Shock tactics are those military tactics designed to overwhelm an enemy with fear, causing panic and confusion. Shock tactics are as old as warfare itself. The Mongols got their reputation for being invincible by the use of shock tactics. Numbers of Medieval knights mounted on their warhorses made coordinated shock attacks into the ranks of enemy soldiers. Robert E. Lee saw the advantage of the shock attack as not so much killing enemy soldiers, but to "create a panic and virtually destroy the [enemy] army." The disadvantage of a shock attack is that the attacker may suffer heavy casualties. During World War I, for example, Germany suffered great losses with its use of the shock attack.
- The Hittites and Ancient Egyptians used the first mobile tool for shock tactics; the war Chariot. Charioteers were the elite branch of most armies of the time. But by the beginning of the classical period they were no longer effective. Armies had developed ways to defeat the chariots in battle. Even the infamous scythed chariots used by Darius I of Persia [a] could be easily defeated by the infantry. They changed to a wider spacing of their phalanx formation. This allowed the soldiers to avoid the blades and let the scythed chariots to go right through. They then ran directly into the long pike formations directly behind each phalanx which impaled the chariots and their riders.
- Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great depended on their elite Companion cavalry for their shock tactics to help win nearly every one of their battles. While the Macedonian phalanx units would engage the enemy, the cavalry was held in reserve. Once the phalanx broke up the lines, the Companion cavalry would act as shock troops and scatter the enemy soldiers.
- The German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) of World War II was a shock tactic that was used to great effect against their enemies. The Blitzkrieg concentrated its forces behind offensive weapons such as tanks, artillery and airplanes to quickly push through enemy lines. The tanks would then be free to cause shock and confusion behind the enemy lines. They would interrupt supply lines, and prevent reinforcements from sealing the breach in their lines. The Germans would then envelop the enemy troops and force them to surrender (military).[b]
- These were chariots that had blades attached to the wheels that could cut a man in half. They also had blades under the chariot pointing down almost touching the ground that would cut to pieces any soldiers caught under the chariot.
- One place this tactic did not work was at the Battle of the Bulge. While the initial shock pushed the Allied lines back, after a month they had only been able to push a large "bulge" in defensive lines. In particular, at the Belgian town of Bastogne, the Germans surrounded the Americans and demanded their surrender. But the 501st Infantry Regiment refused to surrender. The Germans were unable to defeat the defenders and withdrew after the town was relieved by the tanks of General George S. Patton's 4th Armored Division.
- Michiko Phifer, A Handbook of Military Strategy and Tactics (New Delhi: Vij Books India Private Limited, 2012), p. 162
- Clifford Jeffrey Rogers, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 19
- Sean McGlynn. "The Myths of Medieval Warfare". De Re Militari. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
- Richard Rollins, Pickett's Charge: Eyewitness Accounts at the Battle of Gettysburg (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2005), pp. 8–9
- Gustave Le Bon, The Psychology of the Great War (New York: Macmillan, 1916), p. 301
- Vincent Lopez. "Shock Tactics on the Ancient Battlefield". Armchair General L.L.C. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
- "The Scythed Chariot". University of Chicago. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
- Partha Bose, Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy (New York: Gotham Books, 2004), p. 10
- "Companion Cavalry Elite Cavalry Force". MilitaryFactory.com. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
- "Blitzkrieg (Lightning War)". Holocaust Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
- "Germany's last second world war offensive". Second World War. The Guardian. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
- "The Siege and Relief of Bastogne During the Battle of the Bulge". Hugh M. Cole, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military history, 1965), pp.445-481, 509-555. Sam Houston State University. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.