Military Tactics

All great warriors study battles, military tactics, history, yoga… Whatever they feel will give them an edge. Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War may be the most studied teachings over the ages on warfare. Sun Tzu was a master of warfare who lived over 2000 years ago in China. Military Tactics as we learn have not changed very much with the passing of time; only the tools to enhance it, the distances to engage it, and the men who pursue it.

Know your friends, know your enemy better, and know yourself best of all.

Fog of War

The Fog of War is the term used when describing the uncertainties of warfare. Reports and communications thought to be true are often not true at all. Be painfully aware that in almost all cases reports will be incomplete. If your scouts report there is no enemy, did they really scout the whole area? Have your spies been captured and compromised? Are your people really on your side, and can they be trusted?

Situational awareness plays a large part in increasing or lowering the fog of war. When you charge into a fleeing force are they actually retreating, or are they leading you into a trap? When you react to the loud sounds of the enemy approaching, are you aware of the larger forces silently squeezing in on your flanks?

Everything considered; all warfare is a plethora of unknowns. To have a reasonable chance of success it is up to the commander to see through the fog of war as much as possible. Sometimes being timid is the right thing to do. Other times being brash will be much better. Armchair generals have debated battles since the beginning of time. Only the results are what matter in the end; well that, and maybe the casualties.


Scouting is arguably the most important aspect of warfare. An army must know where the enemy is at all times, along with its strengths and weaknesses. The lay of the land, where ambushers may lurk, and where ambushes can be implemented are other important tasks of a scout. Good scouting can answer all these questions and more.

Never allow ambitious soldiers to forge ahead alone, or in small groups, unless they are scouts on a mission. Depending on the situation, scouts may or may not want to be seen, but they are never to be used to fight by themselves. A scout that fails to make it home means no intelligence is gathered. While scouts are always in danger, they must not be thought of as expendable. Valuable and often critical time is lost if another scout must be sent out to complete a scouting mission.

The first to arrive on the battlefield should serve as scouts, while waiting until there are enough forces backing them up. Their reports, and the backup when it arrives, allows for a well-coordinated attack on the enemy in a manner that can do some good.

Scouts and spies are also the best defense for newly contested ground. They are reasonably mobile, they can spread out quickly towards the front lines and beyond, and they can report back if defenses are needed. If they give reason for defenses, the army can pull back, or gather its forces to deal with the threat. If the coast is clear, the army may find that all its forces are better served elsewhere.

Discipline and Orders

Patience is a virtue. Impatience is a recipe for disaster.

Revolutionary zeal and bravado is a two edged sword. In battle they can be invaluable, but without discipline they serve no purpose. Anyone who runs towards the enemy without any sort of plan, or without forces backing them up, may be brave but they are also very stupid. Even worse, they set a bad example for their comrades who blindly follow. This act only serves to thin out the ranks, and weaken their forces. By striking out recklessly and blindly, the enemy gains experience, extra weapons, ammunition, and information they would not have had otherwise. By staying put on the other hand, an attacker can increase in strength and numbers, while formulating a plan and waiting until the time is right.

Some might say that a single soldier charging the enemy has won the battle, and they would be right. The fog of war works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it works in your favor. More than likely, however, if a single soldier breaks the enemy they were ready to break anyway. I would prefer that my soldiers not bet their life, or the life of my army, on such a maneuver. I could also be very wrong in a certain situation.

In war, there are orders to follow and discipline to maintain. It does not take much training to instill this into the ranks. With a little training, most people can be taught the importance of patience and following orders, rather than haphazardly advancing without a plan. Anyone who cannot obey orders, before the going gets tough, should be rooted out before hand. Limited arms and ammunition would be much better suited in the hands of those with discipline. Furthermore, guns in the hands of anyone without discipline are a recipe for disaster, either on the front lines or in the rear. Bravado is never to be confused with bravery. One is always welcome; the other can be dangerous.

Chain of Command

All armies have a chain of command. Soldiers must learn to follow commands and those who do not have the required discipline, or who cannot follow orders, are of little use. An army without a command structure of some kind will rarely win the battle. Winning the war, without a chain of command, would be next to impossible.

Each part of the chain has important tasks to perform and decisions to make. If one part is broken, the battle may be in jeopardy. An officer who has the undying loyalty of his men is invaluable. An officer who cannot even gain the respect and discipline of his own men is of no use.

When mutinies occur in the chain of command, it could be due to incompetence or low moral. Sometimes mutinies are warranted, sometimes they’re not. It is impossible to say that all orders must be obeyed, when the Fog of War is involved. Only the soldiers receiving the orders know for sure. After all, they are the ones doing most of the fighting and dying. As a warning to mutineers: When the battle is over and your trial begins, in almost all cases you lose.

Uniforms in short supply should be allocated to officers first. This way they are more easily identifiable to an untrained rabble. With that said, uniformed officers on the front line make tempting targets. In this case, they should use some other marking of rank that is less conspicuous, but still recognizable by their own forces.

If the war being fought is a revolutionary war, perhaps the most important aspect to the chain of command is as follows: Do not give commanders the chance to form their own militias or security groups. Those commanders who stock weapons with private funds, donations, or other means are NOT to be trusted. Their end goal must be interpreted as self-serving, as they wait for the war to be over. Too many dictators have risen from the ashes this way, as they place themselves in a position to take power once the current crisis has ended. All weapons received must be for soldiers who are fighting for the revolution today, not for some perceived revolution in the future.


The easiest way to win or lose a battle is an ambush. It should come as no surprise that you want your side to be the one springing the ambush. Never send your main forces into an area that has not been scouted unless absolutely necessary. Study your enemy’s tactics, and learn to recognize signs where you can set up an ambush. This will help improve your own instincts, so that you do not stumble into an ambush yourself.

The hardest ambush is to set up defenses and hope that the enemy just happens upon it. An easier way is to send a smaller force to lure the enemy back to your forces, where a proper ambush is waiting. Be aware that the enemy is probably thinking of ways to do the same to you.


High ground is critical. If the enemy holds the high ground, consider going around them. This maneuver also serves to surround the enemy, which is much better than a mere frontal assault. It also cuts off enemy reinforcements that may be arriving. See: Divide and Conquer. Many battles are won by maneuver alone, without firing a shot.

When you do not hold the high ground the question must be asked, “Is this battle necessary?” If the terrain is not favorable you should avoid a battle altogether. Never fight a battle on the enemy’s terms when it can be avoided.

Another critical point to consider is weather. Snow and rain usually favors the defender. They will be more rested, dryer, and warmer. If you have heavy equipment, they are bound to get bogged down. In many cases, heavy equipment may become useless.

Nighttime attacks are effective if the enemy is not ready. If the enemy is ready, their flares and searchlights will light up the area and turn a coordinated attack into a disaster.


Offensive battle is the most dangerous, and the most rewarding. It makes little sense to dig in if you are going on the offensive. Most wars today are not won by attrition, or waiting for the enemy. Eventually you are going to have to take the fight to them.

Speed and surprise is the key. The ideal situation for offense is to catch the enemy off guard. They should never know where you are, where you are going, and when you are going to attack, unless you want them to.

When attacking an enemy weigh heavily each decision. Do you have strength in numbers? Has scouting been sufficient and are you sure of the enemies positions? Are there contingency plans for any surprises? Do you know the lay of the land and is the battleground favorable?

It is better to retreat, whenever you are outnumbered. There is no shame in retreating back to your main forces, or into defended positions. Continually losing small battles will deplete the number of your total forces quickly. The tactic of Divide and Conquer must happen to enemy forces, not to your own.

If the enemy’s equipment is the same as yours, then have at least twice their number. If the enemy’s equipment is superior to yours, then 4 or 5 times as many, or fall back and build defenses. Every battle will have casualties, but each time casualties will eat away at the size of your army. Only fight when it is necessary or if you are sure you will win. A battle won with high casualties can be devastating, and makes future battles that much harder. A Pyrrhic victory is a victory on paper, but the casualties are so great that the war will be lost.

NEVER attack tanks, artillery, or aircraft on open ground with an inferior force of infantry. If you do, your force will be annihilated quickly. The only way out of this situation is to neutralize your enemy by falling back onto ground that takes their edge away. Forests, swamps, choke points, and cities that are large enough will help in these situations. Set up perimeters and defenses, and let the enemy come to you. The enemy will bog down once they arrive, and your defenses should be able to whittle them down some. In the meantime, stall for time while you wait for reinforcements. In hopeless situations, the defenders may have only hope that help will arrive in time. Once all hope is lost, the battle is over.

An infantry defending against heavy armor in a city or forest will eventually be forced to fight an extremely close quarters battle. This is actually when superior armor is the most vulnerable. Artillery and tanks are considerably less effective when they are afraid of hitting each other. At the same time, their maneuverability is limited and defenders can find adequate cover. Even with this disadvantage, the fight will be an extremely hard fought one. However, losing 50% of your force is still better than 100%, while the enemy takes on a lot more casualties than they would out in the open. They can even be forced to retreat or even defeated.

Defenses and Digging in

If the outcome is in doubt, it is better to avoid a fight at all costs. However, if you plan to stay defended positions are of huge benefit by improving the chances in any fight. Even when your forces are not outnumbered, defenses are critical to lessen your casualties. Place a few artillery pieces here; throw up a few barriers of dirt and sand there. It does not take much to improve a position. Find or construct choke points to funnel the enemy where possible. If a known battle were coming to an area, only a foolish commander would neglect his defenses.

Digging in and waiting is not glamorous, but it keeps precious troops from dying for no reason. The dividends provided from the protection of foxholes cannot be understated. If a front line is static, digging in is a must.

Ideally digging in allows for positions that cover each other. Places for choke points that expose the enemy to withering crossfire should be constructed where possible. Defensive positions that monitor enemy troops, without giving away their location, should be included as well. The ideal situation in every battle is to first learn the opposition’s tactics, consider their plan, and then do the unexpected. In war we learn quickly, not everything is ideal.

One problem with building major defenses is that it weakens your forces simply by building and maintaining them. These forces may be desperately needed closer to the ever-changing front lines. Large defenses cost money, time, and personnel. They are susceptible to sneak attacks as well, unless a large force can protect them. Do not build defenses needlessly. Build them wisely.


For a long time foxholes have been used for defense in battle. They offer protection to soldiers and easy access to the supplies stored inside during an encounter. Soldiers without a shovel have used rifle butts, sticks, flat rocks, or anything they can, to dig faster than their fingernails. Even fingernails are used if they have nothing else. The items men have used to dig with in battle should leave no doubt to the importance of a hole to crawl into. More importantly: The time to build a foxhole is before battle, not after it begins.

In today’s untrained rebel armies, when and where to build a foxhole is a hard undertaking that takes considerable time. Unfortunately, we must measure the time spent by the experienced soldier, in trying to change the minds, beliefs, and motivations of the young and untrained soldiers next to them. Getting them to build a foxhole in the first place can be a battle in itself.

“Foxholes, we don’t need no stinking foxholes!” a young hothead might say. Even more discouraging is watching his friends nod in agreement, knowing some of them believe foxholes are a good idea. Minutes later sniper or mortar fire take out the whole group.

Once the bullets start flying most young soldiers will naturally wish they had a shovel to dig with, even though moments before they had scoffed at the idea. The baptism of fire does that to both man and beast. An increased belief in dying and a high rate of motivation is now in an abundant supply. What is no longer in abundance is the time needed to build a proper foxhole.

Once again: The time to build a foxhole is before battle, not after it begins.

For more see: How to Dig a Fox Hole


Flanking is attacking the enemy on multiple sides. Surrounding the enemy with a large force is best, but hitting the enemy on two or even three sides can be almost as useful. Avoid a headlong battle. If that is not possible, try to lure the enemy so that they come to you. If you are successful, you will have time to set up an ambush or extra defenses. At the same time, your forces remain rested and you have more options for maneuver.

When going around the enemy, make sure that their reinforcements, and the main body you are up against, are not able to out flank your forces. If the enemy defenses are too great, consider attacking somewhere else. By doing so, the enemy may come out of their defensive positions where they will be easier to deal with.

Known territory

You are safest in known territory. Known territory is your friend. With that said, always hide your main forces when in known or even friendly territory. By not advertising to the enemy your positions, they can only guess at your plans. This leaves them with three choices. They can concede their weak positions, they can come looking for you, or they can spread out their army making each position more vulnerable.

Keeping enemy forces bottled up and off guard also serves by keeping their forces from doing damage elsewhere. At the same time, by hiding your forces the enemy may blunder into one of your heavily defended areas.

Unknown territory

Marching an army into unknown territory is bad enough. Marching into unknown territory, not previously scouted, is a recipe for disaster. The times when going into unknown territory can be to your advantage are when small scouting parties are on hit and run missions. The enemy will be forced to respond with a much larger force everywhere you attack. By the time they arrive, your party should be long gone. Hitting them all over at once will serve to convince the enemy that you are a much larger force, it will wear them down, and it will lower their morale.

Hold ground

Often it makes sense to attack ground that you don’t plan to keep. As mentioned above in Unknown territory, hit and run tactics can be very effective. In guerrilla warfare, ground by itself is rarely the objective, especially if your forces are small in number and lack adequate supplies.

On the other hand, in major engagements where you plan to hold ground, failure to hold it shows a lack of planning. Eventually ground is the reason to attack, and holding that ground is the objective. When this time arrives, ground may be fought for dearly. When this is the case, it makes no sense not to hold it. Territory under your control means that a large enemy force will not come from that direction. It does not mean that small enemy bands are not still in the area.

There are many arguments why you should not attack someone, and probably as many arguments as to why you should. There should be no arguments that if you attack territory to hold it, then hold it you must. Retreat might be the first step to surrender.

Reasons not to attack an area:

  • If you can’t hold and defend it.
  • If you’re over extending yourself.
  • If you can’t retreat.
  • If you can’t be supported.
  • If you are placing your forces at additional risk.

Reasons to attack an area you plan on capturing:

  • If you can hold and defend it.
  • If you’re not over extended.
  • If you can retreat.
  • If you are supported.
  • If the enemy is weak.
  • If you are placing your forces at additional risk, weigh the risks verses the gains.

Divide and Conquer

Divide and conquer the enemy. Do not divide your own forces without a plan, and never divide them without scouting ahead. An army that is together may have enough power to deal with all threats, but losing one battle, with half of your forces, may be all it takes for the war to be lost. Waiting for overwhelming power may not hasten a battles conclusion, but it rarely is the sole reason for losing one. Keeping your forces together also has the added bonus of overwhelming the enemy, which causes fewer casualties in the end.

When you must attack the entire enemy force hit them from the sides or the rear. Avoid hitting them straight on. Try to lure the enemy into making the mistake of attacking your entire force.

Logistics and supply lines

Napoleon Bonaparte said, “An army marches on its stomach.” While this quote is still as important today as it was then, Napoleon did not have to worry about gasoline. Today’s modern armies use gasoline, and lots of it. It is essential that gasoline, food, water, ammunition, reinforcements, etc, reach the front in good order. Do not allow these lines to stop. Do not allow them to be broken. If you can disrupt the enemy supply lines, do it. The damage potential can be substantial.

By disrupting supply lines the enemy cannot attack where they want, when they want, how they want, and they may not be able to use the weapons they want.

Misinformation and Deception

Use misinformation and deception to trick the enemy. Giving false reports to an enemy can change their plans. They could build up an area that you have no plans to attack, thus weakening their forces elsewhere. They could also be convinced to attack a heavily defended fortress, that you lead them to believe has been weakened or abandoned.


Moral cannot be determined unless you have infiltrated the enemy. Low moral will cause panic in the enemy ranks when casualties rise, and they will route easily. High moral is another story. If the enemy has high moral they will take many casualties and will be difficult to route. It is safest to believe that your enemy is operating under high moral. There are just too many variable in battle to believe otherwise. If on the other hand you are sure that your enemy’s moral is low, you can use this knowledge to great effect.

When dealing with your own troops and the state of their moral, do not put those with low moral on the front lines. When people see an army fleeing a battlefield it is natural for them to flee along with it. Use those with low moral as reinforcements, or as supplemental troops dispersed into troops with high moral. Low moral troops will gain moral if they see others who are unfazed by a losing situation, or if the battle is going as planned.

Moral is gained from experience, good leadership, letters from home, camaraderie. Even last night’s meal and entertainment serves to raise moral. Everything must be considered to keep moral high, along with those outcomes that would serve to lessen it.


“Lose lips sinks ships.” – WWII saying

If someone inside the government camp joins the revolution it might be worthwhile convincing them to remain where they are as a spy. Inside information regarding troop movements and plans can be invaluable.

The problem with spies however, is determining if they have been compromised or turned into double agents. All reports received from them should be checked and double-checked. If an agent is suspect, an immediate investigation must be launched. Suspect everyone and everything; trust no one.

  • What information is worth the risk of discovery to send out?
  • What information is not worth the risk of discovery to send out?
  • Communications

Written by Scott M. Eaton

Created on … May 01, 2011

4 comments on “Military Tactics
  1. Shirley says:

    BION I’m impressed! Cool post!

  2. Tyya says:

    AFAIC that’s the best answer so far!

  3. Deliverance says:

    I thought I’d have to read a book for a discoervy like this!

  4. Shaun says:

    Good article. Its realy nice. More info help me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>