This pamphlet supersedes MS T-12, "Operations of Encircled Forces," which was given a limited distribution by the Office of the Chief of Military History, Special Staff, U.S. Army.
Pockets are formed as the result of operations in which the attacker entirely surrounds a large number of the opposing forces. Such encirclement is usually followed by a battle of annihilation, the classic goal of all types of ground combat. The principles involved in carrying out penetrations and envelopments, and in closing the ring around an enemy force are well established in tactical doctrine. In the following study, however, the problem is approached exclusively from the defender's point of view. German pockets in Russia—often the result of peremptory orders to hold out in the face of certain encirclement—are used as examples to illustrate the tactical principles applied by the encircled units and the measures taken in each instance to permit a breakout in the direction of the German lines.
The experiences of World War II demonstrate that under conditions of modern, mobile warfare such pockets are more easily created than in military operations of the past. Their tactical significance has changed considerably. The encirclement of military forces by the enemy no longer signals the end of their usefulness. Pockets have become frequent occurrences in modern combat and must be countered by appropriate tactical measures designed to tie down large numbers of the enemy and, eventually, to rescue the encircled troops.
Generally, encirclements are effected by an opponent with considerable superiority in men and materiel. Without these prerequisites, only superior planning can lead to the entrapment of substantial military forces. Such cases are extremely rare.
The maneuver of deliberately allowing one's forces to be encircled by the enemy so as to tie up his troops in sufficient numbers to even the odds, rarely achieves the desired result. Should the total opposing forces be approximately equal, such a maneuver can be of value, but only if the number of enemy troops engaged in maintaining the encirclement is large enough to affect the outcome of other operations. Even in this case, however, the deliberate creation of a pocket
is a costly enterprise which will hardly justify the probable loss of the entire encircled force.
Success or failure of the encircled troops in fighting their way back to the German lines depended almost entirely on the tactical situation in and around the pocket. Whereas a discussion of strategic decisions is normally outside the scope of tactical studies, the situations described in the following chapters are the direct result of decisions by higher headquarters and can only be understood against the background of these decisions.
In addition to minor German pockets in Russia, the battles of encirclement near Cherkassy and Kamenets-Podolskiy (Chs. 4 and 5) have been selected as typical examples of large-scale pocket engagements and breakout attempts. In Chapter 4, furthermore, the report on developments inside the pocket is contrasted with impressions gained of the same operation by an officer at a higher headquarters outside the ring of encirclement. Excerpts from the diary of a German pocket commander show the increasing psychological pressure exerted by the enemy on encircled troops, especially the attempt at persuasion by the so-called Committee for a Free Germany, which was organized by the Russians and composed of captured German officers.