Strategy and Tactics in the First World War

Strategy and Tactics in the First World War

  • The Schliefffen Plan
  • Plan 17
  • Patrols & Raids
  • Attacks & Offensives
  • Infantry Tactics
  • Peaceful Penetration
  • Creeping Barrage
  • Machine-Gun Pillboxes
  • Light Flares
  • Chlorine Gas
  • Tank Attacks
  • The Hindenburg Line
  • Plan 19
  • Tunnelling
  • Snipers
  • Cavalry Tactics
  • Artillery Barrage
  • Preliminary Bombardment
  • Fortresses
  • Flame-Throwers
  • Mustard Gas
  • Infiltration Tactics

First published in 1966, games started to appear in each issue (starting with issue #18) from 1969 after a takeover by Jim Dunnigan, who founded SPI to publish the magazine. Following the demise of SPI the magazine passed through several hands until Decision Games took it over circa 1991. In addition to featuring games in each issue, the magazine also contains military history articles, often relevant to the game in that issue. Since issue 176 the magazine has also been sold, gameless, at newstands.

In 2007, Strategy and Tactics Press was spun off from Decision Games to take on the responsibility of publishing the magazine, along with a new stablemate World at War magazine, which will focus on WWII themed games, leaving S&T free to explore other battles. In 2012 Decision Games launched Modern War, which focus on modern war themed games, from post-1945 to the near future.

Games in issues prior to number 18 contain only written rules, instructions and/or lists of units bound-in (to the magazine) but no finished components. For example: Crete (issue 18) is bound into the magazine itself (including the mapsheets). The games in S&T from 19 to 25 came with components but the counters were uncut and unmounted. These counters require the buyer to glue them to pressboard or tileboard, and then cut them. All SPI games from issue 26 were mounted.

  • Project Analysis - Issues 1 - 16 - Issues 17 - 90 - Issues 91 - 111 - Issues 112 - 139 - Issues 140 and after

The strategy of the Western Allies, 1914

For some 30 years after 1870, considering the likelihood of another German war, the French high command had subscribed to the strategy of an initial defensive to be followed by a counterstroke against the expected invasion: a great system of fortresses was created on the frontier, but gaps were left in order to “canalize” the German attack. France’s alliance with Russia and its entente with Great Britain, however, encouraged a reversal of plan, and after the turn of the century a new school of military thinkers began to argue for an offensive strategy. The advocates of the offensive à l’outrance (“to the utmost”) gained control of the French military machine, and in 1911 a spokesman of this school, General J.-J.-C. Joffre, was designated chief of the general staff. He sponsored the notorious Plan XVII, with which France went to war in 1914.

Plan XVII gravely underestimated the strength that the Germans would deploy against France. Accepting the possibility that the Germans might employ their reserve troops along with regular troops at the outset, Plan XVII estimated the strength of the German army in the west at a possible maximum of 68 infantry divisions. The Germans actually deployed the equivalent of 83 1 /2 divisions, counting Landwehr (reserve troops) and Ersatz (low-grade substitute troops) divisions, but French military opinion ignored or doubted this possibility during the war’s crucial opening days, when the rival armies were concentrating and moving forward, the French Intelligence counted only Germany’s regular divisions in its estimates of the enemy strength. This was a serious miscalculation. Plan XVII also miscalculated the direction and scope of the coming onslaught: though it foresaw an invasion through Belgium, it assumed that the Germans would take the route through the Ardennes, thereby exposing their communications to attack. Basing itself on the idea of an immediate and general offensive, Plan XVII called for a French thrust toward the Saar into Lorraine by the 1st and 2nd armies, while on the French left (the north) the 3rd and 5th armies, facing Metz and the Ardennes, respectively, stood ready either to launch an offensive between Metz and Thionville or to strike from the north at the flank of any German drive through the Ardennes. When war broke out, it was taken for granted that the small British Expeditionary Force (BEF) under Sir John French should be used as an adjunct to France’s forces, more or less as the French might see fit. It is clearly evident that the French were oblivious to the gigantic German offensive that was being aimed at their left (northern) wing.

Ancient Greek Warfare

In the ancient Greek world, warfare was seen as a necessary evil of the human condition. Whether it be small frontier skirmishes between neighbouring city-states, lengthy city-sieges, civil wars, or large-scale battles between multi-alliance blocks on land and sea, the vast rewards of war could outweigh the costs in material and lives. Whilst there were long periods of peace and many examples of friendly alliances, the powerful motives of territorial expansion, war booty, revenge, honour, and the defence of liberty ensured that throughout the Archaic and Classical periods the Greeks were regularly engaged in warfare both at home and abroad.

City-State Rivalries

Evolving from armed bands led by a warrior leader, city militia of part-time soldiers, providing their own equipment and perhaps including all the citizens of the city-state or polis, began to move warfare away from the control of private individuals and into the realm of the state. Assemblies or groups of elite citizens sanctioned war, and generals (strategoi) came to be accountable for their actions and were often elected for fixed terms or specific military operations.


In the early stages of Greek Warfare in the Archaic period, training was haphazard and even weapons could be makeshift, although soldiers were usually paid, if only so that they could meet their daily needs. There were no uniforms or insignia and as soon as the conflict was over the soldiers would return to their farms. By the 5th century BCE the military prowess of Sparta provided a model for all other states to follow. With their professional and well-trained full-time army dressed in red cloaks and carrying shields emblazoned with the letter lambda (for Lacedaemonians), the Spartans showed what professionalism in warfare could achieve.

Many states such as Athens, Argos, Thebes, and Syracuse began to maintain a small professional force (logades or epilektoi) which could be augmented by the main citizen body if necessary. Armies became more cosmopolitan with the inclusion of resident foreigners, slaves, mercenaries, and neighbouring allies (either voluntary or through compulsion in the case of Sparta's perioikoi). Warfare moved away from one-off battles fought in a few hours to long-drawn-out conflicts which could last for years, the most important being the Persian Wars (first half of the 5th century BCE), the Peloponnesian Wars (459-446 & 431-404 BCE), and the Corinthian Wars (394-386 BCE).


The Hoplite Phalanx

The mainstay of any Greek army was the hoplite. His full panoply was a long spear, short sword, and circular bronze shield and he was further protected, if he could afford it, by a bronze helmet (with inner padding for comfort), bronze breastplate, greaves for the legs and finally, ankle guards. Fighting was at close-quarters, bloody, and lethal. This type of warfare was the perfect opportunity for the Greek warrior to display his manliness (andreia) and excellence (aretē) and generals led from the front and by example.

To provide greater mobility in battle the hoplite came to wear lighter armour such as a leather or laminated linen corselet (spolades) and open-faced helmet (pilos). The peltast warrior, armed with short javelins and more lightly-armoured than the hoplite became a mobile and dangerous threat to the slower moving hoplites. Other lighter-armed troops (psiloi) also came to challenge the hoplite dominance of the battlefield. Javelin throwers (akonistai), archers (toxotoi) and slingers (sphendonētai) using stones and lead bullets could harry the enemy with attacks and retreats. Cavalry (hippeis) was also deployed but due to the high costs and difficult terrain of Greece, only in limited numbers e.g., Athens, possessing the largest cavalry force during the Peloponnesian Wars had only 1,000 mounted troops. Decisive and devastating cavalry offensives would have to wait until the Macedonians led by Philip and Alexander in the mid-4th century BCE.

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Armies also became more structured, split into separate units with hierarchies of command. The lochoi was the basic unit of the phalanx - a line of well-armed and well-armoured hoplite soldiers usually eight to twelve men deep which attacked as a tight group. In Athens, the lochos was led by a captain (lochagos) and these combined to form one of ten regiments (taxeis) each led by a taxiarchos. A similar organisation applied to the armies of Corinth, Argos, and Megara. In 5th-century BCE Sparta, the basic element was the enomotiai (platoon) of 32 men. Four of these made up a pentekostys (company) of 128 men. Four of these made up a lochos (regiment) of 512 men. A Spartan army usually consisted of five lochoi with separate units of non-citizen militia - perioikoi. Units might also be divided by age or speciality in weaponry and, as warfare became more strategic, these units would operate more independently, responding to trumpet calls or other such signals mid-battle.

War At Sea: The Trireme

Some states such as Athens, Aegina, Corinth, and Rhodes amassed fleets of warships, most commonly the trireme, which could allow these states to forge lucrative trading partnerships and deposit troops on foreign territory and so establish and protect colonies. They could even block enemy harbours and launch amphibious landings. The biggest fleet was at Athens, which could amass up to 200 triremes at its peak, and which allowed the city to build and maintain a Mediterranean-wide empire.


The trireme was a light wooden ship, highly manoeuvrable and fitted with a bronze battering ram at the bow which could disable enemy vessels. 35 metres long and with a 5-metre beam, some 170 rowers (thetes - drawn from the poorer classes) sitting on three levels could propel the ship up to a speed of 9 knots. Also on board were small contingents of hoplites and archers, but the principal tactic in naval warfare was ramming not boarding. Able commanders arranged their fleets in a long front so that it was difficult for the enemy to pass behind (periplous) and ensure his ships were sufficiently close to prevent the enemy going through a gap (diekplous). Perhaps the most famous naval battle was Salamis in 480 BCE when the Athenians were victorious against the invading fleet of Xerxes.

However, the trireme had disadvantages in that there was no room for sleeping quarters and so ships had to be drydocked each night, which also prevented the wood becoming waterlogged. They were also fantastically expensive to produce and maintain indeed the trireme was indicative that now warfare had become an expensive concern of the state, even if rich private citizens were made to fund most of the expense.


Battle Strategies

The first strategy was actually employed before any fighting took place at all. Religion and ritual were important features of Greek life, and before embarking on a campaign, the will of the gods had to be determined. This was done through the consultation of oracles such as that of Apollo at Delphi and through animal sacrifices (sphagia) where a professional diviner (manteis) read omens (ta hiera), especially from the liver of the victim and any unfavourable signs could certainly delay the battle. Also, at least for some states like Sparta, fighting could be prohibited on certain occasions such as religious festivals and for all states during the great Panhellenic games (especially those at Olympia).

When all of these rituals were out of the way, fighting could commence but even then it was routine to patiently wait for the enemy to assemble on a suitable plain nearby. Songs were sung (the paian - a hymn to Apollo) and both sides would advance to meet each other. However, this gentlemanly approach in time gave way to more subtle battle arrangements where surprise and strategy came to the fore. What is more, conflicts also became more diverse in the Classical period with sieges and ambushes, and urban fighting becoming more common, for example at Solygeia in 425 BCE when Athenian and Corinthian hoplites fought house to house.

Strategies and deception, the 'thieves of war' (klemmata), as the Greeks called them, were employed by the more able and daring commanders. The most successful strategy on the ancient battlefield was using hoplites in a tight formation called the phalanx. Each man protected both himself and partially his neighbour with his large circular shield, carried on his left arm. Moving in unison the phalanx could push and attack the enemy whilst minimising each man's exposure. Usually eight to twelve men deep and providing the maximum front possible to minimise the risk of being outflanked, the phalanx became a regular feature of the better-trained armies, particularly the Spartans. Thermopylae in 480 BCE and Plataea in 479 BCE were battles where the hoplite phalanx proved devastatingly effective.


At the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BCE, Theban general Epaminondas greatly strengthened the left flank of his phalanx to about 50 men deep which meant he could smash the right flank of the opposing Spartan phalanx, a tactic he used again with great success at Mantineia in 362 BCE. Epaminondas also mixed lighter armed troops and cavalry to work at the flanks of his phalanx and harry the enemy. Hoplites responded to these developments in tactics with new formations such as the defensive square (plaision), used to great effect (and not only in defence) by Spartan general Brasidas in 423 BCE against the Lyncestians and again by the Athenians in Sicily in 413 BCE. However, the era of heavily armoured hoplites neatly arranged in two files and slashing away at each other in a fixed battle was over. More mobile and multi-weapon warfare now became the norm. Cavalry and soldiers who could throw missiles might not win battles outright but they could dramatically affect the outcome of a battle and without them the hoplites could become hopelessly exposed.

Siege Warfare

From an early stage, most Greek city-states had a fortified acropolis (Sparta and Elis being notable exceptions) to protect the most important religious and civic buildings and provide refuge from attack. However, as warfare became more mobile and moved away from the traditional hoplite battle, cities sought to protect their suburbs with fortification walls. Independent lookout towers in the surrounding countryside and even frontier forts and walls sprang up in response to the increased risk of attacks. Many poleis also built fortifications to create a protective corridor between the city and their harbour, the most famous being the Long Walls which spanned the 7 km between Athens and Piraeus.

Sieges were usually long-drawn-out affairs with the principal strategy being to starve the enemy into submission. Offensive strategies using battering rams and ramps proved largely unsuccessful. However, from the 4th century BCE technical innovations gave the attackers more advantages. Wheeled siege towers, first used by the Carthaginians and copied by Dionysius I of Syracuse against Motya in 397 BCE, bolt-throwing artillery (gastraphetes), stone throwing apparatus (lithoboloi) and even flame-throwers (at Delion in 424 BCE) began a trend for commanders to be more aggressive in siege warfare. However, it was only with the arrival of torsion artillery from 340 BCE, which could propel 15 kg stones over 300 metres, that city walls could now be broken down. Naturally, defenders responded to these new weapons with thicker and stronger walls with convex surfaces to better deflect missiles.

Logistics: Baggage & Supplies

The short duration of conflicts in the Greek world was often because of the poor logistics supplying and maintaining the army in the field. Soldiers were usually expected to provide their own rations (dried fish and barley porridge being most common) and the standard for Athens was three-days' worth. Most hoplites would have been accompanied by a slave acting as a baggage porter (skeuophoroi) carrying the rations in a basket (gylion) along with bedding and a cooking pot. Slaves also acted as attendants to the wounded as only the Spartan army had a dedicated medical officer (iatroi). Fighting was usually in the summer so tents were rarely needed and even food could be pillaged if the fighting was in enemy territory. Towards the end of the Classical Period, armies could be resupplied by ship and larger equipment could be transported using wagons and mules which came under the responsibility of men too old to fight.

Spoils of Victory

War booty, although not always the primary motive for conflict, was certainly a much-needed benefit for the victor which allowed him to pay his troops and justify the expense of the military campaign. Booty could come in the form of territory, money, precious materials, weapons, and armour. The losers, if not executed, could expect to be sold into slavery, the normal fate for the women and children of the losing side. It was typical for 10% of the booty (a dekaten) to be dedicated in thanks to the gods at one of the great religious sanctuaries such as Delphi or Olympia. These sites became veritable treasuries and, effectively, museums of weapons and armour. They also became too tempting a target for more unscrupulous leaders in later times, but still the majority of surviving military material comes from archaeological excavations at these sites.

Important rituals had to be performed following victory which included the recovering of the dead and the setting up of a victory trophy (from tropaion, meaning turning point in the conflict) at the exact place on the battlefield where victory became assured. The trophy could be in the form of captured weapons and armour or an image of Zeus on occasion memorials to the fallen were also set up. Speeches, festivals, sacrifices and even games could also be held following a victory in the field.


Greek warfare, then, evolved from small bands of local communities fighting for local territory into massive set-piece battles between multi-allied counterparts. War became more professional, more innovative, and more deadly, reaching its zenith with the Macedonian leaders Philip II and Alexander the Great. Learning from the earlier Greek strategies and weapons innovations, they employed better hand weapons such as the long sarissa spear, used better artillery, successfully marshalled diverse troop units with different arms, fully exploited cavalry, and backed all this up with far superior logistics to dominate the battlefield not only in Greece but across vast swathes of Asia and set the pattern for warfare through Hellenistic and into Roman times.

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Battle Warfare, Tactics and Strategies in WW1 for Kids

War is never pleasant. But World War I was extremely bloody, with more death and destruction than ever before. Prior to World War I, battles were fought with sabers and canons and guns that shot a few bullets before reloading was necessary. During World War I, the invention of new strategies and weapons caused mass destruction. Most new techniques were unsuccessful, which also cost lives. Over 70 million men fought in World War I. About 15 million military and civilian people died. The United States lost about 100,000 people. Britain, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary suffered collective losses in the millions. France lost a generation of young men. France also suffered enormous property damage as most of the war on the Western Front was fought on French soil.


New Invention, Machine Guns: During World War I, a water-cooled machine gun was invented. This was used as well as air-cooled machine guns. These guns could fire hundreds of bullets in a rapid stream before reloading. The water-cooled machine gun did not need time to cool down and could be used continuously. The use of both guns allowed attacks and casualties to be bigger and more devastating than ever before. The machine gun is still an important weapon in use by the military today.

New Invention, Fighter Planes: Planes were still primitive and limited during World War I, but the military recognized their potential. Armed with machine guns, fighter planes could cause a great deal of damage. They could also raise spirits of the fighting men on the ground. Men in the trenches could look up and see their fighter planes overhead. World War I pilots became known as "Knights of the Sky". Their goal was not to shoot enemy pilots but rather to shoot down enemy planes. If the pilot died as a result, that was war. But should an enemy pilot live through a crash, and be able to be seen alive on the ground, it was custom to fly over a nearby enemy encampment and drop a note letting them know that one of their pilots had lived through a crash. Some very famous pilots fought in WWI, pilots like the German pilot, the Red Baron.

New Invention, Zeppelins: Zeppelins were huge manned balloons, filled hydrogen to make them fly. They were used by the German army to make bombing raids on England.

New Invention: Tanks: Tanks were primitive during WWI. Many broke down, but some made it through enemy lines, causing great destruction of manpower and property.

New Invention, Poison Gas: A poison gas, a type of mustard gas, was invented in World War I. To fight this, the gas helmet was invented.


U-Boats: Submarines had first been invented in the late 1800s. They were still in their infancy in 1915 when the Germans began using submarines, called U-Boats, to sink ships from freighters to passenger liners. One of the most famous sinking was a U-Boat attack on the unarmed passenger ship, the Lusitania.


New Form of Fighting, Trench Warfare: A new form of fighting in World War I was the use of trench warfare. Both sides dug trenches, which were deep ditches. Between 1914 and 1918, both sides built trenches. By 1918, trenches on both sides stretched for about 12,000 miles. There was a row of three trenches on both sides. There was the main trench, the reserve trench, and the rest trench. Inside the trenches men were somewhat protected from enemy fire. Men spent about 8 days in the main trench, then about 4 days in the reserve trench, and then about 4 days in the rest trench or even a rest camp if one had been established. This was true on both sides. Conditions in the trenches were horrible. Trenches offered protection, but they were also filthy and a breeding ground for disease. The Spanish Flu began in the trenches. This disease spread around the world after World War I, when troops were demobilized and sent home. About 50 million people died between 1918 and 1920 from the Spanish Flu.

No Man's Land. Technique: The Creeping Barrage: One technique commonly used was the creeping barrage. Men would crawl out of the trenches, creep outward for a bit, then open fire. Many millions of men died as a result of this unsuccessful military strategy. The open land between enemy trenches soon became known as No Man's Land, because no man could survive it. The military was not used to trench warfare. They were used to fighting face to face on open ground with sabers and rifles. Machine guns were new as well. It was a suicide mission to send men to crawl out of the trenches and face the other side on open ground, while the other side was tucked safely in a trench, armed with machine guns and canons. Yet, this technique, the creeping barrage, was used over and over during World War I.

Technique: The Artillery Barrage: Another technique used was the artillery barrage. The army used short bursts to kill as many of the enemy as possible in a short time. There was a rest period. And then the barrage began again. This was a tactic used to both kill and depress the enemy.

Strategy and tactics: Modern Strategy and Tactics

The first modern total war, fought with mass armies and modern firearms, was the U.S. Civil War. It demonstrated the importance of industrial mobilization modern communications (especially railroads and the telegraph), and the deadly effect of new small arms, such as the rifled musket, on mass formations of attacking infantry. Beginning as a contest between armies, it grew into a conflict between two societies before its termination almost the entire resources of both North and South were engaged.

The lessons of the U.S. Civil War were little noticed in Europe, where strategy and tactics continued to be thought of in terms of mid-19th-century practice. European theorists also ignored the extensive and effective use of machine guns, artillery, and rifles in the colonial wars of the 19th cent. As a result, the bloody stalemate of World War I came as a surprise to most generals. It was characterized by trench warfare and by bloody frontal attacks, which were usually stopped at great cost to the attackers by massed small arms and artillery fire. In an effort to break the stalemate, both sides turned to new technical devices, such as the tank, the airplane, the submarine, and poison gas. The importance of the tank was stressed in theories of mechanized warfare formulated in the 1920s and 30s in the writings of B. H. Liddell Hart, Charles de Gaulle, and J. F. C. Fuller they proved prophetic when the Nazi blitzkrieg marked World War II as a war of mobility, characterized by vast movements of mechanized armies.

The introduction of aircraft in World War I gave rise to theories of airpower that have dominated strategic and tactical thinking ever since. The basis of airpower was set down by such men as Giulio Douhet, H. M. Trenchard, and William Mitchell, who believed that future wars would be won by air forces. Their theory of strategic bombing called for aerial attacks on the enemy's population and industrial centers to destroy the enemy's will and ability to continue fighting. In World War II that strategy was carried out in massive form by British and U.S. air forces in attacks on Germany and Japan. It was found, however, that aerial bombardment did not cut off industrial production and, in fact, strengthened the enemy's will to continue. In order to win the war the Allies had to conduct a number of campaigns with ground forces and, in the case of Germany, occupy the enemy's homeland.

The introduction and development of nuclear weapons and the guided missile have not changed the basic strategic theory of airpower, but these new weapons have revolutionized airpower itself. The replacement of high-explosive bombs by nuclear bombs and the change from propeller-driven manned aircraft to rocket-powered guided missiles meant that a force armed with these weapons could destroy almost any target on the planet. From the dropping of the first atomic bomb a new school of military theory, nuclear strategy, developed (see Bernard Brodie and Herman Kahn). In the 1950s, the United States evolved the theory of massive retaliation, to be used against the USSR as a response to acts of aggression.

In the early 1960s the threat of nuclear war did not prevent many successful nationalist revolutions and Communist people's wars as advocated by Mao Zedong, Ernesto Che Guevara, and Vo Nguyen Giap (see also guerrilla warfare). The result was a greater stress on conventional weapons and on increased tactical and strategic flexibility, as well as an interest in the long history and practice of counterinsurgency. That military strategy has become national strategy, involving complex assessments of technological resources, politics, and national priorities, was made clear in the Vietnam War and Afghanistan War where superior strategies and tactics allowed small nations to defeat great powers armed with the latest weaponry.

Outer space has also become a crucial strategic issue. President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative raised the possibility of the use of space-based weapons and satellites to combat an nuclear attack involving ballistic missiles, as the popular term for the program— Star Wars —made clear. Space is also important strategically for intelligence gathering using reconnaissance satellites and for coordination of military forces using the Global Positioning System (see navigation satellite), as was done successfully during the Persian Gulf War.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Military Affairs (nonnaval)

5.First Major Use Of Poison Gas

Gas, a type of chemical weapon, was first used on a major scale by the Germans in 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres. The British first used poison gas during the Battle of Loos (pictured here), but in some sectors the wind blew the cloud back into the British lines.

Death rates from gas were relatively low – about 3 per cent on the Western Front – but the physical effects could be excruciating and it remained a pervasive psychological weapon. Since the First World War, there have been many international laws and arms agreements intended to ban the use of chemical weapons, but they remain a controversial part of modern warfare.

Strategy and Tactics in the First World War - History

Stormtrooper Tactics of World War I

The innovative new German stormtrooper tactics of 1918 were very successful and foreshadowed the blitzkrieg tactics of the Second World War, but their very success contributed to German defeat.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, with Russia defeated, allowed Germany to concentrate on the Western Front. Ludendorff, the co-dictator of Germany and supreme military commander, insisted on occupying Russia. Over one million troops were tied up in Russia and Romania. Another million troops and 3,000 artillery pieces were shipped to the western front. From November 1917 to March 1918, German strength on the Western Front increased from 150 to 208 divisions and included 13, 832 artillery pieces. (Terraine 45)

At this time in the war, military formations of the belligerents were similar. German divisions consisted of about 10,600 men, British 12,000, and French 13,000. The newly arriving American divisions were over twice as large at 28,105 men. Eventually, the American troops would be vital in saving the Allied cause and winning the war. (American 267)

By this time in the war, a complex system of trenches and machine gun posts arranged in depth had evolved. All battle trenches were connected together with communications trenches which led to the rear areas. In front of the trenches were deep belts of barbed wire. (Hogg 124) The British defense system was based on a captured German manual. (For this essay "British" will include their allies, including the Anzacs, Canadians, and Portuguese.) They copied the letter and not the spirit of the German system. The British believed the machine gun supported the infantry while the Germans more realistically believed the infantry supported the machine gun. The new defense system had a Forward Zone manned by one-third of the troops. Two to three miles back, and manned by one-third of the infantry and two-thirds of the artillery, was the Battle Zone of a depth of 2,000 to 3,000 yards. The Rear Zone was four to eight miles behind the Battle Zone. This system was not as efficient as the German system which allocated two-thirds of the troops for counterattacks. (Barnett 298) France was nearing the end of its manpower resources, so the artillery was their most important arm. The French wisely held their front lightly and kept most of their troops in the main position out of artillery range. (Barnett 295)

While defenses were evolving, the German army was developing new assault tactics to deal with the defenses. The new German stormtroopers, or Stosstrupp, were first used experimentally in 1915. Groups of three, one with a large shield, and two on either side would toss grenades to spearhead attacks. (Koch 503) Later, Gen. Oskar von Hutier developed tactics of massed artillery and infiltration at Riga in Russia. (Livesey 178) For the new offensives in France, the rigid chain of command was made more flexible. Army commanders could direct the actions of battalions, thereby potentially relegating corps and brigades to reinforcement and supply functions. (Barnet 291)

Because of the loss of non-commissioned officers in 1917, all German divisions were not converted into assault divisions. Divisions were categorized as assault or trench divisions and given different priorities of supply. Assault divisions were given stormtroopers and four weeks training in mobile warfare. (Terraine 23) The elite stormtroopers were in top condition and were commanded by non-aristocrats, thereby increasing their comradery. (Koch 506)

Each offensive was preceded by the concentration of vast numbers of troops and artillery. In Operation Michael, 69 German divisions were massed against 32 British divisions, and in some places the British were outnumbered four to one. (Hart 370) In the Lys Offensive, 9 German divisions attacked 3 British divisions. Twenty-two divisions were massed against five in the Second Battle of the Marne. (Hart 414) Artillery was massed in levels never before seen. For comparison, in 1915 at Loos, artillery pieces averaged one per 60 yards. In the 1918 Operation Michael, one gun was placed on average every 12 yards. Continuing this trend, the Soviets in World War II massed artillery one gun per every 3 yards. (Hart 190, 415) In contrast to earlier offensives, artillery bombardments were brief and shocking. The enemy artillery was first eliminated with shells and poison gas. Enemy headquarters, communication centers, and supply depots were targeted. Forward trenches were then devastated, machine gun posts being prime targets. Trenches of the Battle Zone were then bombarded. (Toland 16)

During Operation Michael, the British massed 30% of their troops on the front line. Instead of the desired effect of stopping the attack with overwhelming firepower, the troops were annihilated by artillery fire. In the sector of the XVIII Corps, only 50 of 10,000 front line troops survived the bombardment and subsequent attack. (Cavendish 2645)

The stormtroopers attacked immediately after the bombardment. In contrast with the standard infantry units used at the beginning of the war, the men were equipped with a wide variety of weapons, not just the standard bolt-action rifle. Wire cutters and explosives engineers created gaps in the barbed wire belts. Grenade throwers, flame throwers, machine gunners, and mortar crews infiltrated enemy positions. Three or four waves of infantry followed. (Koch 506) The attacking troops had no fixed objectives and left pockets of resistance for supporting troops to deal with. (Barnet 290) Success, not failure, was reinforced. The stormtroopers carried with them the first widely used sub-machine gun, the MP-18. The new sub-machine gun was light and easy to handle, and had much greater firepower than a rifle. (Reid 10) Infiltrating troops often advanced beyond artillery range, leaving their flanks vulnerable. Since most artillery was too bulky to be brought forward in the attack, light trench mortars and machine gunners protected the flanks. (Koch 506) The great German offensives were also supported by air power. Seven hundred thirty German planes were massed against 579 Allied planes in Operation Michael. (Toland 26)

By the standards of the First World War, Operation Michael was a great success. The Germans penetrated 40 miles, took 975 guns, and inflicted 300,000 casualties, but eventually the German attacked stalled from exhaustion. (Hart 373) The allies eventually found some antidotes to the new tactics. For example, on July 15, 1918 the French Fourth Army was attacked by three German armies. The front was held lightly and the main resistance was met two to three miles back. The French kept their command posts and ammunition depots beyond artillery range. The night before the attack, the German assembly points were bombarded, and the assault was stopped at the Battle Zone.

Despite their success, the spring 1918 offensives ended in exhaustion, and the summer offensives were halted. "The German Army in the west was short of men and had no genuinely motorised infantry, which alone would have given the German forces operational liberty." (Koch 519) "The very speed of the advance had brought the armies to exhaustion." Further, 20% of the men suffering from influenza. "When Ludendorff opened his campaign he had a credit balance of 207 divisions, 82 in reserve. Now he had only 66 fit divisions in reserve."

With German morale sagging after the failure of the offensives, and with many of the reserves committed, compounded further by the economic devastation caused by the blockade, Germany teetered on the verge of collapse. The allies learned from the German attack methods, and the British counterattack of August 8, 1918 was decisive. The Germans couldn't stop the Allied advance, and on November 11, 1918 the Armistice was signed. The new assault tactics had broken the stalemate. In the next war, tanks and other armored vehicles allowed decisive exploitation of a breakthrough, deep into the enemy's rear areas. The sensational methods of blitzkrieg had their roots in the stormtrooper tactics of 1918.

A Guide to the American Battle Fields in Europe., prepared by the American Battle Monuments Commission., United States Government Printing Office. 1927.

Barnett, Cornelli., The Swordbearers., William Morrow and Company: New York, 1964

Hart, B.H. Liddell, The Real War. Little, Brown and Company: Boston, 1930.

Hogg, Ian V. A History of Military Defense, St. MArtins Press: New York,1927.

Koch, H. Wolfgang., History of Warfare, Gallery Books: New York, 1981.

Livesey, Anthony, Great Battles of World War I, Macmillan Publishing Company: New York, 1989.

Reid, Kevin B., Armament Section, January 1990, World War II Magazine: Empire Press.

Terraine, John, To Win a War, Doubleday and Company, Inc. Garden City, New York, 1981.

Toland, John, No Man's Land, Doubleday and Company, Inc.: Garden City, New York, 1980.

Young, Peter The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War I, Marshall Cavendish New York, 1984.


Tactics FundamentalsLand Warfare TacticsNaval Warfare TacticsAir Warfare Tactics
Tactics: Fundamentals Tactics are the art of using armed forces to fight battles. They include all actions taken in preparing for battle, including preliminary disposition, actual arrangement of forces and weapons systems, and combat actions. Tactics are the battlefield culmination of actions taken at the strategic and operational levels. They are both an art and a science, and writings on the subject have been in existence since the time of Sun Tzu, the unidentified Chinese author who wrote The Art of War (c. 500� B.C.). Tactics are executed by human beings who suffer fear, fatigue, hunger, exhilaration, and a multitude of other emotions. Psychological aspects are as important as physical ones.

At the basic level, tactics combine both offensive and defensive operations. Through history, tactics have been in a constant state of change, influenced by technology and leadership. Innovations and technology have had great impact throughout the ages: The stirrup allowed the mounted armored knight to dominate the battlefield for years. Gunpowder and the invention of reliable shoulder𠄏ired weapons, in turn, afforded significant tactical advantage to the dismounted soldier, enabling infantry to replace the armored horseman as the dominant force. Refinements such as rifled muskets and light field artillery changed tactics. Later technological innovations such as machine guns, rapid𠄏iring artillery, tanks, airplanes, submarines, and aircraft carriers have caused tactics to continue to evolve.

According to the great Prussian military writer Carl von Clausewitz (1780�), and his book On War , tactics are the use of armed forces to win battles strategy is the use of battles to win the war. Warfare can be considered at three levels, with inexact lines of distinction between those levels: strategic, operational, and tactical. Strategy is the concerted, coordinated use of all resources available to a nation in order to win a war. Operational art lies between strategy and tactics: it orchestrates battlefield tactical actions into major operations and campaigns that can achieve the strategic goals. The strategic level is normally the realm of politicians and their senior advisers. The tactical level is that of the military. The operational level is a combination of political and military influences.

Although tactics are at the micro‐level, the loss of a tactical battle can reverse well�signed strategic and operational‐level plans. During the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker devised an operational campaign in 1863 to outflank Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia entrenched around Fredericksburg. Although the Union had overwhelming numerical superiority and initial surprise, Confederate Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson's tactical attack against the open Union right flank caused Hooker to halt the campaign and retreat back to his original positions.

Similarly, tactical victory can be negated by failure at the operational and strategic levels. In World War I, for example, the German offensives of spring 1918, using new “infiltration tactics,” had great tactical success. However, the German Army could not follow up at the operational level because of an ultimate lack of mobility and reserves. In the Vietnam War, the United States never suffered a major tactical defeat, yet it lost the war at the strategic and political level.

At the beginning of the nuclear age, some futurists thought nuclear “super weapons” would bring an end to tactical operations. However, human ingenuity persevered, tactics were again modified, and battles at the tactical level continue to this day. The historical continuity of terrain, weather, 𠇏rictions” of war, and the indomitability of the human spirit cause tactics to change but still remain a critical element in warfare. Despite the advances of technology through the ages, tactical victory still goes to the force that is best able to combine technology with leadership, discipline, esprit, and moral force.
[See also Strategy Victory War: Levels of War.]

Carl von Clausewitz , On War , 1832
Michael Howard and Peter Paret, eds., 1984.
C. E. Callwell , Small Wars: Their Principles & Practice , 3rd ed. 1906 Introduction by Douglas Porch, 1996.
Ardant Du Picq , Battle Studies: Ancient and Modern Battle , John Greely and Robert Cotton, trans., 1946.
Sun Tzu , The Art of War , Samuel B. Griffith, trans., 1984.
Hans Delbruck , History of the Art of War Within the Framework of Political History , 4 vols., Walter J. Renfroe, Jr., trans., 1990.
John A. English, and and Bruce I. Gudmundsson , On Infantry , 1994.

Tactics: Land Warfare Tactics Tactics are the specific techniques used by military forces to win battles and engagements. Though the term is sometimes associated with the entire art of fighting, military theorists usually associate land warfare tactics with the organization and disposition of troops, use of weapons and equipment, and execution of movements in offense or defense. For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, theorists distinguished between minor and grand tactics, and today they continue that distinction by associating grand tactics (or strategy) with the operational art of war and minor tactics with the tactical level. Such a distinction leaves the tactician concerned primarily with the employment of small units in combat and focused on leading soldiers and solving problems amid the uncertainty and unpredictability of battle.

The first conclusive evidence of the use of ground warfare tactics comes from the Neolithic Age. Primitive warfare consisted of ambushes, raids, and skirmishes and relied on techniques and weapons closely associated with hunting. Although primitive warriors understood the importance of numbers, they knew little about tactical formations and less about command and control. These warriors nonetheless adopted the bow, sling, dagger, and mace between 12,000 and 8,000 B.C. and began deploying troops in column and line, firing arrows in volleys, and enveloping the flanks of an enemy line. Rough paintings of such actions from the Neolithic Age clearly indicate the existence of tactics in this early period.

By the fourth millennium B.C. , tactics had advanced considerably. As the extraction and smelting of metals improved, bronze weapons became common, and battleaxes and metal arrowheads influenced many battles. The introduction of the wheel also permitted the invention of the war chariot, a vehicle that improved considerably in succeeding centuries. In the third millennium B.C. , the Sumerians in the Euphrates Valley left written evidence of formally organized troop formations, with infantry equipped with body armor, spears, and shields and chariots occupied by soldiers carrying javelins. By 1468 B.C., the Egyptians had mastered the weapons of the Bronze Age and demonstrated the value of superior tactics in the Battle of Megiddo against the armies of Syria and Palestine.

The Greeks and Romans brought tactics to new levels of sophistication. The Greeks relied on the phalanx, which consisted of infantrymen carrying long spears, short swords, and heavy shields. By advancing shoulder to shoulder and presenting a massive array of overlapping shields and spear points, the Greeks could rupture an opponent's front and crush him. Philip of Macedonia and Alexander the Great achieved great success by skillfully employing the phalanx with cavalry, archers, and other lightly armed troops. To obtain greater flexibility, the Romans modified the phalanx and used the maniple and the cohort in their legions but they did not abandon the idea of placing highly trained troops in carefully organized and equipped formations. Superior tactical methods and organizations proved essential for the establishment of the Greek and Roman empires.

Numerous changes occurred in tactics during the next 1,000 years, but none had a greater effect than the introduction of gunpowder. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, commanders adapted their tactics and made significant advances with formations such as the tercio, which combined hand‐powered weapons with chemically powered ones. During the Thirty Years' War (1618�), the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus armed his infantry with muskets and pikes, his cavalry with wheellock pistols and sabers, and his artillery with mobile guns. Gustavus then created innovative tactics that relied on close cooperation between infantry, artillery, and cavalry, exploited firepower and shock, and performed well on the offense or defense. His methods demonstrated how the flexible adaptation of technology could profoundly affect battlefield tactics.

In the era of the French Revolution at the turn of the eighteenth century, the French developed tactics that enabled them to capitalize on the initiative and commitment of their highly motivated soldiers. Though some historians have dismissed these as “horde tactics,” French commanders learned through trial and error how to change their formations quickly from column to line and from line to column they also learned to precede their infantry with swarms of skirmishers and support their advance with concentrated artillery. The result was not an army prepared for the parade ground but one prepared to fight against Europe's best professional armies and defeat them. When Napoleon came to power, he made few changes in French tactics and relied on many of the innovations achieved in previous years, although he received credit for so�lled Napoleonic warfare. His eventual defeat came from his failed strategy and his inflated ego, not from the aggressive tactics he inherited from his predecessors.

Tactics continued to change in the nineteenth century. In the United States, Gen. Emory Upton emerged as the most notable American thinker on the subject. A much decorated and wounded veteran of the Civil War, Upton searched during that war for an alternative to the close order, linear tactics practiced by most units with resulting high casualties. In 1867, the U.S. Army adopted Upton's system of tactics, which included commands and formations enabling infantry, artillery, and cavalry to work together more closely. Recognizing the accuracy of the rifled musket and the rapid fire of the breechloader, Upton proposed organizing the infantry in a single line, rather than two or three lines, and taking advantage of their breechloader's greater firepower. He also proposed making groups of four soldiers the basis of all infantry formations and training infantry to march in columns composed of 𠇏ours” and move quickly into line. Such an organization could face in any direction after receiving simple orders. Additionally, Upton emphasized the use of skirmishers to precede and protect the main body of the infantry. These tactics placed a premium on the initiative of individual soldiers and made infantry formations more flexible, but they were only a small step forward in the effort to develop new tactics for a battlefield increasingly dominated by firepower.

Numerous important innovations in tactics occurred during World War I. Many of these changes came from the changing relationship between artillery and infantry. As the artillery changed from a direct𠄏ire to an indirect𠄏ire role, and as the volume of fire increased dramatically, the coordination of infantry and artillery proved to be one of the most complex and enduring problems of the war. In essence, artillery support dictated the movement of the infantry and created conditions that made maneuver extremely difficult. The Germans became the most tactically innovative of the belligerents and eventually devised an elastic defense‐in�pth and infiltration tactics. In both the offensive and defense, the Germans achieved excellent coordination of infantry and artillery, and relied on the maneuver of small units and the initiative of lower‐level commanders. When the Americans entered the war in 1917, Gen. John J. Pershing resolved to abandon trench warfare and restore mobility to the battlefield but the exhaustion of the belligerents and the tactical innovations of the Germans did more to restore mobility than the vast resources and new energy of the Americans in the brief period of major U.S. involvement.

Tactics continued to evolve prior to and during World War II. The most notable advances again came from the Germans, this time with the integration of tanks and aircraft into the battle. During the May–June 1940 campaign against the French, the Germans combined their infantry, artillery, tanks, and aircraft into a highly mobile, combined𠄊rms team and drove quickly through Poland's and France's linear defenses. Ironically, the tanks and aircraft received most of the publicity, particularly after the invention of the term Blitzkrieg (lightning war) to describe the operation but infantry and artillery proved vital to the Germans' success in many of the campaigns' key encounters. The 1940 defeat of France nonetheless marked the flourishing of mechanized tactics and provided a long‐lived model of three𠄍imensional mobile warfare. Other innovations during World War II came with the development of airborne warfare and amphibious warfare but once landed, the forces involved in such operations used tactics similar to those employed by standard infantry units.

In the decades following 1945, commanders faced many new questions about tactics. With the introduction of nuclear weapons, the superpowers developed new methods for fighting on nuclear battlefields. In the United States, the army developed the “Pentomic” division and 𠇌heckerboard tactics,” which permitted the dispersal and rapid concentration of units on a nuclear battlefield, but the transition from the doctrine of massive retaliation to that of flexible response eventually resulted in the abandonment of methods appropriate only for a nuclear environment. The outbreak of revolutionary wars around the globe resulted in the development of tactics for guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency, both of which relied on the initiative of small‐unit commanders and the mobility of all units. In this environment, air–mobile operations proved useful, but neither the Americans in Vietnam nor the Russians in Afghanistan achieved strategic success, even though they won numerous tactical victories. By the end of the Cold War, advances in technology had produced sophisticated weapons and equipment that promised many future modifications in tactics.

Through thousands of years, land warfare tactics have evolved as commanders have modified their methods, developed different organizations, and adopted new weapons. Though tactics remained subservient to strategy, the greatest tacticians have been those who recognized the constantly changing nature of tactics𠅊nd the unpredictability of battle.
[See also Strategy: Land Warfare Strategy.]

Mao Tse‐tung , Guerrilla Warfare , 1962.
John R. Galvin , Air Assault: The Development of Airmobile Warfare , 1969.
Robert A. Doughty , The Evolution of U.S. Army Tactical Doctrine, 1946� , 1979.
Steven T. Ross , From Flintlock to Rifle: Infantry Tactics, 1740� , 1979.
Timothy T. Lupfer , The Dynamics of Doctrine: The Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War , 1981.
Paul H. Herbert , Deciding What Has to be Done: General William E. DePuy and the 1976 Edition of FM 100𠄅, Operations , 1988.
James S. Corum , The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and Germany Military Reform , 1992.
Perry D. Jamieson , Crossing the Deadly Ground: United States Army Tactics, 1865� , 1994.

Tactics: Naval Warfare Tactics Tactics are the handling of forces in battle. Maneuver, meaning movement, was once a near synonym for tactics, but over the past half century naval “maneuvers” have come to mean any set of tactical actions intended to gain a combat advantage. Currently encompassed in the term naval tactics are effective search and detection (or scouting), the command and control of forces, and countermeasures that neutralize or degrade enemy actions, all of which have become as important as formations and firepower.

For roughly 400 years, guns were a fighting fleet's decisive weapon and a tightly spaced column was its advantageous formation. The tactical aim was to bring the maximum number of guns to bear on the enemy massed forces was the tactical means. Then, in the twentieth century, aircraft introduced the possibility of massing the striking power without physically concentrating the aircraft carriers that launched the planes. To that end, in World War II the Imperial Japanese Navy developed tactics based on separated carrier formations, sometimes supplemented with strikes from island airfields.

Nevertheless, by 1944, both sides in the Pacific War saw that concentration was still the superior tactic, principally for purposes of antiaircraft defense based on counterfire from air and sea rather than primary reliance on protective armor plate. American ship defenses became so formidable that the Japanese resorted to kamikazes: manned aircraft acting as missiles on suicidal one‐way missions.

At the end of World War II, defense through counterfire ended abruptly with the threat of air𠄍ropped nuclear bombs. Dispersed formations were designed to conceal warships amid merchant shipping long enough for them to launch their own nuclear strikes. By the 1960s, this desperate tactic that was modified as counterfire was resumed through surface‐to𠄊ir missiles of the Terrier, Talos, and Tarter programs, and air‐to𠄊ir missiles such as those of jet fighters like the F� “Tomcat.” Tactics were further altered as the likelihood of nuclear war at sea waned and the principal threat to ships became conventional warheads in air‐to‐surface missiles instead of aerial gravity bombs.

By the 1960s, Soviet submarines were armed with ASCMs of such great range (some more than 300 miles) that American fleet defenses developed many layers, beginning with aerial surveillance and protection. But survival depended on adequate warning, plenty of sea room, depth of fire, and the absence of neutral aircraft and shipping.

As the reach and lethality of firepower increased, so did the need to detect the enemy at longer and longer ranges. In fact, the threat of large pulsed attacks from torpedoes, aircraft, and missiles made apparent the enormous advantage of finding the enemy first and attacking before he could respond. In World War II, nothing but aerial scouts could hope to reach far enough to find the enemy, target him, and strike first. Submarines off enemy ports and straits gave strategic warning of enemy movements (and attacked if they could), but tactical detection and tracking were achieved by an unstinting aerial search. After World War II, aircraft continued their crucial scouting role, but concurrently highly sophisticated earth‐orbiting satellites grew in significance, as did electronic search, both active and passive, conducted by ships, submarines, and land sites. Some sensors are able to detect ships and aircraft far over the horizon at ranges of thousands of miles. The moves and countermoves across the electromagnetic spectrum have become so intricate that the tactics of nonlethal “information warfare” have become as important as the missiles themselves in determining who will attack effectively first.

All naval warfare since World War II has been closely connected with conflict ashore. Thus, joint littoral operations have consistently defined modern naval warfare. Land‐sea missile attacks such as a 1982 attack during the Falklands/Malvinas War on British warships by an Exocet missile launched from a land site in Argentina have added to the already prevalent strikes by aircraft to blur the tactical distinction between sea and land combat. More such littoral engagements seem certain, for the U.S. Navy's most important contribution to future war overseas will be, as in the past, the safe delivery and sustainment of army, air force, and Marine elements that will engage the enemy on the land.

Because missiles are swift, accurate, lethal, and long‐ranged, naval battle maneuvering has shifted from warship to weapon. Survivability is now largely dependent on quick defeat of attacking missiles. Counterfire with defensive missiles has had an insignificant effect, but chaff, jamming, and other defensive countermeasures have been highly successful when a defender was alerted. Thus, a scouting advantage and application of superior electronic tactics and technology has become vitally important as an advantage.

Over 400 guided missiles have been fired at merchant vessels and warships since 1967, when an Egyptian patrol craft launched 4 Soviet‐made Styx missiles and sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat. Since 1967, torpedoes, mines, aerial bombs, or shellfire have had considerable consequences, but ASCMs have inflicted by far the most damage and are the central weapon of naval tactics today.

Many in American policy circles believe that naval operations have changed radically since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Contemporary operations as disparate as the Persian Gulf War, the interdiction of shipping in the Adriatic, and efforts to intercept both drugs and illegal immigrants in the Caribbean have all taken place in littoral waters. Consequently, a new concept called joint littoral warfare has developed, in which army, navy, air force, and Marine forces are concerted by joint commanders who conduct wide‐ranging operations in the coastal regions of the world. The focus of U.S. naval operations has returned to its roots because throughout history most naval battles have been fought within 100 miles of land. Furthermore, during the Cold War, a dichotomy existed between U.S. Navy war plans and actual force deployment. War plans were drawn to gain sea control, support a major NATO war in Europe, and attack the Soviet homeland directly, with or without nuclear weapons. The plans envisioned battles fought against Soviet submarines, long‐range aircraft, and surface warships over the vastness of the ocean. Simultaneously, and paradoxically, the actual profitable deployment of American naval forces took place close inshore in a wide variety of circumstances and locales, involving air strikes, amphibious landings, and sustainment of forces fighting on land. The “new” littoral warfare tasks of the U.S. Navy at the end of the twentieth century are no different from those actually carried out in coastal waters by naval forces for the past fifty years, such as air strikes against North Vietnam and Libya, amphibious landings in Korea, Lebanon, and Grenada, coastal blockades, and naval gunfire support.

Changes in tactics wrought by missiles are as far‐reaching tactically as the shift from sail to steam or from battleship to aircraft carrier. Moreover, the great range of missiles coupled with the proximity to land creates a combat environment of intensified tactical interaction between the sea and the land in which force on force is no longer exclusively, or even primarily, fleet against fleet.

Starting in World War I, mines, torpedo boats, and coastal submarines forced surface fleets to back away from close coastal blockade. In World War II, aircraft extended the air‐land interaction, as ships used planes to attack land targets and land�sed planes attacked ships. In the missile age, while ships become targets of land�sed missiles, ship�sed missiles are used against land sites. Since the 1950s, submarines armed with nuclear ballistic missiles have been capable of striking deep inland. In the Persian Gulf War of 1991, nearly 300 American sea‐launched cruise missiles struck military targets in Iraq with conventional warheads.

The revolution in naval tactics wrought by missiles, however, is far more extensive than a change in the principal weapon. Until World War II, fleet maneuvers were designed to achieve a positional advantage relative to the enemy. In the age of fighting sail, the weather gauge (upwind of the opposing fleet) was such a crucial advantage. In the battleship era, crossing the “T” (alignment of one's column across the head of the enemy's column) was the relative position sought. Then, in World War II, maneuvers by ships in formation were supplanted by the swifter movement of raids by aircraft carrying bombs and torpedoes or salvos of torpedoes launched from destroyers and light cruisers. These outperformed gunfire from heavy cruisers and battleships. Today, small maneuverable missile craft have the capacity to put much larger warships out of action, especially in confined coastal waters large salvos of fifty or more missiles can be rapidly and accurately launched against land targets from a comparatively small warship, as they were in the U.S. retaliatory attacks on purported terrorist sites in the Sudan and Afghanistan in August 1998. Aircraft carriers—so fragile and frequently sunk in World War II—now use their mobility to position themselves out of danger, yet where their aircraft can deliver telling, repeated attacks.
[See also Strategy: Naval Warfare Strategy.]

Sir Julian S. Corbett , Some Principles of Maritime Strategy , 1911 reissued 1988.
Wayne P. Hughes , Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice , 1986.
Eric Grove , The Future of Sea Power , 1990.
Brian Tunstall , Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail: The Evolution of Fighting Tactics 1650� , 1990.
John C. Schulte , An Analysis of the Historical Effectiveness of Antiship Cruise Missiles in Littoral Warfare , 1994.
Wayne P. Hughes, Jr. , A Salvo Model of Warships in Missile Combat Used to Evaluate Their Staying Power, Naval Research Logistics, 1995.
Craig Symonds , Historical Atlas of the U.S. Navy , 1995.
Martin S. Navias and and E. R. Hooton , Tanker Wars: The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran‐Iraq Conflict, 1980� , 1996.

Tactics: Air Warfare Tactics Tactics in air warfare consist of fundamental methods, skills, and techniques designed to lead to success in aerial combat. Subject to change as the result of the rapid and continuing improvements in aircraft, weapons, and support technology over the last eighty years, air warfare tactics nevertheless remain a natural outgrowth of the earliest use of military aircraft by the major belligerents during World War I.

The classic goal of air warfare is to deny an enemy the use of airspace and to exploit that airspace for victory. Typically, this mandates the destruction of enemy aircraft𠅎ither in the air or on the ground𠅊nd winning and maintaining air superiority. Success in the battle for air superiority permits one's aircraft to attack enemy ground or naval forces, deny the enemy logistic support, resupply friendly forces, collect photographic intelligence, and bring an enemy's country under long‐range strategic bombardment. Scores of other missions exist as well, and are not confined to the atmosphere immediately surrounding the Earth. Space is a new arena for air warfare. At a fundamental level, military aviators create and modify air warfare tactics to maximize the impact and effectiveness of aircraft or aerospace vehicles—manned or unmanned—whatever the objective.

At the beginning of World War I, Germany and Britain used aircraft largely for straightforward reconnaissance, observation, and artillery‐spotting purposes. In its earliest forms, air combat developed as an outgrowth of these missions. It was not long before airmen who had greeted each other with smiles and waves began shooting at each other with rifles and pistols. These weapons quickly gave way to machine guns synchronized to fire through propellers. The German fighter pilot Max Immelmann is generally credited with developing in 1915 the first aerial maneuver designed to give an attacking aircraft a relative advantage over another. The 180�gree climbing turn that soon bore his name might accurately be thought of as the genesis of aerial tactical development. Another German aviator, Oswald Boelcke, developed seven fundamental rules of air combat, several of which survive to this day. The most enduring admonitions were to surprise the enemy and to maintain the offensive advantage. Boelcke was also among the earliest proponents of formation flying. Eschewing “lone�gle” patrols, he believed aircraft attacking in pairs offered mutual support and enjoyed a greater chance of success against the enemy.

Boelcke's notions and techniques found widespread acceptance on both sides of the lines during World War I. At its most basic tactical level, fighter air combat consisted largely of seeing the enemy, deciding whether or not an attack was possible, closing by maneuver, firing, and escaping. If the original attack was unsuccessful, further maneuver was necessary either to reengage or to avoid further attack and survive. With allowances for vast increases in speed, target acquisition, and accuracy of weapons, these tenets are just as valid today as they were between 1914 and 1918.

By the end of World War I, air warfare tactics were remarkably sophisticated, and included concepts for the employment of large numbers of bombing and reconnaissance aircraft. All sides employed mass formations aircraft attacked targets both on the immediate battlefield and deep within enemy country. Using lighter‐than𠄊ir Zeppelins and large, specially designed long‐range airplanes, the Germans undertook the first sustained strategic bombing campaign in history against London. Although it caused only minimal physical damage, its psychological impact was important. Moreover, the campaign spurred many of the doctrinal and tactical developments during the interior period.

The 1920s and 1930s were a fertile time for those thinking about the potential use of airpower. Airpower advocates in Britain and the United States, like Sir Hugh Trenchard and Gen. Billy Mitchell, and Giulio Douhet in Italy, suggested that large independent air forces, built around long‐range bombers, could have a winning impact. At a tactical level, they assumed that bombers were fast enough, well enough defended, and could fly high enough to avoid or defeat enemy interceptors. In their minds, this reduced or virtually eliminated the need for armed escort of fighter planes. Moreover, the most optimistic zealots confidently predicted that bombers would be able to obliterate their targets and terrorize civilian populations with little difficulty. Americans, less comfortable than their British counterparts with the notion of bombing of civilians in cities, believed accurate U.S. bombsights and well‐protected aircraft such as the B� and B� were capable of precision against industrial targets. A few, such as Claire Chennault, advocated increased emphasis on fighter aircraft.

The Germans developed their own views on the uses of airpower during this period. They were particularly impressed with the concept of terror bombing. Their success in the Spanish Civil War convinced them that bombers might play a significant role in reducing an enemy's morale and willingness to resist. Nevertheless, the Germans' principal contribution here related to the importance of ground support aviation. In the earliest campaigns of World War II, the Luftwaffe became a true extension of the German Army, and in many ways operated like mobile artillery. German fighters, flying in flexible and mutually supporting formations, attacked first to sweep an enemy air force from the ground and sky. Subsequent waves of high‐ and low𠄊ltitude bombers attacked enemy airfields, transportation centers, fuel storage areas, and troop installations. Finally, highly accurate dive𠄋ombers assisted the swift‐moving columns of German tanks as they swept through enemy defenses in deep, encircling penetrations. The rapid German victories in 1939 and 1940 astonished the world.

The Allies were also able to put the principal tactical elements of their air warfare doctrine to the test. Beginning in 1942, British and American bombers undertook an offensive against German‐occupied Europe and the Nazi homeland. In an attempt to reduce casualty rates, the British bombed area targets largely by night. The Americans, convinced that high𠄊ltitude, daylight formation bombing was possible, attacked a succession of more precise industrial and military targets. Unfortunately, both air forces suffered huge casualties, while German armament production rates actually increased. Employing radar and an increasingly effective nighttime air and ground defense network, the Luftwaffe battled the British over the largest German cities. In the daytime, German fighters used heavier armament and increasingly sophisticated tactics to blast hundreds of U.S. bombers out of the sky. It was not until early 1944 and the employment of sizable numbers of new, long‐range escort fighters like the P�, that the American bomber formations became truly effective. Given the attritional nature of the air war in the proceeding months, it took an amazingly short time for the Luftwaffe to suffer the effects. In just six months American fighters largely swept the Germans from the skies, while Allied bombers finally concentrated on the target arrays that would bring the German military machine to a virtual halt—oil and transportation.

Amphibious island‐hopping actions and naval aviation dominated the Pacific War. Naval air warfare tactics were largely built around carrier𠄋orne aircraft whose main mission was to attack enemy ships. The primary targets in most engagements were enemy aircraft carriers, and the best way to attack them was with coordinated formations of dive𠄋ombers and torpedo planes. Navy fighter aircraft, in a way similar to their land�sed counterparts, supported offensive air operations or flew in air defense roles. Long‐range strategic bombing by the army air forces in the Pacific fell mainly to the American B�. This aircraft, which eventually carried out the first atomic bomb attacks, was capable of large bomb loads and inflicted huge damage on Japanese cities in a series of incendiary raids between 1944 and 1945.

The development of nuclear weapons appeared to fulfill the most visionary projections of the air power advocates. During many of the years of the Cold War, the potential use of atom bomb–laden aircraft dominated the thinking of many leaders in the military and government. According to various airpower historians, the focus on strategic nuclear warfare in the U.S. Air Force caused a corresponding atrophy in developments with regard to ground support or tactical aviation. High𠄊ltitude, long‐range bombers like the Boeing B� and the medium‐range, supersonic Convair B� came to symbolize the Cold War. Soviet air defense improvements predictably forced U.S. Air Force planners to develop increasingly sophisticated penetration tactics. At the same time, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) gradually took the place of the great masses of bombers at U.S. Cold War air bases. But the events of the Korean War and the Vietnam War also demonstrated that an air force organized and equipped mainly for a strategic nuclear mission was ill‐suited for the demands of low‐intensity conflict.

Despite the apparent technological domination of contemporary war, air warfare tactics show an unbroken human thread back to 1914�. At its most fundamental level, air warfare continues to require a human being to shoot down an enemy aircraft or put munitions on target. As long as nations threaten each other, military airmen will ponder the requirements for seizing control of the air and subsequently exploiting that control, much as they did during World War I.
[See also Strategy: Air Warfare Strategy.]

Strategy and Tactics in the First World War - History

African National Congress 1969

Strategy and Tactics of the ANC

This document was adopted by the Morogoro Conference of the ANC, meeting at Morogoro, Tanzania, 25 April - 1 May 1969

The struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa is taking place within an international context of transition to the Socialist system, of the breakdown of the colonial system as a result of national liberation and socialist revolutions, and the fight for social and economic progress by the people of the whole world.

We in South Africa are part of the zone in which national liberation is the chief content of the struggle. On our continent sweeping advances have been registered which have resulted in the emergence to independent statehood of forty one states. Thus the first formal step of independence has been largely won in Africa and this fact exercises a big influence on the developments in our country.

The countries of Southern Africa have not as yet broken the chains of colonialism and racism which hold them in oppression. In Mozambique, Angola, South West Africa, Zimbabwe and South Africa White racialist and fascist regimes maintain systems which go against the current trend of the African revolution and world development. This has been made possible by the tremendous economic and military power at the disposal of these regimes built with the help of imperialism.

The main pillar of the unholy alliance of Portugal, Rhodesia and South Africa is the Republic of South Africa. The strategy and tactics of our revolution require for their formulation and understanding a full appreciation of the inter-locking and interweaving of International, African and Southern African developments which play on our situation.

Rule by Force

South Africa was conquered by force and is today ruled by force. At moments when White autocracy feels itself threatened, it does not hesitate to use the gun. When the gun is not in use legal and administrative terror, fear, social and economic pressures, complacency and confusion generated by propaganda and "education", are the devices brought into play in an attempt to harness the people's opposition. Behind these devices hovers force. Whether in reserve or in actual employment, force is ever present and this has been so since the White man came to Africa.

Unending Resistance to White Domination

From the time alien rule was imposed there has been - historically speaking - unbroken resistance to this domination. It has taken different forms at different times but it has never been abandoned. For the first 250 years there were regular armed clashes, battles and wars. The superior material resources of the enemy, the divided and often fragmented nature of the resistance, the unchallenged ascendancy of imperialism as a world system up to the beginning of the 20th century, the historically understandable absence of political cohesion and leadership in the people's camp these and other factors combined to end the first phase of resistance against alien domination. But the protracted character of this resistance unequalled anywhere else in Africa is underlined by the fact that the armed subjugation of the indigenous people was only really accomplished the beginning of this century. The defeat of the Bambata Rebellion in 1906 marked the end of this first phase and set the stage of the handing over of the administration of the country to local whites in 1910. The fifty years which followed was not a period of resignation or of acceptance. It was a period of development and of regrouping under new conditions a period in which newly created political formations of the people continued to struggle with the enemy and grew into maturity a period in which, above all, national consciousness began to assert itself against tribal sectionalism. This period witnessed the emergence and development of the primary organisation of the liberation movement - The African National Congress. It also saw the evolvement of national organisations reflecting the aspirations of other oppressed non-White groups - the Coloureds and the Indians - and the creation of economic and political organisations - the South African Communist Party and Trade Unions which reflected the special aims and aspirations of the newly developed and doubly exploited working class. This was a period of organisational growth. It was punctuated by struggles involving techniques ranging from orthodox mass campaigning to general strikes, to mass acts of defiance. It culminated in the decision taken in 1961 to prepare for armed confrontation. December 1961 saw the opening stages of the campaign in the simultaneous acts of sabotage which occurred in most of the main urban centres on the 16th.

The Move to Armed Struggle

Why was the decision for armed struggle taken in 1961? Why not 1951 or 1941 or 1931? Is it that the character of the state had so altered fundamentally that only in 1961 did armed struggle become the only alternative? Not at all. There has never been a moment in the history of South Africa since 1952 in which the White ruling class would have given privileges without a physical battle. Why then did organisations like the African National Congress not call for armed struggle? Was it perhaps that they were not really revolutionary or that it was only in the early 60's that they began to appreciate the correct strategy? Is there perhaps substance in accusations by some of our detractors that until the early sixties the liberation movement was lacking in military fervour and the desire for radical change'? In other words was its policy not a revolutionary one? What is our measuring rod for revolutionary policy? A look at this concept will help towards a more profound understanding not only of the past but of the future. It is therefore not out of place to devote a word to it.

In essence, a revolutionary policy is one which holds out the quickest and most fundamental transformation and transfer of power from one class to another. In real life such radical changes are brought about not by imaginary forces but by those whose outlook and readiness to act is very much influenced by historically determined factors.

To ignore the real situation and to play about with imaginary forces, concepts and ideals is to invite failure. The art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements it consists of setting a pace which accords with objective conditions and the real possibilities at hand. The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the spring-board for revolutionary advance. Indeed what appears to be "militant" and "revolutionary" can often be counter-revolutionary. It is surely a question of whether, in the given concrete situation, the course or policy advocated will aid or impede the prospects of the conquest of power. In this - the only test, the advocacy of armed struggle can, in some situations, be as counter-revolutionary as the advocacy of its opposite in other situations. Untimely, ill planned or premature manifestations of violence impede and do not advance the prospect for revolutionary change and are clearly counter-revolutionary. It is obvious therefore that policy and organisational structures must grow out of the real situation if they are not to become meaningless cliches.

Future historians may well be able to pause at some moments during the evolution of our struggle and examine critically both its pace and emphasis. But, in general, without the so-called reformist activities of the previous half-century, the prospect of advancing into the new phase would have been extremely small. This is so because even in the typical colonial-type situation armed struggle becomes feasible only if:

  • There is disillusionment with the prospect of achieving liberation by traditional peaceful processes because the objective conditions blatantly bar the way to change
  • There is readiness to respond to the strategy of armed struggle with all the enormous sacrifices which this involves
  • There is in existence a political leadership capable of gaining the organised allegiance of the people for armed struggle and which has both the experience and the ability to carry out the painstaking process of planning, preparation and overall conduct of the operations and
  • That there exist favourable objective conditions in the international and local plans.

In one sense conditions are connected and interdependent. They are not created by subjective and ideological activity only and many are the mistakes committed by heroic revolutionaries who give a monopoly to subjective factors and who confuse their own readiness with readiness of others.

These conditions are brought about not only be developing political, economic and social conditions but also by the long hard grind of revolutionary work. They depend on such factors as the response of the enemy, the extent to which he unmasks himself and the experience gained by the people themselves not in academic seminars but in actual political struggle. We reject the approach which sees as the catalyst for revolutionary transformation only the short-cut of isolated confrontations and the creation of armed resistance centre. Does this mean that before an actual beginning can be made by the armed challenge we have to wait for the evolvement of some sort of deep crisis in the enemy camp which is serious enough to hold out the possibility of an immediate all-round insurrection? Certainly not! We believe that given certain basic factors, both international and local, the actual beginning of armed struggle or guerrilla warfare can be made and having begun can steadily develop conditions for the future all-out war which will eventually lead to the conquest of power. Under the modern highly sophisticated police state (which South Africa is) it is questionable whether a movement can succeed in a programme of mass political organisation beyond a certain point without starting a new type of action. Also, it is not easy to determine the point at which sufficient concrete political and organisational preparations have been carried out to give our armed detachments the maximum chances of survival and growth within any given area. There is no instrument for measuring this. But we must not overdo the importance of the subjective factors and before embarking upon a path which is in one sense tragic, although historically inevitable and necessary, certain of the basic minimum conditions already mentioned must be present and certain minimum preparations must have been made.

Tempered in Struggle

In the light of those considerations, it is clear that it was only after the victory of the anti imperialist forces in the Second World War and the tide of independence in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, combined with the zig-zags of struggle inside South Africa in the last fifty years which by the beginning of the sixties demanded a move in the direction of armed struggle. The fifties were among the most stirring and struggle-filled decades in the history of the liberation movement. Thousands upon thousands of militant cadres were tempered during this period and masses of our people both in town and countryside participated in a variety of forms of struggle. The moulding of mass political consciousness reached a new intensity. The response of the authorities was such that the overwhelming majority of the people learnt, through their own participation in the struggle and confrontation with the state, that in the long run the privileges of the minority will only be wrenched from it by a reversion to armed combat. Indeed, during this "peaceful" stage in our struggle hardly a year passed without massacres of our people by the army and police.

Each phase in the unfolding of the struggle of the fifties played a part in setting the stage of our new approach. A rebirth of the spirit of deliberate defiance of the White man's law was stimulated by the great Defiance Campaign of 1952. The response of the state towards the Congress of the People Campaign and the adoption of the Freedom Charter demonstrated its intention to crush what had previously been accepted as legitimate expressions for equality. The numbers of highly successful national general strikes motivated in the main by political and not economic demands proved the growing maturity of the urban non-White working class. The magnificent resistance by the peasants in Pondoland, Sekhukhuniland and Natal in the late fifties pointed also to the new spirit of militancy and struggle in the countryside. The general strikes as a method of political mobilisation was suppressed with the utmost vigour and by the end of the fifties could no longer be effectively employed as an instrument of mass struggle. Other protests were increasingly broken by police brutality and the use of orthodox mass demonstration as an effective weapon was demonstrably not feasible. Legal opposition was rendered ineffective by bannings, exiles and the imprisonment of activists and leaders to long terms for the most trivial infringements. Finally by such laws as the Terrorism and Sabotage Acts all opposition by legal or peaceful means was rendered impossible.

Heightened Political ferment

In the field of representation, any reformist illusion that may still have existed of a slow advance towards democracy was shattered by the removal of the historic remains of non-White representation including even undemocratic and powerless bodies such as the Native Representative Council. Thus the enemy unmasked himself completely not only to a group of advanced thinkers but to the mass of the people as a whole. The liberation surge towards independence of the African continent which marked the late fifties and early sixties had an important bearing on our own situation. Not only were friendly borders creeping closer but in a very real way these events stimulated and excited people in the unliberated territories in the direction of self-rule. The basic drive for this in our country had never been suppressed. But the events in South Africa in the previous decade and what was happening on the continent confirmed that conquest of power by the people was a realisable goal in our lifetime. The enormous material power of the enemy and by contrast the material weakness of the people was to them no more than a temporary impediment. Memory was fresh of Cuba and - on our own continent - Algeria, both of which had proved that in the long run material resources alone are not a determining factor.

The heightened political ferment both here and on our continent reflected itself in the growth and further maturing of all sections of the liberation front. These leaders who were unable to adjust to the new revolutionary mood (even before the policy of the preparations for organised armed resistance) fell by the wayside. The cohesion and unity of action between the various national and social groupings comprising the liberation front reached new heights. All this constituted not only moral justifications for a move towards armed struggle, but, what is more important, conditions had been created - they were not always there - making a departure in direction correct, necessary and, in the true sense, revolutionary.

Our Approach to Revolutionary Armed Struggle!

In a way, the decision taken in 1961 was, historically speaking, in the tradition of the earlier armed resistance to the entrenchment of the foreigner. But it is now occurring in a new situation. Not only had this situation to be understood but the art and science - both political and military - of armed liberation struggles in the modern epoch had to be grasped and applied. The head-on mobile warfare of the traditional African armies of the past could not meet the challenge. The riot, the street fight, the outburst of unorganised violence, individual terrorism these were symptoms of the militant spirit but not pointers to revolutionary technique. The winning of our freedom by armed struggle - the only method left open to us - demands more than passion. It demands an understanding and an implementation of revolutionary theory and techniques in the actual conditions facing us. It demands a sober assessment of the obstacles in our way and an appreciation that such a struggle is bitter and protracted. It demands, too, the dominance in our thinking of achievement over drama. We believe our movement acted in accordance with these guidelines when it embarked upon the detailed preparation for the launching of guerrilla struggle. We understood that the main physical environment of such a struggle in the period is outside the enemy strongholds in the cities, in the vast stretches of our countryside. The opening steps in 1961 - organised sabotage mainly in the urban areas - served a special purpose and was never advanced as a technique which would, on its own, either lead to the destruction of the state or even do it great material damage (although guerrilla activity in the urban areas of a special type is always important as an auxiliary). At the same time there was a threefold need to be met in order to lay the foundations for more developed and meaningful armed activity of the guerrilla type.

The first was the need to create a military apparatus and, more particularly to recruit large numbers of professional cadres who were to be trained and who would form the core of future guerrilla bands.

The second was the need to demonstrate effectively to all that we were making a sharp and open break with the processes of the previous period which had correctly given emphasis to militant struggle short of armed confrontation.

The third was the need to present an effective method for the overthrow of White supremacy through planned rather than spontaneous activity. The sabotage campaign was an earnest indication of our seriousness in the pursuit of this new strategy. All three needs were served by this convincing evidence that our liberation movement had correctly adjusted itself to the new situation and was creating an apparatus actually capable of clandestinely hitting the enemy and making preparations tor a more advanced phase. The situation was such that without activity of this nature our whole political leadership may have been at stake both inside and outside the country and the steps which were simultaneously taken for the recruitment and preparation of military cadres would have met with less response.

The Relationship between the Political and Military

When we talk of revolutionary armed struggle, we are talking of political struggle by means which include the use of military force even though once force as a tactic is introduced it has the most far-reaching consequences on every aspect of our activities. It is important to emphasise this because our movement must reject all manifestations of militarism which separates armed people's struggle from its political context.

Reference has already been made to the danger of the thesis which regards the creation of military areas as the generator of mass resistance. But even more is involved in this concept. One of the vital problems connected with this bears on the important question of the relationship between the political and military. From the very beginning our Movement has brooked no ambiguity concerning this. The primacy of the political leadership is unchallenged and supreme and all revolutionary formations and levels (whether armed or not) are subordinate to this leadership. To say this is not just to invoke tradition. This approach is rooted in the very nature of this type of revolutionary struggle and is borne our by the experience of the overwhelming majority of revolutionary movements which have engaged in such struggle and is borne out by the experience of the overwhelming against a foe with formidable material strength does not achieve dramatic and swift success. The path is filled with obstacles and we harbour no illusions on this score in the case of South Africa. In the long run it can only succeed if it attracts the active support of the mass of the people. Without this lifeblood it is doomed. Even in our country with the historical background and traditions of armed resistance still, within the memory of many people and the special developments of the immediate past, the involvement of the masses is unlikely to be the result of a sudden natural and automatic consequence of military clashes. It has to be won in all-round political mobilisation which must accompany the military activities. This includes educational and agitation Al work throughout the country to cope with the sophisticated torrent of misleading propaganda and "information" of the enemy which will become more intense as the struggle sharpens. When armed clashes begin they seldom involve more than a comparative handful of combatants whose very conditions of fighting-existence make them incapable of exercising the functions of all-round political leadership. The masses of the peasants, workers and youth, beleaguered for a long time by the enemy's military occupation, have to be activated in a multitude of ways not only to ensure a growing stream of recruits for the fighting units but to harass the enemy politically so that his forces are dispersed and therefore weakened. This calls for the exercise of all-round political leadership.

All-round Political Leadership

Guerrilla warfare, the special, and in our case the only form in which the armed liberation struggle can be launched, is neither static nor does it take place in a vacuum. The tempo, the overall strategy is to be employed, the opening of new fronts, the progression from lower to higher forms and thence to mobile warfare these and other vital questions cannot be solved by the military leadership alone, they require overall political judgements intimately involved with the people both inside and outside the actual areas of armed combat. If more awareness of oppression combined with heroic examples by armed bands were enough, the struggle would indeed be simple. There would be no collaborators and it would be hard to find neutrals. But to believe this is to believe that the course of struggle is determined solely by what we do in the fighting units and further involves the fallacious assumption that the masses are rock like and incorruptible. The enemy is as aware as we are that the side wins the allegiance of the people, wins the struggle. It is naive to believe that oppressed and beleaguered people cannot temporarily, even in large numbers, be won over by fear, terror, lies, indoctrination and provocation to treat liberators as enemies. In fact history proves that without the most intensive all-round political activity this is the more likely result. It is therefore all the more vital that the revolutionary leadership is nation-wide and has its roots both inside and outside the actual areas of combat. Above all, when victory comes, it must not be a hollow one. To ensure this we must also ensure that what is brought to power is not an army but the masses as a whole at the head of which stands its organised political leadership. This is the perspective which is rooted at all levels of our liberation movements whether within or outside the army. Our confidence in final victory rests not on the wish or the dream but on our understanding of our own conditions and the historical processes. This understanding must be deepened and must spread to every level of our Movement. We must have a clear grasp not only of ourselves and of our own forces but also of the enemy - of his power and vulnerability. guerrilla struggle is certainly no exception to the rule that depth of understanding, and knowledge of realities, both favourable and unfavourable, make for more lasting commitment and more illuminating leadership. How then do we view the enemy we face - his strength and his weakness? What sort of structure do we face and how dogged will the enemy resistance be?

The Enemy - His Strength and Weakness

On the face of it the enemy is in stable command of a rich and varied economy which, even at this stage when it is not required to extend itself, can afford an enormous military budget. He has a relatively trained and efficient army and police force. He can draw on fairly large manpower resources. In addition the major imperialist powers such as Britain, W.Germany, France and the United States and Japan who have an enormous stake in the economy of our country constitute a formidable support for the Apartheid regime. Already now before the crisis deepens the imperialist partners of South Africa have done much to develop the economy and armament programme of South Africa. In a situation of crisis they may pass over from support to active intervention to save the racist regime. If there is one lesson that the history of guerrilla struggle has taught it is that the material strength and resources of the enemy is by no means a decisive factor. Guerrilla warfare almost by definition presents a situation in which there is a vast imbalance of material and military resources between the opposing sides. It is designed to cope with the situation in which the enemy is infinitely superior in relation to every conventional factor of warfare. It is par excellence the weapon of the materially weak against the materially strong. Given its popular character and given a population which increasingly sides with and shields the guerrilla whilst at the same time opposing and exposing the enemy, the survival and growth of a people's army is assured by the skilful exercise of tactics. Surprise, mobility and tactical retreat should make it difficult for the enemy to bring into play its superior firepower in any decisive battles. No individual battle is fought in circumstances favourable to the enemy. Superior forces can thus be harassed, weakened and, in the end, destroyed. The absence of an orthodox front, of fighting lines the need to protect the widely scattered installations on which his economy is dependent these are among the factors which serve in the long run to compensate in favour of the guerrilla for the disparity in the starting strength of the adversaries. The words 'in the long run' must be stressed because it would be idle to dispute the considerable military advantages to the enemy of his high level industrialisation, his ready-to-hand reserves of white manpower and his excellent roads, railways and air transportation which facilitate swift manoeuvres and speedy concentration of personnel. But we must not overlook the fact that over a period of time many of these unfavourable factors will begin to operate in favour of the liberation forces:

  • The ready-to-hand resources including food production depend overwhelmingly on non-White labour which, with the growing intensity of the struggle, will not remain docile and co-operative.
  • The White manpower resources may seem adequate initially but must become dangerously stretched as guerrilla warfare develops. Already extremely short of skilled labour - the monopoly of the Whites - the mobilisation of a large force for protracted struggle will place a further burden on the workings of the economy.
  • In contrast to many other major guerrilla struggles manpower resources are all situated within the theatre of war and there is no secure external pool (other than direct intervention by a foreign state) safe from sabotage, mass action and guerrilla action on which the enemy can draw.
  • The very sophistication of the economy with its well-developed system of communications makes it a much more vulnerable target. In an undeveloped country the interruption of supplies to any given region may be no more than a local setback.
  • In a highly sensitive modern structure of the South African type, the successful harassment of transport to any major industrial complex inevitably inflicts immense damage to the economy as a whole and to the morale of the enemy.

One of the more popular misconceptions concerning guerrilla warfare is that a physical environment which conforms to a special pattern is indispensable - thick jungle, inaccessible mountain areas, swamps, a friendly border and so on. The availability of this sort of terrain is, of course, of tremendous advantage to the guerrillas especially in the early non-operational phase training and other preparatory steps are undertaken and no-external bases are available for this purpose. When operations commence, the guerrilla cannot survive, let alone flourish, unless he moves to areas where people live and work and where the enemy can be engaged in combat. If he is fortunate enough to have behind him a friendly border or areas of difficult access which can provide a temporary refuge it is, of course, advantageous. But guerrilla warfare can be, and has been, waged in every conceived type of terrain, in deserts, swamps, in farm fields, in built-up areas, in plains, in the bush and in countries without friendly borders or islands surrounded by the sea. This whole question is one of adjusting survival tactics to the sort of terrain in which operations have to be carried out.

In any case, in the vast expanse that is South Africa, a people's force will find a multitude of variations in topography, deserts, mountains, forests, veld and swamps. There might not appear to be a single impregnable mountain or impenetrable jungle but the country abounds in terrain which in general is certainly no less favourable for guerrilla operations than some of the terrain in which other guerrilla movements operated successfully. Also the issue must be looked at in the context of guerrillas, who are armed and operate in the terrain. The combination makes an area impregnable for the guerrilla. South Africa's tremendous size will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the White regime to keep the whole of it under armed surveillance in strength and in depth. Hence, an early development of a relatively safe (though shifting) rear is not beyond the realm of practicality.

The White Group

The above are only some of the important factors which have not always been studied and understood. It is necessary to stress these factors not only because they give balance to our efforts but because - properly assessed - they help destroy the myth of the enemy's invincibility.

But above all a scientific revolutionary strategy demands a correct appreciation of the political character of the forces which are ranged against one another in the South African Struggle for liberation. Is the enemy a monolith and will he remain so until his final defeat? What is the main content of the struggle for liberation and, flowing from this, which is the main revolutionary force and who are its potential allies and supporters? These are questions of capital importance. They play a vital part in determining the tactics of the revolutionary struggle, the broad organisational structures we create and many other fundamental approaches. They must be considered within the framework of the special feature of the objective situation which faces us. South Africa's social and economic structure and the relationships which it generates are perhaps unique. It is not a colony, yet it has, in regard to the overwhelming majority of its people, most of the features of the classical colonial structures. Conquest and domination by an alien people, a system of discrimination and exploitation based on race, technique of indirect rule these and more are the traditional trappings of the classical colonial framework. Whilst at the one level it is an "independent" national state, at another level it is a country subjugated by a minority race. What makes the structure unique and adds to it complexity is that the exploiting nation is not, as in the classical imperialist relationships, situated in a geographically distinct mother country, but is settled within the borders. What is more, the roots of the dominant nation have been embedded in our country by more than three centuries of presence. It is thus an alien body only in the historical sense.

The material well-being of the White group and its political, social and economic privileges are, we know, rooted in its racial domination of the indigenous majority. It has resisted and will resist doggedly and passionately any attempt to shift it from this position. Its theorists and leaders ceaselessly play upon the theme of "We have nowhere else to go". They dishonestly ignore and even twist the fact that the uncertainty about the future of the oppressor in our land is an uncertainty born not of our racialism but of his. The spectre is falsely raised of a threat to the White men's language and culture to "justify" a policy of cultural discrimination and domination. By economic bribes and legal artifices which preserve for him the top layers of skills and wage income, the White worker is successfully mobilised as one of racialism's most reliable contingents. In every walk of life White autocracy creates privilege by operation of the law and, where necessary, the gun and with a primitive and twisted "prooi" of its own superiority.

Nevertheless, the defence of all-round economic, social and cultural privileges combined with centuries of indoctrination and deeply felt theoretical rationalisation which centre on survival, will make the enemy we face a ferocious and formidable foe. So long as the threat from the liberation movement was not powerful enough to endanger the very existence of White baasskap there was room for division sometimes quite sharp in the White political camp.

Its motivation amongst the ruling class was competition for the lion's share of the spoils from the exploitation of the non-White people. It always centred round the problem of the most effective way of "keeping the native in his place". In such an atmosphere there were even moments when White workers adopted militant class postures against the small group which owns South Africa's wealth. But the changed world mood and international situation inhibited these confrontations. The laager-minded White group as a whole moves more and more in the direction of a common defence of what is considered a common fate.

These monolithic tendencies are reinforced by a Hitler-like feeling of confidence that the fortress is impregnable and unassailable for all time. This process of all White solidarity will only be arrested by the achievements of the liberation movement. For the moment the reality is that apart from a small group of revolutionary Whites, who have an honoured place as comrades in the struggle, we face what is by and large a united and confident enemy which acts in alliance with, and is strengthened by world imperialism. All significant sections of the White political movement are in broad agreement on the question of defeating our liberation struggle.

This confrontation on the lines of colour - at least in the early stages of the conflict - is not of our choosing it is of the enemy's making. It will not be easy to eliminate some of its more tragic consequences. But it does not follow that this will be so for all time. It is not altogether impossible that in a different situation the White working class or a substantial section of it, may come to see that their true long term interest coincides with that of the non-White workers. We must miss no opportunity either now or in the future to try and make them aware of this truth and to win over those who are ready to break with the policy of racial domination. Nor must we ever be slow to take advantage of differences and divisions which our successes will inevitably spark off to isolate the most vociferous, the most uncompromising and the most reactionary elements amongst the Whites. Our policy must continually stress in the future (as it has in the past) that there is room in South Africa for all who live in it but only on the basis of absolute democracy.

The African Masses - the Main Force for Liberation

So much for the enemy. What of the liberation forces? Here too we are called upon to examine the most fundamental features of our situation which serve to mould our revolutionary strategy and tactics. The main content of the present stage of the South African revolution is the national liberation of the largest and most oppressed group - the African people. This strategic aim must govern every aspect of the conduct of our struggle whether it be the formulation of policy or the creation of structures. Amongst other things, it demands in the first place the maximum mobilisation of the African people as a dispossessed and racially oppressed nation. This is the mainspring and it must not be weakened. It involves a stimulation and deepening of national confidence, national pride and national assertiveness. Properly channelled and properly led, these qualities do not stand in conflict with the principles of internationalism. Indeed, they become the basis for more and more meaningful co-operation a co-operation which is self imposed, equal and one which is neither based on dependence nor gives the appearance of being so.

The national character of the struggle must therefore dominate our approach. But it is a national struggle which is taking place in a different era and in a different context from those which characterised the early struggles against colonialism. It is happening in a new kind of world - a world which is no longer monopolised by the imperialist world system a world in which the existence of the powerful socialist system and a significant sector of newly liberated areas has altered the balance of forces a world in which the horizons liberated from foreign oppression extend beyond mere formal political control and encompass the element which makes such control meaningful - economic emancipation. It is also happening in a new kind of South Africa a South Africa in which there is a large and well-developed working class whose class consciousness and in which the independent expressions of the working people - their political organs and trade unions - are very much part of the liberation front. Thus, our nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism of a previous epoch. It must not be confused with the classical drive by an elitist group among the oppressed people to gain ascendancy so that they can replace the oppressor in the exploitation of the mass.

But none of this detracts from the basically national context of our liberation drive. In the last resort it is only the success of the national democratic revolution which - destroying the existing social and economic relationship - will bring with it a correction of the historical injustices perpetrated against the indigenous majority and thus lay the basis for a new - and deeper internationalist - approach. Until then, the national sense of grievance is the most potent revolutionary force which must be harnessed. To blunt it in the interests of abstract concepts of internationalism is, in the long run, doing neither a service to revolution nor to internationalism.

The Role of the Coloured and Indian People

The African although subjected to the most intense racial oppression and exploitation, is not the only oppressed national group in South Africa. The two million strong Coloured Community and three quarter million Indians suffer varying forms of national humiliation, discrimination and oppression. They are part of the non-White base upon which rests White privilege. As such they constitute an integral part of the social forces ranged against White supremacy. Despite deceptive, and, often, meaningless concessions they share a common fate with their brothers and their own liberation is inextricably bound up with the liberation of the African people.

A unity in action between all the oppressed groups is fundamental to the advance of our liberation struggle. Without such a unity the enemy easily multiplies and the attainment of a people's victory is delayed. Historically both communities have played a most important part in the stimulation and intensification of the struggle for freedom. It is a matter of proud record that amongst the first and most gallant martyrs in the armed combat against the enemy was a Coloured Comrade, Basil February. The jails in South Africa are a witness to the large scale participation by Indian and Coloured comrades at every level of our revolutionary struggle. From the very inception of Umkhonto they were more than well represented in the first contingents who took life in hand to help lay the basis for this new phase in our struggle.

This mood was not only reflected in the deeds of its more advanced representatives. As communities too the Coloured and Indian people have often in the past, by their actions, shown that they form part of the broad sweep towards liberation. The first series of mass acts of deliberate defiance of the conqueror's law after the crushing of the Bambata rebellion, was the campaign led by that outstanding son of the Indian people - Mahatma Gandhi. Thereafter the Indian community and its leaders - particularly those who came to the fore in the 40's - played no small part in the injection of a more radical and more militant mood into the liberation movement as a whole. The stirring demonstrations of the fifties from Defiance Campaign to the Congress of the People, to the general strike, and the peasant revolts and mass demonstrations, saw many examples of united action by all the oppressed people. Indian workers responded in large numbers to almost every call for a general strike. Indian shopkeepers, could always be relied upon to declare a day of Hartal in solidarity with any protest which was being organised. Memory is still fresh of the outstanding response by the Coloured workers of the Western Cape to the 1961 call by the ANC for a national general political strike.

The Alliance between the Congress organisations was a spur to the solidarity and reflected it. But events both before and after Rivonia put paid to the structures which had been created to express the Alliance.

How can we strengthen and make effective the co-operation between the communities, and how can we integrate committed revolutionaries irrespective of their racial background?

Our Fighting Alliance

Whatever instruments are created to give expression to the unity of the liberation drive, they must accommodate two fundamental propositions:

Firstly they must not be ambiguous on the question of primary role of the most oppressed African mass and,

Secondly, those belonging to the other oppressed groups and those few White revolutionaries who show themselves ready to make common cause with our aspirations, must be fully integrated on the basis of individual equality. Approached in the right spirit these two propositions do not stand in conflict but reinforce one another. Equality of participation in our national front does not mean a mechanical parity between the various national groups. Not only would this practice amount to inequality (again at the expense of the majority), but it would lend flavour to the slander which our enemies are ever ready to spread of a multiracial alliance dominated by minority groups. This has never been so and will never be so. But the sluggish way in which the Movement inside the country responded to the new situation after 1960 in which co-operation between some organisations which were legal (e.g. SAIC, CPO, COD) and those that were illegal (e.g. ANC) sometimes led to the superficial impression that the legal organisations - because they could speak and operate more publicly and thus more noticeable - may have had more than their deserved place in the leadership of the Alliance.

Therefore, not only the substance but the form of our structural creations must in a way which the people can see - give expression to the main emphasis of the present stage of our struggle. This approach is not a pandering chauvinism, to racialism or other such backward attitudes. We are revolutionaries not narrow nationalists. Committed revolutionaries are our brothers to whatever group they belong. There can be no second class participants in our Movement. It is for the enemy we reserve our assertiveness and our justified sense of grievance.

The important task of mobilising and gaining the support of other oppressed non-White groups has already been referred to. Like every other oppressed group (including Africans) we must not naively assume that mere awareness of oppression will, by itself push the Indian and Coloured people in the direction of opposing the enemy and alighting themselves with the liberation movement. The potential is of course there, because in a very real sense the future of the Indian and Coloured people and their liberation as oppressed groups is intimately bound up with the liberation of the Africans. But active support and participation has to be fought for and won. Otherwise the enemy will succeed in its never-ending attempt to create a gap between these groups and the Africans and even recruit substantial numbers of them to actively collaborate with it. The bottom of the barrel will be scraped in the attempt to create confusion about the objectives of the liberation movement. More particularly, the enemy will feed on the insecurity and dependency which is often part of the thinking of minority oppressed groups. They will try to raise a doubt in their minds about whether there is a place for them in a future liberated South Africa. They have already spread the slander that at best for the Coloureds and Indians White domination will be replaced by Black domination.

It is therefore all the more important, consistent with our first principle, that the Coloured and Indian people should see themselves as an integral part of the liberation movement and not as mere auxiliaries.

The Working Class

Is there a special role for the working class in our national struggle? We have already referred to the special character of the South African social and economic structure. In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.

Our drive towards national emancipation is therefore in a very real way bound up with economic emancipation. We have suffered more than just national humiliation. Our people are deprived of their due in the country's wealth their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The correction of these centuries-old economic injustices lies at the very core of our national aspirations. We do not understand the complexities which will face a people's government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting economic needs of the mass of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain - in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or individuals be they White or Black.

This perspective of a speedy progression from formal liberation to genuine and lasting emancipation is made more real by the existence in our country of a large and growing working class whose class consciousness complements national consciousness. Its political organisations - and the trade unions have played a fundamental role in shaping and advancing our revolutionary cause. It is historically understandable that the double- oppressed and doubly exploited working class constitutes a distinct and reinforcing layer of our liberation and Socialism and do not stand in conflict with the national interest. Its militancy and political consciousness as a revolutionary class will play no small part in our victory and in the construction of a real people's South Africa.

Beyond our borders in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia are our brothers and sisters who similarly are engaged in a fierce struggle against colonialist and fascist regimes. We fight an Unholy Alliance of Portugal, Rhodesia and South Africa with the latter as the main economic and military support. The historic ZAPU/ANC-Alliance is a unique form of co-operation between two liberation movements which unites the huge potential of the oppressed people in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. The extension of co operation and coordination of all the people of Southern Africa as led by FRELIMO, ZAPU, SWAPO, MPLA and the ANC is a vital part of our strategy.

What then is the broad purpose of our military struggle? Simply put, in the first phase, it is the complete political and economic emancipation of all our people and the constitution of a society which accords with the basic provisions of our programme - the Freedom Charter. This, together with our general understanding of our revolutionary theory, provides us with the strategic framework for the concrete elaboration and implementation of policy in a continuously changing situation. It must be combined with a more intensive programme of research, examination and analysis of the conditions of the different state of our people (in particular those on the land), their local grievances, hopes and aspirations, so that the flow from theory to application - when the situation makes application possible will be unhampered.

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