Military surprise is more a part of the art of war and its creation, than of military science, the doctrine, its regulations and the principles or «good-doing» rules of war. Of course, its scope and instruments are taken from military science. Military science has its logic and practice oriented towards applied theory.

Military doctrine forms the framework, the structure, the heart of all development and the wisdom that military science has been developing so far. The military doctrine of each state incorporates the idiosyncracy, history and civilization of the corresponding nation. The permanent virtues and the more temporary values of the former are also reflected in its military doctrine. All this channels it in one direction and one sense.

War art has in its conception and execution the characteristics of: variability; the unusual and singular conception; the different, unexpected and novel application and the relative ingenuity (naturalness and freshness) and freedom in its facts.

Resultado de imagen de general hermann balck General Hermann Balck, one of the finest German armored tactical Command.

If we are guided mainly by military science, which the enemy also knows, the results of the war dialectic will be obtained by maintaining a superiority in men and means, marches and maneuvers. And the cost will be the attrition of means and human wear in a greater proportion, and always undue, than with the use of surprise.

Thus, a defence deployed in depth and with sufficient reserves, probably deprives us of many opportunities for effective surprise. But, almost always, acting in the microfield, as using a tactical zoom, we can apply the tactical or operational surprise, unusual and unexpected.


The surprise becomes specify and materializes in an unexpected action on the enemy by fire and/or shock. That, taking advantage of the enemy’s habitual lack of combat availability, makes him the victim of an attack that he is not in a position to successfully reject.

Obviously, the units in charge of surprise must avoid enemy’s reconnaissance, advanced combat units and security. In charge of giving the units that detached them, enough time to get the combative disposition that allows the rejection of their attacker.

But, the mental surprise must not only be unexpected for the enemy. But, in order to be able to take full advantage of its potential and effects, it must also be unusual, special, infrequent. With an unquestionable tendency to be «unusual», as never seen. This unusual character, never occurred, extraordinarily reinforces the quality of unexpected and sudden use of surprise.

Imagen relacionada Soviet  T-34 /76 tank.

We don’t always have the unusual at hand. And surprise often favors, by employing the law of action, the most mobile and even only active rival.

Then, the use and manipulation of the “appearances”, the appreciated characteristics of the events and their circumstance, will allow us to establish and develop a new tactical or operational situation. Which will be surprising and unusual for the enemy. And it will give us an unexpected victory, at the beginning of the faced dialectic situation.

A Tactical example with Operational Trascendence.

Here is an example of an extraordinary force acting as a normal force and, in so doing, completely deceiving the enemy by manipulating appearances of the events.

In January 1943, with the Soviet advance threatening Rostov, the 4th Panzer Army of colonel general Hoth moved back from its positions on the banks of the Sal and established a defensive line south of the river Manich. Passing through that area were the supply and retreat routes of the 1st Panzer Army. Routes that had been kept open, if a disaster like that of Stalingrad was to be avoid. In Stalingrad, the Sixth German Army, the Army unit more powerful of the Wehrmatch, was caught. The 4th Panzer Army was assigned to protect this bottle neck in the communications of the Armies Groups Don.

Soon the Soviets reached the confluence of the Manich and Don rivers, took control of the small city of Manutchskaya that was only 30 kilometers from the mouth of the Don on the south bank, and sent advanced detachments in this direction. On January 23, the 11th panzer division and 16th infantry division counterattacked the Soviet advance spears and pushed them back to Manutchskaya.

Then, it was vital to restore the south front of the Don and Manich and to expel the Soviets from the city. Which was one of their bridgeheads (which, with much skill, could be rapidly reinforces once constituted).

The Germans made a direct assault from the southwest on the 24th, seeking to surprise the Soviets with the operation continuity. Instead, they found that the Soviets had created an antitank front in this entry to the city. Using tanks with their hulls partly buried and distributed between the buildings, along the streets, and in other difficult to see locations.

The 11th panzer division, a crack division with a magnificent tactician as chief, quickly stopped the assault when it detected the importance of defenses.

Imagen relacionada A Panther from the 11th panzer division circa summer 1943

On the 25th, the general Hermann Balck initiated an assault on the northeast sector of the city, which the Soviets identified as a main assault, similar to the previous one and following the orthodox criterion of «not insist on unsuccessful or frontal assaults» (not profitable). For it, they moved rapidly theirs antitank means (tanks are the most mobile) to the new threatened sector.

To make credible this assault (manipulation of the appearances), at the beginning the whole divisional artillery was used in its support. It was also the more dangerous direction of assault for the Soviets. Since that part of the city was nearest to the principal bridge over the Manich and its occupation would isolate the Soviet bridgehead on the south bank. These factors constituted the «primary evidences«.

The assault on the north-east sector was probably already considered by the Soviet defense as a German probably alternative assault and, because of this, they reacted rapidly to what happened.

Infantry half-track vehicles and reconnaissance light tanks executed the principal «virtual» assault, simulating the march of mechanized vehicles, concealed by smoke curtains. And seeking more to hide them from the enemy than to protect their advance. This gave a «secondary evidence» to the credibility of the «appearances«.

When the Soviet’s determination in the new defense was estimated, which confirmed the alteration of its original deployment and the attraction made by the normal «apparent» attack. The bulk of the divisional artillery threw a powerful fire blow on a sector of the southwest zone of the town. A single battery continued to support the ongoing false principal assault.

Most of the tanks of 15th panzer regiment immediately attacked the forward limit of the defense, entering the town and advancing on its interior. To attack from the rear the new defensive Soviet deployment, especially its tanks. The mechanized German infantry then closed in behind them.

The Soviet resistance crumbled. Its infantry ran to the bridge over the Manich river. But was chased by the 61th motorists battalion.

German casualties in liquidating Manutchskaya’s stronghold were, according to its own sources, one man dead and fourteen injured men. The Soviets had between 500 and 600 casualties and 20 destroyed tanks.

I believe, it is all clear and simple. Which are the characteristics of the practical and real ways to do.

THE MILITARY SURPRISE: concepts, effects, realization and types.

The common or general tactical surprise is that which is normally or frequently used and that is known and expected. There is one case we take as example, which is to ambush or hostilize enemy forces who come to help or rescue a group of their own immobilized and/or besieged by us. This attack is logical to do so, because the forces in march, and especially when the urgency drives them, are especially vulnerable: because of the weakness of their flanks, for their scant reconnaisance and greater ignorance of their marching grund to combat, and for their deployment or marching column more or less frayed.

The attack is to be made using sequential or simultaneously different techniques: ambushes, even employing small units; free shooters lines; shutts of the advance routes and his wings with mines; bombardments of the artillery and the unit’s organic mortars, using registered fire on the routes or its singular points; attacks of the own or allied aviation; appearances and assaults by an our «combat group» (of combined arms?) in his immediate rear or covering it in a flank of the itinerary that is favorable for our protection (heights line, edge of forests, industrial and urban areas).

It is necessary to use necessarily this common surprise. But, the attacker must not repeat his set of tactics and military technics during short periods of time. In order that our attack is not so predictable, also in the details and manners, which facilitates his rejection to the enemy. Since with our routine, we are announcing the enemy which is our game, showing him the cards. And, let’s know that, even with these precautions, we are teaching him to fight.

With the mentioned variety, his combinations and the opportunity of use, the enemy will not be able to take sufficient measurements for the rejection. Since the variants of action that we can use are sufficiently different and numerous.

This is a tactical surprise, in the same level in which we are unrolling ourselves. That will allow us to increase the attrition (on the means) and the wear (of the men) of the enemy. And, even, to place and move more favorably with regard to him. But the total results will depend on the development of the set of the raised operations. Based on the forms of fight, the movements and the involved men and means.

Resultado de imagen de walther model Colonel General Walther Model.

This way, this surprise less elaborated conceptually produces fewer fruits that have operational or decisive transcendency. Everything indicates that, in order that it should take place and increases qualitatively the transcendent efficiency in our actions, it is necessary that the quality of the surprise reaches another dimension in his action.

It is necessary, so, in the operational level of the surprise, that this would be an «ungrateful surprise» for the enemy. That has catastrophic effects, though they are local, on him, at the beginning. And that the «commotion waves» in the area or the affected sections, propagate for the enemy military system attacked. Damaging his capacities, his general and grupal moral (a section, the fighters of a weapon) and his intentions and perspectives. It would be equivalent, in the raised scene, to an «exploitation of the success» of our actions. That are encouraged and perfected by the operational surprise obtained.

The following battle during World War II illustrates the use of unexpected «field of action» on the enemy, and the use of ordinary and heterodox forces. That allowed General Walther Model to take the initiative and destroy a Soviet army inserted in his operational rear.

During the winter counter-offensive of 1941-1942, the Soviet Union military had penetrated the operational rear of the 9th German army of Colonel General Model. It was integrated in the Central Armies Group, under the command of Fieldmarshal von Kluge. The Germans withdrew to positions near populated areas, tacked between them by its artillery fire and keeping open a few, precarious communications lines between the units. Thus helping maintain the operational stability of the army’s defensive area.

The Soviets had crossed the lines of the semi-continuous front, crushing weak German positions and setting up in the german rearwarsd the 39th infantry army and the XI cavalry corps (mobile forces for areas of difficult ongoing), a total of 60,000 men. Their deployment was protected in the semi wild forests and marshes between Boly and Rzhev, the principal regional city, and was supplied by a route that edged by Boly and continued to Nelidovo at the north of the zone. These Soviet forces were also in operational hibernation, waiting for the late thaw of the Russian spring.

This powerful enemy nucleus, in coordinated action with Soviet forces at the front, could compromise the German summer offensive (1942) by cutting the supply lines of the 9th army. For this reason, it was necessary to liquidate it before tackling a new campaign.

Under the instructions of General Model, a movil force was put together. This formed a hippomobile brigade with the reconnaisssance forces (a reduced battalion) of each eight divisions of infantry of 9th army, all of which had all ground transit capacity.

Resultado de imagen de batalla Rzhev The Rzhev’s projection was formed after the Soviet counter-offensive in defense of Moscow.

The mission of this brigade was to slip through enemy flanking sectors not covered by the security and principal positions of the enemy. Once in enemy territory, they were to wait for a principal important attack, to begin fighting in the enemy’s interior with the hope of occupying defense nucleus positions. The German aim was to severely unsettle the Soviets’ deployment and the conduction of their defense plan.

By using its forces in the unexpected «field of action«, the Germans hoped to recover the freedom of action to impose on the enemy the law of the action. The objective was simple, but its attainment was difficult.

The brigade, which was to penetrate the Soviet zone, was led by the 5th panzer division of Major General Gustav Fehn. That were the principal interarms forces and the mass of support or normal forces. They were to proceed following the principal reinforced surface road of the zone. Which passed from Olenino in the north and followed the western slope of the Luchesa river.

Soviet troops (39th infantry army), inside its defense zone clung to this road and had an antitank deployment (obstacles and guns). The Soviet flanks were thin but protected on each side by extensive minefields. Its right flank rested on the inhospitable and impassable woods and swamp lands of the deep valley of the Luchesa which, in the Soviets’ thinking, protected them against serious attack. The Soviet command foresaw what must be the German’s principal effort against them and deployed their forces with creativity and inventiveness.

Only healthy, strong, veteran soldiers who worked well together and whose units had cohesion could be used in this mission. It was not work for garrison troops brought from the German rear or the occupied countries. Because of this, Walther Model did not hesitate to deprive his infantry divisions of its only mobile units of maneuver to use in this battle.



The Mission (M) determines the employ of the surprise, because it defines the «tactical environment«, over the merely spatial component, in which this one can apply and where it will be developed. The fulfillment of the received mission will determine decisively the possibilities of conception and application of the surprise. On having defined and express that one, the goal of the multiple and convergent actions of the efforts and means assigned by the superior command to a tactical chief. The detection by the exploration or the advanced “units of action” of a possible «interface of action» favorable over the enemy, does not authorize “per se” to a command to separate from the fulfillment of the mission of the top command.

The Enemy (E) is the essential and principal aim of a command. And the surprise is a multiplier essential factor of his potentials and means, to fulfill the received mission and to contribute to it. Surprise must then to look for: the spatial or functional dislocation of the enemy; or the economic wastage of his capacities; or a more rapid and effective fulfillment of the entrusted mission; or a positional advantage for the own deployment, for own immediate maneuvers; or the decisive assault or the counterattack to the critical or secondary vulnerabilities of the enemy, according to the plan of the top command.

The Terrain (T) and, for extension, the space is the essential support of the «tactical area» of the military action. This must use it always in its own profit, both in the assault and in the defense. In the rapid maneuvers, typical of the surprises, one will prefer using the favorable area for the employed weapon, in order that it favors the pace or tempo and the impulse or moment of them.

This way, the tanks (which fighting way is the attack) will use favorably in lightly wavy grounds and with great domain by the sights, without perpendicular cuts or water currents or rocky important outcrops. Nevertheless, the complete surprise can need the employment of tanks in difficult, not impossible ground, for them, so they are not waited by the enemy. Even, using in the spear of advance fewer armored units than the usual ones, which, with the surprise, would make feel with his presence equal fire power and shock.

The grounds provided with covers and/or concealments and the night and the atmospheric phenomena or meteors (rain, snow, hail), that reduce visibility and combative disposition in the defenders, favor the movement to the combat of the units and means of the surprise. Also, they allow their temporal concealment in the decided rest and departure zones. The inconvinient and/or disagreeable grounds facilitate the final approximation of the means of the surprise: gutters, edges of the streets close to the sidewalks, vertical walls that are practicable, cultivated fields, bushes, wetlands. In exchange for inconveniences and of time in the advance, we will win in the effective employ of the surprise.

In the defense, we will use the broken ground, with concealment relative heights (CRH) and covers for the small units (urban and industrial zones); partly resting on the rear slope and in natural obstacles (rivers, trees spots, etc.) that run parallel to the tracing of the defensive position; that impede or reveal the enemy movements, breaking his impulse, and facilitate the rejection from our own favorable positions. The counterattack from the depth of our tactical zone on the reverse or the flank of the enemy spears of advance, preferably after his determination, will be a very effective employ of the surprise. The fire traps (fire bags), the dispersed and small minefields, the fire blows from the defense points and resistance nests, retained up to the close distances with the enemy, are defensive surprises, but more waited by the enemy.

Being based on the ground characteristics and paying attention to the particularities of some part of the tactical area (enemy, mission, area, opportunity) the surprise will be planned and decided. And it will implement his assembly, deployment, support and unfolding, following a sufficient, protected and constant flow.

The Troops (T) necessary to execute and fulfill the conceived and decided surprise, must be adapted for the mission by his characteristics. The surprise is an offensive action over the enemy, developed unexpected, rapid and thougtlessly, in general. The equipment of the men and the air and artillery support must be the necessary and sufficient, in conformity with the determined plan. Besides his general training, the men must receive the specific training, depending on the characteristics of the mission and the actions to develop. The characteristics of obedience and initiative, patience, resistance and sobriety, physical qualities, enthusiasm and spirit of group, commitment with the mission, must be the best in the men. As they will be an important part of the actions. And they will act as chiefs and persons in charge of themselves and of his mission companions, in certain moments.

It is important a complete real time training of the mission. There are devices that fail at the X hours of use. The tension on the men and his sustained efforts affect their comfort and their efficiency and rapidity of action. With repercussions in his combative disposition, his alert and the precision of answers.

Often the heavy fire will be used to conceal the enemy from our surprise. The coordination of different weapon in the same mission or sector, is a critical point of it. For example, units of infantry, reinforced by some squads of engineers and supported by a few tanks sections, crossing a thick forest to surprisingly reach an enemy important position in the depth of his deployment. Acting in the same sector of advance or assault, the coordination between the small units must be tested and confirmed.

The Time (T) of the mission is a decisive factor of his success. On one hand, it must be the opportune one. For other part, the time must be enough and accelerated uniformly in the «successive cycles of action» of the development of the mission. In order that the concentration, the sequence or the simultaneity of employs and the forcefulness of our actions demolish the enemy human aim at which they are applied, once gotten the surprise.

It is necessary to consider always that all the actions need to happen an estimated planned time plus a complementary corrector time. This will depend on the degree of complexity of the mission: units, logistic support, demonstrative helping actions, crossing distances, passage difficulties, presence and intention of the enemy, simultaneity or sequence of employs, coordination. And it originates in the failures that arise in all the human activities and in the small and medium mistakes that are committed by the commands and men. Some call these the tactical friction of war. A serious mistake would suppose that the surprise was badly calculated or executed and it is an operational serious mistake.

The civilians (C) must not be damaged in a surprising mission. Even when the enemy mixes and protects in a civil area, it is possible to define and to make concrete a purely military aim. To isolate, attack and extirpate it with military accurate and mopping-up. Here is necessary the employ of the organic weapon of the ground attacking unit, which limit the not wished hurts and make concrete his effects in the selected targets.

The heavy indiscriminate air and artillery fire is a weapon of merciless and spread results for the employ in urban areas. His aim is not to blind, to disturb or to neutralize the enemy. The excessive and insistent heavy fire seek to destroy it. That is the more uncertain and less economic goal of all. Both the Soviets and the western allieds have used it with profusion in the civil wars of the Southwest of Asia. His use has as goal to destroy from far off and before to the assault, the enemy positions in the villages. Avoiding as much as possible that the own ground forces fight at close distances with the islamist rebels.