A counterattack is a tactic employed in response to an attack, with the term originating in "war games".  The general objective is to negate or thwart the advantage gained by the enemy during attack, while the specific objectives typically seek to regain lost ground or destroy the attacking enemy (this may take the form of an opposing sports team or military units).   
A saying, attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte illustrate the tactical importance of the counterattack : "the greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory". In the same spirit, in his Battle Studies, Ardant du Pic noticed that "he, general or mere captain, who employs every one in the storming of a position can be sure of seeing it retaken by an organised counter-attack of four men and a corporal". 
A counterattack is a military tactic that occurs when one side successfully defends off the enemy’s attack and begins to push the enemy back with an attack of its own. In order to perform a successful counterattack, the defending side must quickly and decisively strike the enemy after defending, with the objective of shocking and overwhelming the enemy.  The main concept of the counterattack is to catch the enemy by surprise.  Many historical counterattacks were successful because the enemy was off guard and not expecting the counterattack. 
In the past, there have been many notable counterattacks which have changed the course of a war. To be specific, Operation Bagration and the Battle of Austerlitz are good examples of the proper execution of a counterattack.
Operation Bagration during World War II was one of the largest counterattacks in military history. In the summer of 1944 the assault by around 1.7 million Red Army soldiers successfully put the Red Army on the offensive in the Eastern Front after Nazi Germany in Operation Barbarossa had captured the territory against the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.
The Soviet counterattack focused on Belorussia, but prior to the counterattack starting, the Soviet Union fooled Nazi military leaders into believing that the attack would take place further south, near Ukraine. 
To aid the deception, the Red Army established fake army camps in Ukraine and after German reconnaissance planes reported Soviet troop concentrations in the area, panzer and infantry divisions were rushed south from Belorussia, leaving it vulnerable to a major assault.
To support the attack, partisan groups in German-controlled territory were instructed to destroy German railroads to hamper German efforts to transport supplies and troops throughout the occupied territories and further weaken German Army Group Centre in Ukraine. 
On 22 June 1944, the attack on Belarus by 1.7 million Soviet troops began and overwhelmed the depleted Germans defenders.
On 3 July, the Red Army captured Minsk, and later the rest of Belorussia.
Operation Bagration was a huge Soviet success and opened a direct route to Berlin after the fall of Belorussia, leading to the Red Army beginning to take over the territory that had been taken by the Wehrmacht three years before. 
Another military battle that utilized the counterattack tactic was the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805. While fighting the Austrian and Russian armies, Napoleon purposely made it seem as if his men were weak from the fighting in several cases.  Napoleon had his men retreat in an attempt to lure the Allies to battle.  He purposely left his right flank open and vulnerable.  This deceived the Allies into attacking and the Allies fell into Napoleon's trap.  When the Allied troops went to attack Napoleon’s right flank, Napoleon quickly filled up the right flank so the attack was not effective.  However, on the Allied side, a large gap was left open in the middle of the Allied front line due to troops leaving to attack the French right flank.  Noticing the large hole in the middle of the Allied lines, Napoleon attacked the middle and had his forces also flank around both sides, eventually surrounding the Allies.  With the Allies completely surrounded, the battle was over.  The Battle of Austerlitz was a successful counterattack because the French army defended off the Allied attack and quickly defeated the Allies.  Napoleon deceived the Allies.  He made his men seem weak and near defeat. 
The Battle of St. Vith was part of the Battle of the Bulge, which began on 16 December 1944, and represented the right flank in the advance of the German center, 5th Panzer-Armee (Armored Army), toward the ultimate objective of Antwerp. Given the task of countering the German advance, US General Bruce C. Clarke decided that a mobile defense was the best solution. Knowing that the German army was aiming for an objective far behind the battle line, he decided that they could afford to lose a few kilometers a day - the idea being that a slowing down of the advance was as good as stopping them outright, since the Germans were limited by time.[ citation needed ]
The mobile defense he used at St. Vith involved the use of M36 tank destroyers acting as a base of fire to resist the oncoming German armored thrust, slowing them down enough to then counter-attack them with a force of M4 Sherman tanks. Artillery and Infantry were involved in this process as a combined arms force. The key was not to engage the Germans in a pitched battle, but to slow their advance enough to ruin their offensive timetable. The counter-attacks ensured that the German forces could not break through the slowly retreating forces. Clarke's success was one of the first times armor had been used in a mobile defense.[ citation needed ]
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. The offensive was carried out from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, towards the end of the war in Europe. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region between Belgium and Luxembourg.
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of the most important and decisive engagements of the Napoleonic Wars. The battle occurred near the town of Austerlitz in the Austrian Empire. The decisive victory of Napoleon's Grande Armée at Austerlitz brought the War of the Third Coalition to a rapid end, with the Treaty of Pressburg signed by the Austrians later in the month. The battle is often cited as a tactical masterpiece, in the same league as other historic engagements like Cannae or Gaugamela.
Prince Pyotr Ivanovich Bagration was a Russian general and prince of Georgian origin, prominent during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Second Battle of the Marne was the last major German offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The attack failed when an Allied counterattack, supported by several hundred tanks, overwhelmed the Germans on their right flank, inflicting severe casualties. The German defeat marked the start of the relentless Allied advance which culminated in the Armistice with Germany about 100 days later.
Operation Bagration was the codename for the 1944 Soviet Byelorussian strategic offensive operation, a military campaign fought between 22 June and 19 August 1944 in Soviet Byelorussia in the Eastern Front of World War II, just over 2 weeks after the start of Operation Overlord in the west, causing the Germans to have to fight on two major fronts at the same time. The Soviet Union destroyed 28 of 34 divisions of Army Group Centre and completely shattered the German front line. It was the biggest defeat in German military history, with around 450,000 German casualties, while 300,000 other German soldiers were cut off in the Courland Pocket.
The German spring offensive, or Kaiserschlacht, also known as the Ludendorff offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War, beginning on 21 March 1918. Following American entry into the war in April 1917, the Germans had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the United States could ship soldiers across the Atlantic and fully deploy its resources. The German Army had gained a temporary advantage in numbers as nearly 50 divisions had been freed by the Russian defeat and withdrawal from the war with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
The 9th Army was a World War II field army. It was activated on 15 May 1940 with General Johannes Blaskowitz in command.
Deep operation, also known as Soviet Deep Battle, was a military theory developed by the Soviet Union for its armed forces during the 1920s and 1930s. It was a tenet that emphasized destroying, suppressing or disorganizing enemy forces not only at the line of contact but also throughout the depth of the battlefield.
The Vilnius offensive occurred as part of the third phase of Operation Bagration, the strategic summer offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht in June and July 1944. It lasted from 5 July to 13 July 1944 and ended with a Soviet victory.
Envelopment is the military tactic of seizing objectives in the enemy's rear with the goal of destroying specific enemy forces and denying them the ability to withdraw. Rather than attacking an enemy head-on as in a frontal assault an envelopment seeks to exploit the enemy's flanks, attacking them from multiple directions and avoiding where their defenses are strongest. A successful envelopment lessens the number of casualties suffered by the attacker while inducing a psychological shock on the defender and improving the chances to destroy them. An envelopment will consist of one or more enveloping forces, which attacks the enemy's flank(s), and a fixing force, which attacks the enemy's front and "fixes" them in place so that they cannot withdraw or shift their focus on the enveloping forces. While a successful tactic, there are risks involved with performing an envelopment. The enveloping force can become overextended and cut off from friendly forces by an enemy counterattack, or the enemy can counterattack against the fixing force.
The Belostok offensive was part of the third and final phase of the Belorussian strategic offensive of the Red Army in summer 1944, commonly known as Operation Bagration. The Belostok offensive was part of the third, or 'pursuit' phase of Operation Bagration, and was commenced after the completion of the encirclement and destruction of much of Army Group Centre in the Minsk offensive. Belostok is the Russian name of the Polish city of Białystok.
An armoured spearhead is a formation of armoured fighting vehicles, mostly tanks, that form the front of an offensive thrust during a battle. The idea is to concentrate as much firepower into a small front as possible, so any defenders in front of them will be overwhelmed. As the spearhead moves forward, infantry units following in the gap behind them form up on either side of the line of advance in order to protect the flanks.
The Battle of Bolshie Ozerki was a major engagement fought during the Allied North Russia Intervention in the Russian Civil War. Beginning on March 31, 1919, a force of British, American, Polish, and White Russian troops engaged several Red Army partisan regiments at the village of Bolshie Ozerki. Although the initial Allied attacks were repelled, the outnumbered Allies managed to repel the Soviet flanking attempts that followed and the Red Army was later ordered to withdraw. Allied forces began to withdraw rapidly from northern Russia shortly thereafter.
The 307th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as a standard Red Army rifle division, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. The division distinguished itself in the intense defensive fighting around the village of Ponyri during the Battle of Kursk. It was credited with the liberation of the town of Novozybkov on September 25, 1943. After battling its way through eastern Belarus during the autumn and winter of 1943–44, and then helping complete its liberation during Operation Bagration, it was moved to East Prussia, where it took part in the Battle of Königsberg in the spring of 1945, ending the war on the Baltic coast near the Zemland Peninsula. In the course of these campaigns the 307th compiled a battle record to rival a Guards unit but was nevertheless disbanded on the second-last day of 1945.
The 356th Rifle Division formed in August, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, in the Kuibyshev Oblast. After reaching the front it played a minor role in the defense of Moscow and the winter counteroffensive and remained in the line north and east of the Oryol salient through 1942 and into 1943. It then took part in the offensive to reduce this salient, Operation Kutuzov, after which it advanced towards the Dniepr River through the summer and autumn before becoming involved in the complex fighting in eastern Belarus in the winter of 1943/44, during which it won a battle honor. In the early stages of Operation Bagration the 356th was instrumental in the liberation of Bobruisk, for which it received the Order of the Red Banner. Later during this offensive the division advanced into the Baltic states before being reassigned to 1st Belorussian Front for the final offensive on Germany. Remarkably, the division was assigned to the 61st Army for nearly its entire wartime path. It ended the war north of Berlin, along the Elbe River, but in spite of a fine record of service it was disbanded shortly thereafter.
The 371st Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as a standard Red Army rifle division, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming in August 1941 in the Urals Military District. It was soon moved to the front lines near Moscow, and took part in the counteroffensive that began on December 5. It spent all of 1942 and the first months of 1943 in the fighting around the Rzhev salient, and after a short break served in the offensive that liberated Smolensk. After a winter of brutal combat on the approaches to Orsha and Vitebsk it was reassigned to 5th Army in 3rd Belorussian Front and took part in Operation Bagration, during which it was recognized for its role in the liberation of the latter city with a battle honor. The division was further distinguished in late July with the Order of the Red Banner for its part in the liberation of Vilnius. In January 1945, it fought its way into East Prussia, and as that campaign was winding down it was moved across Asia, along with the rest of 5th Army, to take part in the campaign against the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria.
The 12th Guards Rifle Division was reformed as an elite infantry division of the Red Army in January, 1942, based on the 1st formation of the 258th Rifle Division and served in that role until after the end of the Great Patriotic War. It was in 50th Army when it was redesignated but was soon assigned to the 49th Army, then to the 10th Army and finally to the 16th Army near the end of that month. In June it was assigned to the 9th Guards Rifle Corps of 61st Army where it remained almost continually for the duration of the war, serving under several Front commands but always on the central sector of the front. During the summer offensive in 1943 it fought through western Russia and into Belarus during the winter campaigns there. Along with the rest of 61st Army it took part in the second stage of Operation Bagration in the summer of 1944, advancing into the Pripyat marshes region, winning a battle honor and shortly thereafter the Order of the Red Banner. After a short time in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command it was moved to the 3rd Baltic and later the 1st Baltic Front driving into Latvia and Lithuania, being decorated with the Order of Suvorov for its part in the liberation of Riga. In December it was returned to the 1st Belorussian Front and took part in the offensives that propelled the Red Army into Poland and eastern Germany. After the fall of Berlin the division advanced to the Elbe River where it linked up with the US 84th Infantry Division. Following the German surrender it was disbanded in July, 1946.
The Battle of Nevel was a successful military operation conducted by the Red Army in the Pskov Oblast of western Russia and in northern Belarus during World War II, from October 6 to roughly December 16, 1943 although fighting persisted in the area into the new year.
The 91st Guards Rifle Division was reformed as an elite infantry division of the Red Army in April 1943, based on the 2nd formation of the 257th Rifle Division, and served in that role until after the end of the Great Patriotic War. It ended the war in the far east of Asia following the Soviet invasion of Manchuria with a highly distinguished record.
The 234th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army, originally formed out-of-sequence in the Moscow Military District in October-November 1941. Due to having a large cadre of members of the Communist Party it was commonly referred to as the Yaroslavl Communist Division. After forming and briefly taking part in the rear defenses of Moscow in early 1942 it was assigned to 4th Shock Army in Kalinin Front. It became involved in the fighting near Velizh and remained in that region until nearly the end of the year. In March 1943 the division played a minor role in the follow-up to Army Group Center's evacuation of the Rzhev salient, and at the beginning of August liberated several strategic villages northeast of Smolensk, soon being rewarded with a battle honor. During the following autumn and winter it took part in the grinding battles around Vitebsk until it was removed to the Reserve of the Supreme High Command for rebuilding and reorganization. When it returned to the front it was assigned to 47th Army in 1st Belorussian Front and took part in the later stages of Operation Bagration, advancing to the Vistula River near Warsaw. In September it received a second honorific for its part in the liberation of Praga. The 234th fought across Poland and into Pomerania early in 1945, winning two decorations in the process before being transferred to the 61st Army for the final offensive into northeast Germany. It was disbanded shortly thereafter.