Pincer movement

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A pincer movement whereby the red force envelops the advancing blue force. Pincer.png
A pincer movement whereby the red force envelops the advancing blue force.
Destruction of the Roman army at Cannae, called "the perfect battle of annihilation". Battle cannae destruction.png
Destruction of the Roman army at Cannae, called "the perfect battle of annihilation".
Envelopment of the Allied armies in Flanders during the battle of France 16May-21May Battle of Belgium.PNG
Envelopment of the Allied armies in Flanders during the battle of France
The envelopment of the German Sixth Army during Operation Uranus. Map Battle of Stalingrad-en.svg
The envelopment of the German Sixth Army during Operation Uranus.

The pincer movement, or double envelopment, is a military maneuver in which forces simultaneously attack both flanks (sides) of an enemy formation.

Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy that advocates attempting to defeat the enemy by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption.

Flanking maneuver military tactic

In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, or flanking manoeuvre is a movement of an armed force around a flank to achieve an advantageous position over an enemy. Flanking is useful because a force's offensive power is concentrated in its front. Therefore, to circumvent a force's front and attack a flank is to concentrate offense in the area where the enemy is least able to concentrate defense.

Contents

The pincer movement typically occurs when opposing forces advance towards the center of an army that responds by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks to surround it. At the same time, a second layer of pincers may attack on the more distant flanks to keep reinforcements from the target units.

Description

A full pincer movement leads to the attacking army facing the enemy in front, on both flanks, and in the rear. If attacking pincers link up in the enemy's rear, the enemy is encircled. Such battles often end in surrender or destruction of the enemy force, but the encircled force can try to break out. They can attack the encirclement from the inside to escape, or a friendly external force can attack from the outside to open an escape route.

Encirclement military term

Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.

Breakout (military) military operation to end a situation of encirclement or siege

A breakout is a military operation to end a situation of investment, through offensive operations that achieve a breakthrough. It is used in contexts such as: "The British breakout attempt from Normandy". It is one of four possible outcomes of investment, the others being relief, surrender, or reduction.

History

Sun Tzu, in The Art of War (traditionally dated to the 6th century BC), speculated on the maneuver but advised against trying it for fear that an army would likely run first before the move could be completed. He argued that it was best to allow the enemy a path to escape (or at least the appearance of one), as the target army would fight with more ferocity when completely surrounded, but it would lose formation and be more vulnerable to destruction if shown an avenue of escape.

Sun Tzu ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher from the Zhou Dynasty

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has affected Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking. His works focus much more on alternatives to battle, such as stratagem, delay, the use of spies and alternatives to war itself, the making and keeping of alliances, the uses of deceit and a willingness to submit, at least temporarily, to more powerful foes. Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and East Asian culture as a legendary historical and military figure. His birth name was Sun Wu and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing. The name Sun Tzu by which he is best known in the Western World is an honorific which means "Master Sun".

<i>The Art of War</i> ancient Chinese military treatise

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period. The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to an aspect of warfare and how it applies to military strategy and tactics. For almost 1,500 years it was the lead text in an anthology that would be formalised as the Seven Military Classics by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1080. The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

The maneuver may have first been used at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The historian Herodotus describes how the Athenian general Miltiades deployed 900 Plataean and 10,000 Athenian hoplites in a U-formation, with the wings manned much more deeply than the centre. His enemy outnumbered him heavily, and Miltiades chose to match the breadth of the Persian battle line by thinning out the center of his forces while reinforcing the wings. In the course of the battle, the weaker central formations retreated, allowing the wings to converge behind the Persian battle line and drive the more numerous but lightly armed Persians to retreat in panic.

Battle of Marathon 490 BC battle in the Greco-Persian Wars

The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. The battle was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece. The Greek army decisively defeated the more numerous Persians, marking a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars.

Herodotus Ancient Greek historian

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his "inquiry" on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into an historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as "The Father of History", a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.

Plataea ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia

Plataea or Plataia, also Plataeae or Plataiai, was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes. It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians.

The tactic was used by Alexander the Great at the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. Launching his attack at the Indian left flank, the Indian king Porus reacted by sending the cavalry on the right of his formation around in support. Alexander had positioned two cavalry units on the left of his formation, hidden from view, under the command of Coenus and Demitrius. The units were then able to follow Porus's cavalry around, trapping them in a classic pincer movement. That tactically-astute move from Alexander was key in ensuring what many regard as his last great victory.

Alexander the Great King of Macedon

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.

Battle of the Hydaspes battle fought by Alexander the Great in 326 BC in the Punjab

The Battle of the Hydaspes was fought in 326 BC between Alexander the Great and King Porus of the Paurava kingdom on the banks of the river Jhelum in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. The battle resulted in a Greek victory and the surrender of Porus. Large areas of the Punjab between the Hydaspes (Jhelum) and Hyphasis (Beas) rivers were absorbed into the Alexandrian Empire, and Porus was reinstated as a subordinate ruler.

Porus 4th century BC King of Paurava

Porus or Poros, was an ancient Indian king whose territory spanned the region between the Hydaspes and Acesines, in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. He is credited to have been a legendary warrior with exceptional skills. Porus fought against Alexander the Great in the Battle of the Hydaspes, thought to be fought at the site of modern-day Mong, Punjab, which is now part of the modern country of Pakistan. Though not recorded in any available ancient Indian source, Ancient Greek historians describe the battle and the aftermath of Alexander's victory. After the defeat and arrest of Porus in the war, Alexander asked Porus how he would like to be treated. Porus, although defeated, being a valiant, proud king, stated that he be treated like how Alexander himself would expect to be treated. Alexander was reportedly so impressed by his adversary that he not only reinstated him as a satrap of his own kingdom but also granted him dominion over lands to the south-east extending until the Hyphasis (Beas). Porus reportedly died sometime between 321 and 315 BC.

The most famous example of its use was at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, when Hannibal executed the maneuver against the Romans. Military historians view it as one of the greatest battlefield maneuvers in history and cite it as the first successful use of the pincer movement that was recorded in detail, [1] by the Greek historian Polybius.

Battle of Cannae Major battle of the Second Punic War, in which the army of Carthage defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic

The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War that took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia, in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage, under Hannibal, surrounded and decisively defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history.

Hannibal Carthaginian general during the Second Punic War

Hannibal Barca was a general and statesman from Ancient Carthage who is widely considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His father, Hamilcar Barca, was a leading Carthaginian commander during the First Punic War (264–241 BC). His younger brothers were Mago and Hasdrubal, and he was brother-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair; all also commanded Carthaginian armies.

Polybius Ancient Greek historian

Polybius was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period noted for his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail. The work describes the rise of the Roman Republic to the status of dominance in the ancient Mediterranean world and includes his eyewitness account of the Sack of Carthage in 146 BC.

It was also later used effectively by Khalid ibn al-Walid at the Battle of Walaja in 633, by Alp Arslan at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 (under the name crescent tactic), at Battle of Mohács by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1526 and by Field Marshal Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld at the Battle of Fraustadt in 1706.

Daniel Morgan used it effectively at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781 in South Carolina. Many consider Morgan's cunning plan at Cowpens the tactical masterpiece of the American War of Independence.

Zulu impis used a version of the manoeuvre that they called the buffalo horn formation.

Genghis Khan used a rudimentary form known colloquially as the horns tactic. Two enveloping flanks of horsemen surrounded the enemy, but they usually remained unjoined, leaving the enemy an escape route to the rear, as described above. It was key to many of Genghis's early victories over other Mongolian tribes.

Even in the horse-and-musket era, the maneuver was used across many military cultures. A classic double envelopment was deployed by the Asiatic conqueror Nader Shah at the Battle of Kirkuk (1733) against the Ottomans; the Persian army, under Nader, flanked the Ottomans on both ends of their line and encircled their centre despite being numerically at a disadvantage. In another battle at Kars in 1745, Nader routed the Ottoman army and subsequently encircled their encampment. The Ottoman army soon after collapsed under the pressure of the encirclement. Also during the famous Battle of Karnal in 1739, Nader drew out the Mughal army which outnumbered his own force by over six to one, and managed to encircle and utterly decimate a significant contingent of the Mughals in an ambush around Kunjpura village.

The manoeuvre was used in the blitzkrieg of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. Then, rather than a mere infantry maneuver, it developed into a complex, multidisciplinary endeavor that involved fast movement by mechanized armor, artillery barrages, air force bombardment, and effective radio communications, with the primary objective of destroying enemy command and control chains, undermining enemy troop morale and disrupting supply lines. During the Battle of Kiev (1941) the Axis forces managed to encircle the largest number of soldiers in the history of warfare. Well over half-a-million Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner by the end of the operation.

Examples

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. "Appendix C" (PDF). The complete book of military science, abridged. Archived from the original (PDF file —viewed as cached HTML—) on 2002-01-13. Retrieved March 25, 2006.

Further reading