Strange as it may seem, today's generation of kids probably know more about military strategy than many generals of a hundred years ago. Why? In a phrase: "Video games." From World of Warcraft to Halo, Modern War to Fallout 4, gamers these days get quite the education in military strategy well before they're old enough to attend West Point.
Maybe that's kind of a natural thing for a nation that proudly boasts the largest and most powerful military in human history. All things considered, it shouldn't be that weird. And yet somehow, we bet you'll be surprised by exactly how many of these classic military strategies you already know. You might not know the names of the strategies themselves, or the history behind them. But you'll probably find at least half of these strategies oddly familiar.
Vote up the most genius military strategies below.
Most famously used by military genius Hannibal Barca at the Battle of Cannae, the classic "Pincer Maneuver" has gone on to near mythical status in popular culture as a synonym for an inescapable trap. At Cannae, a gravely outnumbered Hannibal (by about 30,000 troops) arranged his line so it was bowed out in the front toward the Romans.
He intentionally made the middle of his line, closest to the enemy, very thin and weak - which is exactly backward of what you'd think. It certainly fooled the Romans. When they attacked Hannibal's line, the weak point in its center gave back, while the strong flanks held firm. Eventually, his line straightened out, and the Romans (sensing victory) pushed hard at the center. Hannibal allowed his line to flex backward into a deep "V" shape. The "pincer."
With the Roman forces now crammed into the bottom of his pincer "V," Hannibal had his flanks quickly turn inward toward the Romans. The Romans had walked right into a trap, and Hannibal's forces took them right in the unprotected flanks. He closed the top of the "V" with his quick-riding cavalry forces, completing the "double envelopment." The Roman force was now trapped and attacked from all sides. Hannibal's forces brutally cut down every single Roman soldier over the course of about four hours, killing around 50,000 to 70,000 of them while taking barely 6,000 casualties of their own.
This use of the double envelopment has since gone down as one of the greatest strategic victories in military history, securing Hannibal's legend.
Football fans are familiar with the classic feint: a "fake-out" maneuver that causes the opposition to think you're going one way, while you secretly plan to go another. In military terms, feints can become hugely elaborate campaigns of deception, and typically involve diversionary forces to misdirect the enemy. When planning the D-Day invasion at Normandy, Allies pulled off a massive feint by building a fake army of inflatable tanks and jeeps, and parking them at a fake launch point. The real invading force, meanwhile, was hidden under camouflage miles away.
Hitler, relying on misinformation fed to him by Allied double agents and radio traffic, believed the inflatable army was real. While Allies were killed in large numbers on Omaha Beach, those landing in other areas fared much better, largely because Hitler's troops were so woefully distracted. This brilliant campaign of deception made D-Day probably the largest and most successful feint maneuver in military history.
In terms of broad strategy, you already know history's most famous choke point maneuver: brave Leonidas, and his tiny band of Spartans at the narrow Thermopylae Pass. A mere 300 Spartans held back an army of as many as 200,000 Persians by acting as a stopper in one ridiculously narrow mountain pass.
In the modern day, a "choke point" could be something as small as a doorway for individual soldiers, a narrow strait for Naval forces, or the Suez Canal area on the Sinai Peninsula. All represent choke points on different scales.
Blitzkreig means "lightning war" in German, and it refers to a fast-moving, highly aggressive, generally unexpected attack using overwhelming forces. Hitler wasn't the first to use this form of attack (most famously in Poland), but he did favor it for very good reason. Germans who fought in the first World War saw first hand the pointless horror of trenches, slow advances, and battles of attrition.
That's why Hitler favored the blitz, and that's why it worked so well. Nobody expected the kind of fast-moving, decisive attack Hitler planned, led first by speedy Luftwaffe bombers. They expected slow-moving lines of entrenched soldiers and massive artillery pieces; Germany shocked everyone by using highly penetrative maneuvers, and capturing territory in hours instead of months. Eventually, though, the Allies adapted to Hitler's lightning strikes with radar, quick-responding defenses and lightning attacks of their own.