A counterattack is a tactic employed in response to an attack, with
the term originating in "war games". The general objective is to
negate or thwart the advantage gained by the enemy during attack,
while the specific objectives typically seek to regain lost ground or
destroy the attacking enemy (this may take the form of an opposing
sports team or military units).
A saying, attributed to
Napoleon Bonaparte illustrate the tactical
importance of the counterattack : "the greatest danger occurs at
the moment of victory". In the same spirit, in his Battle Studies,
Ardant du Pic noticed that "he, general or mere captain, who employs
every one in the storming of a position can be sure of seeing it
retaken by an organised counter-attack of four men and a corporal".
A counterattack is a military tactic that occurs when one side
successfully defends off the enemy’s attack and begins to push the
enemy back with an attack of its own. In order to perform a successful
counterattack, the defending side must quickly and decisively strike
the enemy after defending, with the objective of shocking and
overwhelming the enemy. The main concept of the counterattack is to
catch the enemy by surprise. Many historical counterattacks were
successful because the enemy was off guard and not expecting the
1 Ancient roots of the counterattack
2 Analyzing historical counterattacks
2.1 Operation Bagration
2.2 Battle of Austerlitz
3 See also
4 Notes and references
5 Further reading
Ancient roots of the counterattack
This is the original text of The Art of War. The text was painted onto
bamboo sticks and bound together in the form of a book.
The counterattack tactic was highlighted in Sun Tzu’s, The Art of
War. Written in 5 B.C,
The Art of War
The Art of War serves as a guide on warfare
and has been influential to the tactics used during war even to this
day. In chapter 3, the book focuses on “stratagem” and goes over
how to properly conduct a counterattack.
Sun Tzu states, “Thus
the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the
next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces”.
This quote advises one to wait out the enemy and conduct a
counterattack when the time is right. It states that the best strategy
is to stay one step ahead of the enemy, and know the enemy’s next
move. Thus keeping a general always prepared for the enemy’s move,
leaving opportunity for a counterattack.
Analyzing historical counterattacks
In the past, there have been many notable counterattacks which have
changed the course of a war. To be specific,
Operation Bagration and
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz are good examples of the proper execution of
This map shows the point of attack during
Operation Bagration and how
the counterattack was executed.
Operation Bagration during World War II was one of the largest
counterattacks in military history. The assault by around 1.7 million
Red Army soldiers successfully put the Red Army on the offensive in
the Eastern Front after Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa
Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
The Soviet counterattack focused on Belorussia, but prior to the
counterattack starting, the
Soviet Union fooled Nazi military leaders
into believing that the attack take place further south, near the
To aid the deception, the Red Army established fake army camps in the
Ukraine and after German reconnaissance planes reported Soviet troop
concentration in the area, panzer and infantry divisions were rushed
south from Belorussia, leaving it vulnerable to a major assault.
To support the attack, partisan groups in German controlled territory
were instructed to destroy German railroads to hamper German efforts
to transport supplies and troops throughout the occupied territories
and further weakening German Army Group Centre in the Ukraine.
On June 22, 1944, the attack on Belarus by 1.7 million Soviet troops
began and overwhelmed the depleted Germans defenders.
On July 3, The Red Army captured Minsk and later liberated the rest of
Operation Bagration was a huge Soviet success and opened a direct
route to Berlin after the fall of Belorussia leading to the Red Army
beginning to liberate territory that was taken by the Wehrmacht three
Battle of Austerlitz
Map depicting the famous counterattack that took place at the Battle
of Austerlitz in 1805.
Another military battle that utilized the counterattack tactic was the
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. While fighting the Austrian
and Russian armies,
Napoleon purposely made it seem as if his men were
weak from the fighting in several cases.
Napoleon had his men
retreat in an attempt to lure the Allies to battle. He purposely
left his right flank open and vulnerable. This deceived the Allies
into attacking and the Allies fell into Napoleon's trap. When the
Allied troops went to attack Napoleon’s right flank, Napoleon
quickly filled up the right flank so the attack was not effective.
However, on the Allied side, a large gap was left open in the middle
of the Allied front line due to troops leaving to attack the French
right flank. Noticing the large hole in the middle of the Allied
Napoleon attacked the middle and had his forces also flank
around both sides, eventually surrounding the Allies. With the
Allies completely surrounded, the battle was over. The Battle of
Austerlitz was a successful counterattack because the French army
defended off the Allied attack and quickly defeated the Allies.
Napoleon deceived the Allies. He made his men seem weak and near
Battleplan (documentary TV series)
Notes and references
^ a b Staff. "counterdeception". DTIC Online. DEFENSE TECHNICAL
INFORMATION CENTER. Retrieved 13 June 2012. year: Unknown
^ Tom Cohen (19 December 2010). "McConnell leads GOP counter-attack
against START pact". Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System,
Inc. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
^ Tim Vickery (27 July 2011). "Uruguay's momentum, Paraguay's bumpy
road, more Copa America". SI.com. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Retrieved 13 June 2012.
^ Ardant du Picq, 'Battle Studies'
^ a b c Pike, John. "A View On Counterattacks In The Defensive Scheme
Of Maneuver". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2017-04-09.
^ a b c d B., Griffith, Samuel (2000-01-01). The art of war. Oxford
University Press. ISBN 9780195014761. OCLC 868200458.
^ a b c E.,, Glantz, Mary. Battle for Belorussia : the Red Army's
forgotten campaign of October 1943-April 1944.
ISBN 9780700623297. OCLC 947149001.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Robert., Goetz, (2005-01-01). 1805:
Napoleon and the destruction of the third coalition.
Stackpole Books. ISBN 1853676446. OCLC 260090494.
Bruce Schneier (2003). Beyond Fear. Springer. pp. 173–175.
Glover S. Johns (2002). The Clay Pigeons of St. Lo. Stackpole Books.
pp. 174–175. ISBN 97