the red floodlights. It was slow going, but eventually, the flow of zombies started trickling off, and eventually dwindled to nothing. The soldiers found themselves surrounded on all sides by a massive wall of dead Gs twenty feet high in some places, and they had to use special bulldozer humvees to clear a path out. During the dawn hours, infantry then moved into the mountain of zombies to finish off survivors, who were simply pinned down under other zombies, using their Lobotomizers.
Not a single human had been lost in the battle, and every zombie that appeared had been destroyed. As the sun rose, a landscape filled with piles of bodies reverberated with the sound of zombie skulls being cracked in with lobotomizers, and renewed confidence that humans, not zombies, were once again the dominant race on Earth.