A defensive fighting position (DFP) is a type of earthwork constructed
in a military context, generally large enough to accommodate anything
from one man to a small number of soldiers.
3 Modern designs
4 See also
7 External links
Tobruk type positions are named after the system of defensive
positions constructed, initially, by the Italian Army at Tobruk,
Tobruk fell to the Allies in January 1941, the existing
positions were modified and significantly expanded by the Australian
Army which, along with other Allied forces, reused them in the Siege
A foxhole is one type of defensive strategic position. It is a "small
pit used for cover, usually for one or two men, and so constructed
that the occupants can effectively fire from it".
It is known more commonly within
United States Army
United States Army slang as a
"fighting position" or as a "ranger grave". It is known as a "fighting
hole" in the United States Marine Corps, a "gun-pit" in Australian
Army terminology, and a "fighting pit" in the New Zealand Army.
In British and Canadian military argot it equates to a range of terms
including slit trench, or fire trench (a trench deep enough for a man
to stand in), a sangar (sandbagged fire position above ground) or
shell scrape (a shallow depression that affords protection in the
prone position), or simply—but less accurately—as a "trench".
American Civil War
American Civil War the term "rifle pit" was recognized by
both U.S. Army and
Confederate Army forces.
A protected emplacement or concealed post in which one or several
machine guns are set up is known in U.S. English as a machine gun
An Indian Wehrmacht volunteer in a
Tobruk DFP along the Atlantic Wall,
During the fighting in North Africa (1942–43),
U.S. forces employed
the shell scrape. This was a very shallow excavation allowing one man
to lie horizontally while shielding his body from nearby shell bursts
and small arms fire. The slit trench soon proved inadequate in
this role, as the few inches of dirt above the soldier's body could
often be penetrated by bullets or shell fragments. It also exposed the
user to assault by enemy tanks, which could crush the man inside a
shallow slit trench by driving into it, then making a simple
Battle of Kasserine Pass
Battle of Kasserine Pass (early 1943), U.S. troops
increasingly adopted the modern foxhole, a vertical, bottle-shaped
hole that allowed a soldier to stand and fight with head and shoulders
exposed. The foxhole widened near the bottom to allow a soldier
to crouch down while under intense artillery fire or tank attack.
Foxholes could be enlarged to two-soldier fighting positions, as well
as excavated with firing steps for crew-served weapons or sumps for
water drainage or live enemy grenade disposal.
German VK 3001H prototype turret mounted on "Tobruk" at Omaha Beach,
Tobruk protecting the entrance to the bunker that now houses the
Channel Islands Military Museum. This turret from a
Renault R35 was
originally employed on a
Tobruk at Saint Aubin's Fort, Jersey.
The Germans used hardened fortifications in North Africa and later in
other fortifications, such as the Atlantic Wall, that were in essence
foxholes made from concrete. The Germans knew them officially as
Ringstände; the Allies called them "Tobruks" because they had first
encountered the structures during the fighting in Africa.
Frequently, the Germans put a turret from an obsolete French or German
tank on the foxhole. This gave the
Tobruk enhanced firepower and the
gunner protection from shrapnel and small arms.
Modern militaries publish and distribute elaborate field manuals for
the proper construction of DFPs in stages. Initially, a shallow "shell
scrape" is dug, much like a very shallow grave, which provides very
limited protection. Each stage develops the fighting position,
gradually increasing its effectiveness, while always maintaining
functionality. In this way, a soldier can improve the position over
time, while being able to stop at any time and use the position in a
Typically, a DFP is a pit or trench dug deep enough to stand in, with
only the head exposed, and a small step at the bottom, called a fire
step, that allows the soldier to crouch into to avoid fire and tank
treads. The fire step usually slopes down into a deeper narrow slit
called a grenade sump at the bottom to allow for live grenades to be
kicked in to minimize damage from grenade fragments.
When possible, DFPs are revetted with corrugated iron, star pickets
and wire or local substitutes. Ideally, the revetting will also be dug
in below ground level so as to minimise damage from fire and tank
tracks. The revetting helps the DFP resist cave-in from near misses
from artillery or mortars and tank tracks.
Time permitting, DFPs can be enlarged to allow a machine gun crew and
ammunition to be protected, as well as additional overhead cover via
In training, DFPs are usually dug by hand or in some cases by
mechanical trench diggers. On operations, explosives, especially
shaped charges ("beehives"), may be used to increase the speed of
Developing and maintaining DFPs is a constant and ongoing task for
soldiers deployed in combat areas. For this reason, in some armies,
infantry soldiers are referred to as "gravel technicians", as they
spend so much time digging.
Because of the large expenditure in effort and materials required to
build a DFP, it is important to ensure that the DFP is correctly
sited. In order to site the DFP, the officer in charge ("OIC") should
view the ground from the same level that the intended user's weapons
will be sighted from. Normally, the OIC will need to lie on his belly
to obtain the required perspective. This ensures that the position
will be able to cover the desired sector.
US Marines digging 'fighting holes' near the Iraqi border, 2003.
US Navy Seabees digging 'hasty scrapes', 2003.
US Navy Seabees near completed fighting position, 2003.
US Navy Seabees constructing a defensive machine gun position during
US Navy Seabees with a completed defensive machine gun position during
US Navy Seabees completed defensive machine gun position during
training with camouflage netting and timber supports, 2010.
All-around defense/Perimeter defense
^ Bundessprachenamt. Militärisches Studienglossar. Englisch. Teil I,
A-K. Hürth, 2001, p. 580.
^ "machine-gun nest". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 22 February
^ Brown, Albert S. "Anzio: Jan-May 1944". World War II Memories of
Staff Sergeant Albert S. Brown. Dogface Soldiers Memoirs.
^ a b c Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City:
Stratford Press. pp. 46–47.
^ Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City:
Stratford Press. p. 115.
^ Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City:
Stratford Press. p. 77.
^ Zaloga, Steven J. D-Day Fortifications in Normandy (Osprey
Publishing Ltd.) ISBN 1-84176-876-6 p.21
Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City: Stratford
U.S. WWII Newsmap, "
Foxholes are Life Savers", hosted by the UNT
Libraries Digital Collections
Trou de loup
Wagon fort (Laager)
Chemin de ronde
Cheval de frise
Fortified buildings (church, house)
Bailey (or ward)
Presidio (Spanish America)
Air raid shelter
Defensive fighting position
British "hedgehog" road block
Fire support base
Hardened aircraft shelter
Main Line of Resistance