Strange as it may seem (though maybe not so much, considering America's basic love of all things military), 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, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
Double Envelopment (Pincer Movement)
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 "inescapable trap." At Cannae, Hannibal (outnumbered 50,000 to 80,000) 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 80,000 strong Roman force was now trapped in a "kill box," attacked from all sides. Hannibal's 50,000 brutally cut down every single Roman soldier over the course of about four hours, killing all 80,000 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 and causing the devastated Romans to coin a whole new phrase: "The Battle of Annihilation."
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. As the Allies landed at Omaha Beach, Hitler's main forces were miles away and unable to arrive in time to resist the landings. This brilliant campaign of deception made D-Day probably the largest and most successful feint maneuver in military history.
Even if you know nothing at all about military strategy, you've probably heard someone make reference to "taking someone in the flanks" before. The flanking maneuver gets its name from the "flank" area of cattle - the side area of the body between the rib cage and hip bone, where flank steaks come from. If you're a matador trying to attack a bull, your goal is always to avoid the horns at the front, and attack the bull in its vulnerable flank areas - from the side and behind.
Flanking maneuvers work the same way. Instead of attacking an enemy formation from the front, a flanking maneuver attempts to attack its vulnerable sides, or even from the rear. These maneuvers were considered "checkmate" in the days of fixed lines and formations. Flanking is certainly still relevant, and still forms the core idea of many attacks. But with today's more mobile forces, flanking isn't always the checkmate it once was.Incidentally, attacking the flanks has always been the primary job of fast-moving cavalry. The cavalry's job is specifically to move around an enemy formation when it's vulnerable, and attack the flanks. "Calling in the cavalry" doesn't necessarily mean "calling in heavy reinforcements," as most people think. Cavalry is first and foremost a fast-moving offensive strike force, held in reserve until the enemy's flanks are exposed. The frontal "cavalry charges" you see in movies are usually either last-ditch desperation moves, or pointed penetration attacks.
Air Superiority (Taking the High Ground)
One of the most basic tactical concepts in the world is taking the highground. In infantry battles, it's a lot easier to attack going downhill than uphill. Think of Gandalf and the Rohirrim's charge down the mountain at the Battle of Helm's Deep; they took the highground, and used the downward momentum of that charge to smash Sauron's orc army. And this battle also revealed another benefit of charging downhill. If you time it right, and plan your attack for morning or evening, you can attack with the sun at your back, blinding the enemy and giving your forces a massive combat advantage.But landborne forces aren't the only known to "come out of the sun" for an attack. These days, "the "high ground" is as often as not the sky itself. Since WWII, it's become axiomatic that he who establishes air superiority wins. Mostly because the high ground also gives an advantage in range for bombarding the enemy with artillery or bombs. Which, in the case of aircraft, fall straight from overhead.