tisdag 4 januari 2011

Rob Johnson, Michael Whitby & John France: How to Win On the Battlefield

Finished Rob Johnson, Michael Whitby and John France: How to Win On the Battlefield. The 25 Key Tactics of All Time. (Thames & Hudson, 2010.)

Basically, two dozen principles of warfare (not tactics, as they call it, since several of them aren't actually tactics at all), presented briefly along with more or less well-chosen examples of them being used in actual wars. 

If you're already a war history buff, there might not be all that much new info to be had from this book, but it's an easy read and a decent effort. And if you want an introduction to the subject of history of war, this is a good starting (or intermediate) point.

Likely worth your time. I'm reproducing my notes on it below, since I've already written them. Yes, the formatting is all messed up, but that is what happens when you go from Word to the Web without bothering with fixing the formatting.

1. The attack at the center of gravity
Example:      Montgomery at El Alamein.

2. Counter-attack
Example:      The German counter-attack at Cambrai, 1917.

3. Surprise attack and ambush
Examples:      Teutoburg Forest, AD 9. (Recent archaeology suggests that the Romans made a final stand at Kalkriese Hill, north of present-day Osnabrück.)
                      The Six Day War, 1967. “[Q]uality of weapons is never a guarantee of success – it is the men and women who operate them, and their level of training, experience and determination , that really count.”

4. Envelopment and double-envelopment
Examples:      Cannae, 216 BC.
                       Walaja, 633. The early Islamic Caliphate attacking the Sasanian Persians. General: Khalid ibn al-Walid. Afterwards, the Muslims – though exhausted and depleted, went on to defeat another Persian army at Hira and eventually captured Iraq (if only temporarily).
Bukhara 1220 (Genghis Khan).
Operation Uranus, 1943  (the Soviet counter-attack against the Germans at Stalingrad). The Germans lost sight of the true center of gravity, and allowed themselves to regard the city of Stalingrad, not the Soviet armies, as their focus of operations. The focus on Stalingrad played to the strengths of the less mobile Soviet forces.
Zhukov and Vasilevsky were able to build up and hold in reserve five new tank armies. To gain battle experience, these were given limited objectives on other fronts, while for five months the rest of the army endured the fierce fighting of Stalingrad. Deception and good security was important. Any information the German high command received about the build-up was discounted since they didn’t think the Soviets capable of any large-scale mobile operations on this front. Hitler and his senior officers preferred to believe that the Soviets were constructing defensive positions.
Once the Soviets had broken the Romanian and Italian forces on the flanks, they avoided attempting to reduce the German position in Stalingrad, concentrating instead on advancing further west. On 2 February 1943, Paulus surrendered his 90 000 men to the Soviets.

5. Flanking
Examples:      Bouvines, 1214. King John of England and the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto IV, plus some French noblemen, versus King Philip Augustus of France. Well-controlled French cavalry attacks on the right flank managed to break the back of the allied forces. The Duke of Brabant, who had not taken part in the fighting, fled with his forces and the French cavalry could then charge into the allied centre from its flank.
The Battle of Bouvines created a French hegemony that would last until the Hundred Years War a century later, led to Frederick of Hohenstaufen and Pope Innocentius II defeating Otto IV in the war for the German Empire, and the barons of England rebelling against the weakened King John, forcing him to sign the Magna Carta.
Chancellorsville, 1863. Stonewall Jackson led the flanking movement while Lee demonstrated against the center.

6. Dominating the terrain and using the environment
Examples:      Bannockburn, 1314. The Scots exploited woods, marshland and a ravine to deny the superior English knights room to manoeuvre and gather momentum for their attacks.
                       Horice, 1423. The Hussites faction led by Jan Zizkaformed a wagon fort on hilltop, making it hard for the Ultraquist guns to bring their fire to bear, the cavalry unable to charge, and the infantry tired and disrupted after climbing the steep slopes and subject to withering fire from the Wagenburg. Thus endeth the Hussite civil war.
                       Leuthen, 1757. During the Seven Years War (1756-63), Frederick the Great of Preussia beat Charles of Lorraine’s Austrian army by feinting towards the centre while stealing a march on its left flank behind a line of low hills.

7. Echelon attack
Example:      Leuctra, 371 BC. The Thebans sending in their best troops in an extremely deep formation against the Spartan warriors on the Spartan right flank, and defeating them.

8. Committing the reserve
Examples:      Strasbourg, 357. Caesar Julian beat the Alemanni by saving the situation after they broke through his center by committing his final reserve, augmented by the camp guards.
                       Austerlitz, 1805. Napoleon feigned a weak left flank, hiding his reserve behind the Pratzen Heights plateau, and unleashing them on the Austrians when they were passing – after the Austrians had committed their reserves.

9. Blitzkrieg
Examples:     Khalkin Gol, 1939. Zhukov vs. Japanese army.
                     Operation August Storm, Manchurian Campaign, 1945.

The essential components of Blitzkrieg:
                  - Concentration of force, achieving local superiority in numbers/combat power.
                  - Extending the enemy’s line to weaken the whole, usually involving deception or limited deployments.
                  - Breakthrough at the point of weakness (requires lots of intel and recon work).
                  - Race into depth to hit a mobile reserve, spread confusion & panic, or double-envelop enemy positions.
                  - Maintaining momentum through the breakthrough point, with rapid decision-making and efficient communcations.

10. Concentration of firepower
Examples:      Carrhae, 53 BC. The Partians surrounded Marcus Crassus’ Roman army and whittled it down with an truly extraordinary amount of arrows.
                       Omdurman, 1898. Kitchener sent two years building up the infrastructure necessary, including a railway, and then slaughtered the Mahdi’s forces (after his death led by the Khalifa) with breechloader, rifled guns, Maxims, and excellent rifles when they tried to ambush him. They never even reached the British-Egyptian line.

11. Shock action
Examples:      Arsuf, 1191. A crusaders’ charge slaughtering 7 000 of the Muslim bowmen harassing them.
Balaclava, 1854. A joint British-French-Turkish expedition besieging Russian Sevastopol, receiving their supplies from the nearby harbour Balaclava. The 2 000 strong Russian cavalry tasked with taking Balaclava halted incredulously when the outnumbered British Heavy Brigade (900 strong) closed in on it. So they charged a stationary target, and after 8 minutes, the Russians began to give way.
The Heavy Brigade pursued them to the Causeway Heights before they had to stop, with their horses blown. That’s when Lord Raglan gave the order to the Light Brigade to charge to prevent the enemy from taking away their guns, but failed to specify that he was talking about the guns on the Causeway Heights.
Knights were men of substantial rank who resented discipline, not members of standing armies. In the absence of any real structure of command, the overall military commander had to impose himself by sheer force of personality and the example of his bravery.

12. Co-ordination of fire and movement
Examples:      Cerignola, 1503. Spanish general Gonzalo de Córdoba beat more numerous French army with pikesmen warding off two French cavalry charges and cannon breaking up their formation. Pikesmen and arquebusiers pursued offering mutual support.
                       The Hindenburg Line, 1918. Hamel etc. Short, creeping artillery barrages, intensive bombardments lifted a few hundred yards before the infantry reached there, close air support from the RAF allowing adjustment of artillery fire.

13. Concentration and culmination of force
Examples:  Jagdgeschwader, the Western Front, 1916-17.
                  Midway, 1942.

14. Seizing and retaining the initiative
Examples:  Eben Emael, 1940.
                  Pegasus Bridge, 1944.

15. Off-balancing and pinning
Example:      Trafalgar, 1805.

16. Mass
Example:   The Overland Campaign of the American Civil War, 1864-65. Note: This seems more of a case of using numerical superiority than actually using mass against a point or a foe.

17. Defence in depth
Examples:  Alesia, 52 BC.
                  Kursk, 1943.

18. Strategic offence and tactical defence
Examples:  Panipat, 1526. Turkish Babur went into Panipat, threatening Delfi and forcing Sultan Ibrahim to attack to defend his capital.
                  Yom Kippur, 1973.

19. Drawing the enemy
Examples:      Hattin 1187. Saladin fooled Guy of Lusignan, who’d seized the Kingdom of Jerusalem in a coup, into going out after him with all his knights, leaving the Kingdom’s cities defenceless once his army had been annihilated.
                  Napoleon in Russia, 1812.

20. Deception and feints
Examples:  Kurikara, 1183.
                  Q-ships, 1915-17.

21. Terror and psychological warfare
Examples:  Thebes, 335 BC (Alexander).
                  Palestinian terrorism, 1050-99.

22. Attrition and annihilation
Example:      Verdun, 1916.

23. Intelligence and reconnaisance
Examples:  The Battle for the Atlantic, 1941-45.
                   Cape Matapan, 1941. British Naval Intelligence learned that a strong Italian fleet had set out to attack a British convoy in the eastern Mediterranean. The Italian navy received such a thumping that it never ventured out in force in the Mediterranean again.
                  North Cape, 1943. Led to the destruction of the Scharnhorst.

24. Insurgency and guerrilla warfare
Examples:      China 1934-49.
                  Vietnam 1956-75.

25. Counter-insurgency
Example:      Malaya 1948-60.

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