Military units preparing for and in battle are governed by the overall strategy of the campaign.
Military units preparing for and in battle are governed by the overall
To a great extent, tactics have always been influenced by the technology available at the time. From rock to rifle to rocket, tactics have evolved to use what is available to inflict the most damage on the enemy while preserving lives on the user’s side. The evolution of battlefield weapons and their increasing range and power have affected tactics directly. Another significant factor in tactics is mobility: Both defenders and attackers need to be able to move freely about the battlefield; failure to maintain freedom of movement can easily lead to defeat.
Tactics are governed by weapons to a large extent, and the range and firepower of those weapons. In the period of early warfare, available weapons were limited in range to below the total range of vision. This meant that anyone out of range of bow or catapult was safe to move. Tactics developed to bring the enemy within range by maneuver and speed of deployment.
Cavalry became, as training and tactics improved, the masters of the shock effect.
For the defender, one of the best protections was
The art of
The arrival of
The first military firearms were designed perhaps more to frighten the horses than to have killing effect. Both handheld and heavier weapons were developed, and
Tactics throughout the ages have always been crucial in determining how much damage each side can do to the other in battle. The side with the most soldiers and the best weapons could normally be expected to prevail, but there are occasions when small groups that were better armed and equipped were able to inflict disproportionate damage on much larger forces. The use by the British army of
In the nineteenth century, changes to
Breech-loading rifles meant that no longer did infantry have to stand to fire; earlier muzzle-loaded weapons had to be reloaded with the soldier standing up. The ability to reload lying down meant that infantry were less obvious on the battlefield and hence better protected against enemy cannon fire. Defenders began to dig into the ground to lower their silhouettes and to protect themselves even more, and attacking infantry had to move toward the enemy across ground that was covered by the defenders’ fire.
The invention of the
That weapon was the
Once more, tactics were to undergo changes to incorporate the new tanks and the very new concept of
The pace of tactics had changed dramatically; no longer did battles proceed at the pace of the infantry but rather at the speed of the
In the air, enormous strides were made in developing weapons to make air-ground cooperation a reality. Initially air support was provided by, for example, the Junkers Ju87
Modern tactics are a combination of the well-tried and -tested fire and movement technique (some men fire at the enemy, while the others move forward tactically) and a mobility that is fundamental to gaining surprise on the battlefield. The delivery of troops unexpectedly on the battlefield was always a great contributor to success; paratroops were used for this purpose, but nowadays air-landed troops (from aircraft or helicopter) can often tip the scales in favor of the side using them (whether as attacker or defender).
In the air, target identification sometimes remains a problem, but the delivery capability and capacity are tremendous, and one aircraft can drop a payload of immense value to the troops on the ground. Airlifting troops both to make an assault and to put “boots on the ground” can proceed so quickly that rapid buildups of troops are possible in a very short time.
Tactics seem to have developed out of all recognition, but in fact they remain the same: to engage the enemy on the battlefield and to defeat him. If anything, tactics are very personal to soldiers, because if the tactics are effective they will kill the enemy; if not, then they will be killed. Only the technology has changed, meaning that
Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976. Considered perhaps the greatest work on the theory of warfare, Clausewitz’s treatise not only is classic but also remains current. The paperback edition of this translation offers a useful index. Drury, Ian. The Civil War Military Machine: Weapons and Tactics of the Union and Confederate Armed Forces. New York: Smithmark, 1993. The first Civil War book to focus on small arms (handguns and rifles), field and siege artillery, naval ordinance, and ships. More than four hundred color illustrations show Union and Confederate weapons, battles, landscapes, forts, and naval vessels, many in cross section. Eady, H. G. Historical Illustrations to Field Service Regulations. Vol. 2. London: Sifton Praed, 1927. Although difficult to locate, an invaluable resource. Gaulle, Charles de. The Army of the Future. Foreword by Walter Millis. London: Hutchinson, 1940. A translation of de Gaulle’s Vers l’armée de métier (1934), in which the French general advocated the creation of a mechanized, professional army. Haughton, Andrew. Training, Tactics, and Leadership in the Confederate Army of Tennessee: Seeds of Failure. Cass Series–Military History and Policy 5. Portland, Oreg.: Frank Cass, 2000. Focuses on the South’s army structure, from officers to privates, and their daily military lives during the Civil War. O’Sullivan, Patrick. Terrain and Tactics. Contributions in Military Studies 115. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Discusses military tactics in the light of geographical concepts, a field known as military geography. O’Sullivan considers many different geographic settings and how they pose advantages and disadvantages, including a survey of the geography of war from 1945 through guerrilla and insugency tactics of the late twentieth century. Samuels, Martin. Doctrine and Dogma: German and British Infantry Tactics in the First World War. Contributions in Military Studies 121. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992. Describes German and British infantry tactics, training, and leadership during World War I. Especially interesting for its comparison of the two nations’ value systems and their reflection in military practice and achievement. Of particular interest to military historians and professional officers. Steiger, Rudolf. Armour Tactics in the Second World War: Panzer Army Campaigns of 1939-41 in German War Diaries. New York: Berg, 1991. Primary documents form the basis for this description of World War II tank tactics, with particular emphasis on Operation Barbarossa, based on the files of the Germans’ second Panzer Army. Sun-tzu. The Illustrated Art of War. Translated by Samuel B. Griffith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. This ancient work is still read and consulted for its timeless insights, and it formed the basis of several of Mao Zedong’s twentieth century military theories.
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