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.
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.
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.
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 is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.
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.
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 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".
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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,by the Greek historian Polybius.
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 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 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.
The Battle of Fraustadt was fought on 2 February 1706 (O.S.) / 3 February 1706 / 13 February 1706 (N.S.) between Sweden and Saxony-Poland and their Russian allies near Fraustadt in Poland. During the Battle of Fraustadt on February 3, August II was only 120 km away, with a cavalry force about 8,000 men strong. That was one of the main reasons that Swedish General Rehnskiöld hurried to engage Schulenburg. The battle is an example of a successful pincer movement and was one of Sweden's greatest victories in the Great Northern War.
A pocket refers to combat forces that have been isolated by opposing forces from their logistical base and other friendly forces. In mobile warfare, such as the German Blitzkrieg, salients were more likely to be cut off into pockets, which became the focus of battles of annihilation.
The 9th Army was a World War II field army. It was activated on 15 May 1940 with General Johannes Blaskowitz in command.
Operation Saturn, revised as Operation Little Saturn, was a Red Army operation on the Eastern Front of World War II that led to battles in the North Caucasus and Donets Basin regions of the Soviet Union from December 1942 to February 1943.
The 29th Infantry Division was a unit of the German army created in the fall of 1936. It was based on the old Reichswehr 15th Infantry Regiment and drew its initial recruits from Thuringia. It was upgraded to 29th Motorized Infantry Division in the fall of 1937. The division was also known as the Falke-Division.
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 throughout the depth of the battlefield.
The Battle of Walaja was a battle fought in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in May 633 between the Rashidun Caliphate army under Khalid ibn al-Walid and Al-Muthanna ibn Haritha against the Sassanid Empire and its Arab allies. In this battle the Sassanid army is said to have been at least three times the size of the Muslim army.
The 11th Army was a World War II field army.
The German Army was the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, the regular German Armed Forces, from 1935 until it was demobilized and later dissolved in August 1946. During World War II, a total of about 13.6 million soldiers served in the German Army between 1935-45. Germany's army personnel were made up of volunteers and conscripts.
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 88th Infantry Division was a major fighting formation of the German Army (Wehrmacht). It was created in December 1939, and first saw combat in the Battle of France, and was then posted to security duties. From December 1941, the division was shifted to the southern sector of the Eastern Front, where it fought until February 1944 when it was encircled near Cherkassy and virtually destroyed.
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, or flanking manoeuvre, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its ability to defend itself.
The 327th Rifle Division was first formed in September 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, based on a cadre of workers from Voronezh. This formation was assigned to the Volkhov Front near Leningrad, toiling through the so-called "Rat's War" in the wooded swamps of that region and taking significant casualties in the encirclement of its 2nd Shock Army near Lyuban in early 1942. In January 1943, it helped to lead the partial raising of the German siege of Leningrad in Operation Iskra, distinguishing itself sufficiently to be redesignated as the 64th Guards Rifle Division. Well over a year later a second 327th Rifle Division was formed and was also moved to the Leningrad region where it took part in the offensive that drove Finland from the war, then spent the first months of 1945 clearing German forces from the coasts of the Baltic States and containing the German forces trapped in Courland.
The 343rd Rifle Division was first formed in late August, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Stavropol, in the Caucasus region. Its first major operation was in the liberation of Rostov in December, 1941. Following this, it was nearly caught up in the debacle near Kharkov in May, 1942, but managed to evade the German spearheads during Operation Blue to join the forces defending the Stalingrad region during the summer and fall. Following the German surrender at Stalingrad, on May 4, 1943, it was re-designated as the 97th Guards Rifle Division. Over a year later, a new 343rd Rifle Division was formed, based on the personnel and equipment of a Fortified Region, just after the start of Operation Bagration, the destruction of German Army Group Center. This new division went on to distinguish itself by helping to liberate the Polish city of Białystok, and ended the war in East Prussia, near Königsberg.
The 365th Rifle Division began forming on September 1, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. After forming, it was assigned to the 30th Army of Western Front, served briefly in the defense of Moscow, and played a role in the liberation of Klin, and later in the near-encirclement of the German 9th Army around Rzhev in the winter counteroffensive of 1941-42. In late January, 1942, it was transferred to the 29th Army of Kalinin Front, which was very soon after encircled by German forces near Sychevka, and on March 18 the division was disbanded due to very heavy losses. In November, 1944, a new 365th Rifle Division was formed in the Far Eastern Front, based on the 29th Rifle Brigade, and saw action in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August, 1945, being awarded the Order of the Red Banner for its services.
The 377th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, 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 followed a very similar combat path to that of the 374th and 376th Rifle Divisions. It joined the fighting front in December with the 4th Army, and then briefly came under command of 2nd Shock Army, but soon moved to the 59th Army along the Volkhov River, and continued to serve in this Army's battles near Leningrad until early 1944. The division took very heavy casualties during the Lyuban Offensive in several attempts to relieve the beleaguered 2nd Shock Army. After rebuilding the division held the Army's bridgehead over the Volkhov during 1943, and finally advanced during the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive in January, 1944, taking part in the assault that liberated Novgorod. During the spring the division saw heavy fighting in the battles for Narva before moving south for the summer offensive into the Baltic states. In September it won a battle honor in the liberation of Valga, and in October also received the Order of the Red Banner for its part in the liberation of Riga. The division ended the war in Latvia, helping to contain and reduce the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket, and was disbanded later in 1945.