Shock tactics

rapid offensive maneuver

Shock tactics are those military tactics designed to overwhelm an enemy with fear, causing panic and confusion.[1] Shock tactics are as old as warfare itself. The Mongols got their reputation for being invincible by the use of shock tactics.[2] Numbers of Medieval knights mounted on their warhorses made coordinated shock attacks into the ranks of enemy soldiers.[3] 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."[4] 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.[5]

A Bayonet attack can be a very effective shock tactic

Historic examplesEdit

Persian scythed chariot

Ancient armies often defeated their enemy through through the psychological impact of shock tactics.[6]

German Tiger II tanks


  1. These were chariots that had blades attached to the wheels that could cut a man in half.[7] They also had blades under the chariot pointing down almost touching the ground that would cut to pieces any soldiers caught under the chariot.[7]
  2. One place this tactic did not work was at the Battle of the Bulge.[11] 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.[12] In particular, at the Belgian town of Bastogne, the Germans surrounded the Americans and demanded their surrender.[12] But the 501st Infantry Regiment refused to surrender.[12] 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.[12]

Related pagesEdit


  1. Michiko Phifer, A Handbook of Military Strategy and Tactics (New Delhi: Vij Books India Private Limited, 2012), p. 162
  2. Clifford Jeffrey Rogers, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 19
  3. Sean McGlynn. "The Myths of Medieval Warfare". De Re Militari. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  4. Richard Rollins, Pickett's Charge: Eyewitness Accounts at the Battle of Gettysburg (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2005), pp. 8–9
  5. Gustave Le Bon, The Psychology of the Great War (New York: Macmillan, 1916), p. 301
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Vincent Lopez. "Shock Tactics on the Ancient Battlefield". Armchair General L.L.C. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "The Scythed Chariot". University of Chicago. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  8. Partha Bose, Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy (New York: Gotham Books, 2004), p. 10
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Companion Cavalry Elite Cavalry Force". Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 "Blitzkrieg (Lightning War)". Holocaust Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  11. "Germany's last second world war offensive". Second World War. The Guardian. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "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.

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