In modern warfare with its blitzkrieg tactics executed by motorized and mechanized forces, the encirclement by the enemy of large bodies of troops has become a frequent occurrence. It is, therefore, all the more important to be adequately prepared for this kind of fighting.
Combat in pockets, whether it be of long or short duration, has its own fundamental rules. Whatever circumstances may determine the length of the battle, it will always be advisable to seek an early decision. To make this possible, the commander of an encircled force must, on principle, be granted full freedom of action. He should be permitted, specifically, to use his own judgment regarding all measures and decisions incident to a breakout from the pocket. On many occasions in German experience, the futile attempt was made to evaluate a local situation and to conduct the operations of encircled troops by remote control from a far distant higher echelon, if not directly from Hitler's headquarters. Indecisiveness on the part of the pocket commander and measures which invariably came too late were the consequences of such limitations imposed by higher headquarters. Whenever a commander receives rigid instructions from a distance at which the capabilities of his encircled forces cannot be properly judged—and are usually overestimated—his willingness to accept responsibility will rapidly decline.
The notion that pockets must be held at all costs should never be applied as a general principle. Hitler's adherence to this mistaken concept during World Afar II resulted in the loss of so many German soldiers that the lesson learned from their sacrifice ought to be remembered for all time.
Experience has shown that only seasoned troops, in the best fighting condition and under the firm control of their commanders, are able to withstand the mental strain of combat in encirclement and are likely to retain the high degree of physical fitness needed under such
circumstances. But even with troops that satisfy these requirements it is necessary to apply stern measures in order to prevent any slackening of control, which would inevitably result in lowering their morale. It is surprising how fast the bonds of discipline will disintegrate in an encirclement. Mobs of unarmed soldiers trying to proceed on their own, captured horses loaded down with superfluous equipment, and other similarly depressing sights were not uncommon in some of the larger German pockets in Russia. They had a contaminating effect and called for swift and drastic countermeasures.
The highest standards of discipline, more important in this than in any other situation, must be upheld by the officers and noncommissioned officers of an encircled force; it is their personal conduct that sets the example. Force of character, as in all critical situations, acquires the greatest significance; it sustains the will to fight and may, indeed, determine the outcome of the battle. More than ever the place of the commander, under such circumstances, is in the midst of his troops; their minds will register his every action with the sensitivity of a seismograph.
Particular attention in all matters of discipline must be paid to rear echelon units and the personnel of rear area installations that may be present in the pocket. Since these troops are usually the first to become unnerved, they must be held under strict control.
Another principle that has proved itself in the German experience is the delegation of authority (see diagram) by the pocket commander
(A) to three subordinate command elements within the pocket; one (B) to maintain the defensive effort; another (C) to prepare and conduct the breakout; and a third (D) to be responsible for organization, traffic control, and the maintenance of discipline inside the pocket.
Communication and co-ordination with other friendly forces, particularly in the case of a relief thrust from the outside, will have to remain among the exclusive functions of the pocket commander. Presumably, he alone will have the necessary radio facilities at his disposal. It is, of course, an absolute requirement, for the delegation of authority described above, that all the forces inside the pocket be under one command. Since envelopment attacks are usually directed against tactical weak spots, such as army or corps boundaries, uniform command over the forces encircled by the enemy is not always assured at first. It must be established as soon as possible; otherwise, as demonstrated in Chapter 4, considerable difficulties will be encountered in the defense of the pocket, as well as in the conduct of relief operations from the outside.
The tactical principles which, in an encirclement, apply to the various combat arms, may be summarized as follows:
In the initial phase, during which the entire perimeter is to be held, everything up front! An encircled force can ill afford loss of terrain. Therefore, strong reserves must be held close by; the battle position must be a closely knit system of strong points with a well-co-ordinated fire plan for all infantry heavy weapons; and the outpost area must be kept under constant surveillance by reconnaissance and combat patrols, particularly during the night. If this cannot be accomplished because of inadequate forces, the perimeter should be shortened deliberately to the point where the defenses can be organized in accordance with the principles outlined above.
In small- and medium-sized pockets the ordinarily undesirable bunching up of artillery units cannot be avoided. Here, however, it is of advantage in that it permits a rapid shift of fire, thus assuring direct support for large parts of the front without displacement to new positions. Also, centralized fire direction can be more easily established. A practice that proved particularly effective was the firing of a few batteries at a time, while the bulk of the artillery remained silent to avoid counterbattery fire. Massed artillery went into action only against large-scale enemy attacks.
3. Armor and Antitank Weapons
In the defense of pockets, tanks and assault guns have a dual mission. Contrary to the rules of armored combat under ordinary cir-
cumstances, they are scattered among the infantry and take part in the small-scale fighting along the perimeter. At the same time, they must be able to revert quickly to their original formation whenever they have to be used as mobile reserve against major enemy attacks. Similarly, the proper place for antitank weapons is with the front-line infantry. An antitank defense echeloned in depth, as is preferable in most other situations, must be ruled out for the same reasons that apply to the employment of the infantry.
The necessity for tight organization inside the pocket has already been emphasized. This applies particularly to traffic control which must be so enforced as to assure order and discipline, and to prevent panic. It may be necessary, for this purpose, to employ not only all available military police but also seasoned combat troops under the command of forceful and experienced officers.
All measures that must be taken inside a pocket will vary depending upon local circumstances; no two situations are alike. Therefore, set rules cannot be prescribed for fighting in pockets any more than for other types of military operations. Nevertheless, the fundamental principles outlined above seem to apply whenever troops are encircled by the enemy.
So long as the encirclement has not been completed—or before the enemy ring has been reinforced—an immediate break-through offers the best chance of success. Few tactical preparations will be necessary, if a command faced with encirclement can exploit the opportune moment by breaking out as soon as the enemy's intentions have been recognized. In most instances, however, all elements of the surrounded force will be locked in battle for several days, and the opportunity for such immediate action will pass before the situation in the pocket has become sufficiently clear. Then, especially in the case of larger pockets, a breakout can be launched only after the most careful preparations which must include some or all of the following considerations and measures.
Unless the encircled forces have explicit orders to remain in place, or are so weak that they must rely on relief from the outside, the decision to break out must be made before the enemy has been able to forge a firm ring around the pocket. Only if this is done, and only if preparations are begun without delay, will all measures become part of one coherent plan, directed toward a single objective.
Such situations bring out the innate aggressiveness, flexibility; and initiative of a born leader. The need for quick decisions, however, must not be permitted to cause action without plan. The proper time
and direction for the breakout, for instance, can only be determined after the following questions have been answered:
a. When—according to the tactical situation—is the earliest suitable moment for launching the attack?
b. Where is the enemy the weakest?
c. Which is the shortest way back to friendly lines?
d. What direction of attack would involve the least terrain difficulties ?
e. What time of day and what weather conditions are most favorable for the attack?
f. Should one or several directions be selected for the breakout?
The answers to these questions will vary according to the situation, as can be seen from the preceding chapters. Actually, there may be situations in which—contrary to the principles advanced above—the direction for the breakout should not be fixed too early, at least not until the enemy's intentions can be clearly recognized. (Ch. 5)
As a rule, unless the breakout is to be co-ordinated with the approach of a relief force from the outside, the units fighting their way out should follow the shortest route back to their own lines. In many instances the direction most favorable in terms of terrain and enemy resistance cannot be used if it does not permit a link-up with friendly forces in the shortest possible time. With troops in good fighting condition, the attack can be launched at night; if they are battle weary, the breakout must be made in the daytime, so as to obtain better control and co-ordination.
A breakout in several directions offers the least chance of success. It is attempted as a last resort, in order to obtain a greater dispersal of one's own forces, which might enable some small units to fight their way back to their own lines. Such an attempt is more or less an act of desperation—when relief from the outside cannot be expected, and the distance to the nearest friendly lines has become so great that it can no longer be bridged by the exhausted pocket force.
A successful breakout is the result of sound planning and systematic preparation. It is also one of the most difficult combat maneuvers that a military force can be called upon to attempt. This fact must be taken into account in all preparatory measures. Prior to the breakout, for instance, the troops should be stripped of all unnecessary equipment, that is, of all equipment they might not need during the fighting of the next few days. This must be done without hesitation and without regard to their possible future requirements, should they have to be committed again after the breakout. The easier the lost equipment can be replaced afterwards, the less weight will be
given to such considerations. German commanders in World War II were never allowed to forget that every weapon and vehicle was virtually irreplaceable—a typical sign of a "poor man's war." To some other nations, however, these limitations do not necessarily apply.
Until the pocket force is entirely surrounded by the enemy—but as soon as encirclement appears inevitable—the last open road must be utilized for the evacuation of casualties and of all nonessential staff sections, detachments, and service troops. If there is still time, excess weapons and equipment may be moved out over the same road. The commander should not fail, however, to make full use of this last opportunity to get rid of rear echelon troops; in an encirclement they are a greater burden than superfluous equipment, which can be destroyed if necessary.
Technical preparations in the pocket begin with what might be called the "big clean-up." All weapons that cannot be fully manned or adequately supplied with ammunition must be destroyed. The same is true of all heavy guns that might be a hindrance in view of expected terrain difficulties, as for instance all artillery pieces of more than 150-mm. caliber. As a rule, it is better to destroy one gun too many, than to drag along a single weapon that cannot be employed.
Similar principles apply to the destruction of motor vehicles. Exactly how many are to be destroyed will depend upon the availability of fuel and the requirements for the transportation of casualties and indispensable equipment; in any event, the majority of vehicles will have to be destroyed. Hardest hit by these radical measures are usually the supply services. Here, only a forceful officer in charge of destruction will be able to carry out his mission successfully.
Official papers are another victim of the general clean-up. Their destruction is a task that every soldier will undertake with fiendish pleasure. Files, administrative forms, voluminous war diaries, orders, regulations, and directives are consigned to the flames—the higher the classification, the greater must be the care taken to assure that they are completely destroyed. Only the most important papers, radio codes, and in some cases personnel files, may be left intact, so long as there is hope that they might be saved.
Effective traffic regulation is a prerequisite for all tactical moves inside the pocket. If an adequate road net exists, separate routes must be designated for the movement of supply units and combat troops, and even for armor and infantry. The Germans found it expedient to co-ordinate all traffic in a pocket by preparing a regular timetable that had to be strictly observed.
However, the problem of traffic regulation inside a pocket is not confined to troop movements. The most carefully devised system of traffic control can be upset by streams of fleeing civilians who are likely to be stricken with panic when caught in a pocket. As a rule,
therefore, it is imperative for the security of the encircled force to prohibit and prevent any movement of local inhabitants. Only in rare cases will it be possible to take along part of the civilian population during a breakout. Then, while the roads are kept clear, special paths must be assigned for the treks of civilians. Particularly in large pockets, the question whether able-bodied male inhabitants should be taken along or left behind deserves careful consideration; it can only be decided on the basis of local circumstances.
Extensive preparations will also be necessary if an encircled force is to be supplied by air; these preparations are described in detail in the Appendix to this study.
In an encirclement a deliberate effort must be made to increase the effective strength of the combat element at the expense of the service units. Selecting the proper personnel to be transferred from rear echelon to combat duty may be a slow process, but it is of the greatest importance at a time when active fighters are needed more than anything else. In such situations, the service units—having grown out of proportion to the combat element—are largely superfluous and actually impose a heavy burden on the command. At best, they constitute a manpower reserve which, after a thorough process of selection, will yield additional personnel for combat duty. One should not expect too much of this reserve—while it is composed of military personnel, it will include few combat soldiers. Assigning an excessive number of rear echelon troops to front-line duty will only swell the numerical strength of the combat element without, however, increasing its fighting power to the same degree. The procedure completely loses its usefulness when the men transferred from service units are no longer a reinforcement of, but a burden to, the combat element. Rear echelon troops whose services have become superfluous and who can no longer be evacuated, should be placed in a single unit and held under firm control.
Demolitions, which are to prevent rapid pursuit by the enemy or to slow his exploitation of recently abandoned terrain, are to be ordered and executed in time; condemned artillery ammunition makes a good explosive for this purpose. It is advisable, however, to confine such demolitions to a few important objects. Experience has shown that as a rule the troops have neither the time nor the inclination to carry out extensive and time-consuming missions of destruction. On the other hand, the commander must take care to prevent senseless mass demolitions born of a spirit of destructiveness that is characteristic of encircled troops.
The success of a breakout will depend primarily upon the use of deception and the maintenance of secrecy. The fewer subordinate commanders informed about the actual breakout plan, the greater the chances that secrecy can be maintained. Especially telephone and radio communications must be carefully guarded. At the same time, radio offers the best means for deceiving the enemy. This may be done by transmitting dummy messages about one's own intentions, calls to imaginary relief units, reports that will confuse the enemy about the actual strength of the pocket force, misleading requisitions for supplies, and false information about drop zones and landing areas. All these ruses are certain to reduce the number of casualties during the breakout.
Tactical feints and deceptive maneuvers must go hand in hand with the measures suggested above. By moving into different positions every night, launching attacks with limited objective from various points of the perimeter, and stubbornly holding on to unimportant terrain features, the encircled force must deliberately convey to the enemy a false picture of its situation and of its intentions. This purpose can also be served by having a sizeable column composed of all available supply units move laterally across the sector from which the breakout will eventually be launched.
Effective deception can always be achieved by concentrating armor at a point other than that of the intended breakout. If these tanks proceed to execute a feint attack, the enemy, believing that he has located the main effort of the breakout force, will almost certainly divert the bulk of his forces to the threatened point. The attacking tanks are then shifted rapidly into the direction of the main break-through, and success will usually follow. (Ch. 2) Such deceptive measures by tanks, depending of course upon the fuel situation, should be used both in the defense of the pocket perimeter and—as an ace in the hole—immediately before the breakout is launched. The desired result can often be achieved by having a single tank drive in circles at night to feign the assembly of a large armored unit. No matter what measures of deception are used, they will only serve their purpose if they enable the breakout force to take the enemy by surprise. In this respect the preparations for a breakout do not differ from preparations for any other type of attack. Here, as in any offensive action, secrecy, deception, and surprise are the basic elements of success.
The most important tactical preparations for the breakout—apart from diversionary attacks—are concerned with the gradual change of emphasis from the defense of the perimeter to the formation of a strong breakout force. As the situation permits, every soldier who can be spared from the purely defensive sectors must be transferred— possibly after a rest period—to the area selected for the breakout.
This will weaken the defense and, in some places, necessitate a shortening of the line which may involve considerable risks. Enemy penetrations are likely to occur, and such local crises, although they may have little or no effect upon the over-all situation, are usually overestimated by the commanders on the spot. These difficulties, of course, are greatly reduced if the entire pocket keeps moving in the general direction of the breakout. The necessary shifting of forces is then more easily accomplished, and minor losses of terrain on the defensive front are no longer regarded as serious setbacks. The advantage of a moving pocket in terms of morale is obvious. No claustrophobia will develop because the troops are spared the feeling that they are making a last stand in a pocket from which there is no escape.
During the defense of a pocket, local crises are a daily occurrence. The pocket commander and his staff must be ready at any moment to take the necessary countermeasures against serious emergencies. Actually, each passing hour may bring new surprises and call for new decisions, and it is not always easy to distinguish between important and unimportant developments. The commander must keep in mind that his reserves are limited and should not be committed unless a major threat develops at a decisive point. It is a result of the unusual tension prevailing in a pocket that purely local emergenices are often exaggerated and may lead to urgent calls for assistance. Frequently, such local crises subside before long, and the situation can be restored without the use of reserves—provided the pocket commander does not permit himself to be needlessly alarmed.
At this point a few words might be added concerning the attitude that must be displayed by the pocket commander and his staff. In the midst of rapidly changing events the command element must be a tower of strength. The troops observe its every action with keen eyes. In this respect even the location of the command post is of particular importance. While it should be centrally located, its proximity to the momentary center of gravity is even more desirable. Never should the operations of an encircled force be conducted by remote control, from a headquarters on the outside. This proved to be an impossibility, both from a practical point of view and because of its disastrous effect upon the morale of the troops. By the same token, no member of the command group must be permitted to leave the pocket by air. Reassuring information, brief orders issued in clear language, and frequent visits by the commander and his staff to critical points along the perimeter will have an immediate beneficial influence upon the morale of the pocket force. At the same time, exaggerated optimism is definitely out of place. The troops want to know the truth and will eventually discover it for themselves. They are certain to lose confidence if they find out that their com-
menders have been tampering with the facts in an attempt to make the situation look brighter than it actually is. As a rule, the truth told without a show of nervousness cannot fail to have a reassuring effect and might even stir the troops to greater effort.
Arranged in their proper sequence, the tactical measures leading up to the breakout are the following:
a. Emphasis on defense; all weapons committed in support of the fighting along the perimeter.
b. Establishment of clear channels of command.
c. Stabilization of the defense.
d. Reinforcement of the combat element at the expense of the service units.
e. Evacuation of nonessential personnel; destruction of excess equipment.
f. Gradual change of emphasis from the defense to preparations for the breakout attack.
g. Formation of a breakout force.
h. Shortening of the defense perimeter; further strengthening of the sector selected for the breakout.
i. Deceptive maneuvers culminating in a diversionary attack.
The supply reserves carried in a pocket should be no more than what the force will presumably need until the day of the breakout. Sizable stores canot be kept; they must either be given away or destroyed, regardless of quality or quantity. In such situations the Germans found it useful to prepare so-called individual supply packages which were composed of all kinds of items for certain units and could be distributed in advance to the points where they would be needed later on. Surplus rations can be issued to the troops for immediate consumption, but if this is done too generously it is likely to decrease their fighting power. The local population will always gratefully accept whatever the troops can spare.
If a pocket force is without adequate supplies and, particularly, if the required fuel and ammunition can only be brought in by air, the escape from encirclement must be accomplished as quickly as possible. Supply by air cannot satisfy all the requirements of an encircled force; it can only remedy some of the most important deficiencies. This fact was demonstrated during the operations described in the preceding chapters and confirmed by the personal experience of the author. It is not likely to change, even if absolute superiority in the air is assured and an adequate number of planes can be assigned to the operation.
One of the most important logistical problems is that of evacuating casualties. Whether or not the wounded are taken along has a profound effect upon the morale of the encircled troops. Any measure from which they might derive the slightest indication that wounded personnel is to be left behind will immediately reduce their fighting spirit, especially if they are facing an enemy like the Russians. In such situations the commanders are under the strongest moral obligation to take the wounded along and must bend every effort to make this possible. German experience has shown that minor casualties can endure transportation over considerable distances on horse-drawn vehicles padded with straw, even in very cold weather and during snowstorms. On such movements the wounded were accompanied by medical officers who administered every possible aid during the frequent halts. The German troops encircled near Kamenets-Podolskly (Ch. 5) regarded their convoy of casualties as their sacred trust and fought all the more stubbornly to protect their wounded comrades. Consequently, it was possible to evacuate nearly all casualties during that operation. In the pocket near Cherkassy (Ch. 4) the situation was less favorable. There, because of the most severe weather conditions and a confused tactical situation, the wounded had to be left behind in the care of doctors and other medical personnel.
Every opportunity should be used to evacuate casualties by air. They must have priority on transport planes returning from a pocket, and this priority must be assured, if necessary, by force of arms. The desperate struggle for space aboard transport planes in the pocket of Stalingrad should serve as a warning for situations of this kind.
The difficulties encountered by an encircled force may be considerably reduced if strong relief forces are available in the vicinity of the pocket. Even inadequate attempts at relief from the outside are better than none at all. The basis for real success, however, is the employment of experienced troops in the best fighting condition who are not likely to bog down at the half-way mark. The need for relief from the outside depends, of course, on the tactical situation and the physical condition of the encircled force; it is greatest when the troops inside the pocket are battle worn and show signs of weakening; it may appear less urgent in other situations. But wherever friendly troops are surrounded by the enemy, assistance from the outside is desirable and should be provided without delay.
Such relief operations must be planned with the same care that is used in preparing every action of the encircled force. This applies to the selection of the route of advance, the choice of the proper moment for the attack, and the timely allocation of fuel and ammuni-
tion. A relief thrust cannot be launched on the spur of the moment, and undue haste will surely result in failure. Tactical preparations must follow the same principles as those for any other type of attack. The necessary strength of the relief force must be determined on the basis of the enemy situation and the distance to the objective. In most cases armor and adequate artillery support will be indispensable. All relief forces must be under one command, even if they consist of units that were originally parts of two separate armies. (Ch. 4)
Preparatory measures in the fields of supply and administration will greatly exceed those that might be taken for an ordinary attack, since the relief force must try to anticipate the needs of the troops breaking out of the pocket. All kinds of supplies, especially stimulants, must be held ready in sufficient quantities; rescue and rehabilitation areas must be prepared; and facilities must be provided that will improve the physical condition and the morale of the pocket force. Among these are troop quarters (heated shelter in winter), bathing facilities, clothing, and arrangements for mail service. These measures play an important part in getting the pocket force back into shape and ready for renewed commitment. Proper care for the wounded must be assured by assembling all available medical personnel and preparing shelter for the pocket casualties. Information as to the number of wounded inside the pocket must be obtained by radio.
The decision as to the time and place for launching the relief attack depends on specific arrangements with the pocket force. Unless a safe wire communication exists, such arrangements can only be made by radio, in which case great care must be taken to maintain secrecy. The distance to the pocket may be so great as to require the use of special types of radio equipment. In such situations the Germans used their so-called Dezimetergeraet, a microwave radio set operating on frequencies between 500 and 600 megacycles.
If at all possible, the relief attack must be launched on a broad front. A single thrust confined to a narrow frontage has little chance of success and is justified only if insufficient forces are available. (Ch. 2) The relief force, in this case, will have its long flanks dangerously exposed and will hardly be able to reach its objective. If such an emergency method must be used, the operation should be carried out at night.
The conduct of the relief operation must be marked by a high degree of flexibility. Frequently a prearranged plan must be discarded or modified because of unexpected enemy action, particularly if such action is directed against the troops attempting to escape from the pocket. The joint effort of the two converging elements must be geared to the needs of the encircled units who are always fighting under less favorable circumstances than the relief force. The
latter must be able to react with swift and effective countermeasures to unforeseen changes in the situation.
The battle west of Cherkassy (Ch. 4) clearly demonstrated what difficulties can be encountered in a relief operation. There, all efforts were frustrated by a combination of unfortunate circumstances. The sudden start of the muddy season had rendered the terrain virtually impassable. Relief forces approaching from the south were whittled down in numerous local engagements before they could be assembled for the main attack. Complicated channels of command and diverging directions of attack further added to the confusion. Certainly, flexibility was lacking in the conduct of the relief operation from the west. The breakout, to be sure, did not proceed entirely according to plan, as the majority of the troops emerging from the pocket missed their direction. Even then they followed a line of advance only a few miles south from the one that had been agreed upon. Because of this minor change, the relief force proved unable to link up with the pocket forces at the point where they had actually pierced the ring of encirclement.
Once the pocket force has begun its break-through in the direction of friendly lines, it must apply the same tactical principles and will be subject to the same contingencies as in any other type of attack. A particular difficulty lies in co-ordinating this effort with that of the relief force, for the purpose of accomplishing a junction of the two converging spearheads as soon as possible. German experiences vary as to what would be the most desirable attack formation for a breakout. Since the answer to this question depends largely on the local situation, no definite rules can be offered. In any event it is advisable to adopt a mixed formation composed of motorized and nonmotorized units supported by tanks and all weapons suitable for the attack. Armored units must be held with close rein so as to prevent them front outrunning the infantry. They should only be permitted to advance by bounds, with some of the armor held back. This is a necessary precaution to prevent deep thrusts by individual armored units that can be of no advantage to the progress of the main force. Specific orders must be issued both for the timely integration of all remaining elements to be withdrawn from the defensive sectors and for the conduct of rear guard action to cover the breakout attack.
A major crisis during the breakout will arise as soon as the original plan, for some reason, can no longer be followed and improvisation must take its place. As a rule this will be the result of some unforeseen enemy action. With troops that are severely overtaxed by heavy fighting in the pocket such crises may easily lead to panic. The
call "every man for himself" is the signal for general disorder marked by useless attempts of individual soldiers to make their way back to friendly lines. This can only be prevented by firm leadership and strict control, and by taking advance measures that will anticipate such emergencies, as for instance by keeping a mobile reserve, composed of armor and antitank weapons, that can be employed with a high degree of flexibility. Even a few tanks committed at the right moment can serve as a very effective means to overcome a local crisis.
The capabilities of the troops must be carefully weighed and are the basis for the timing of the entire operation. If the troops are battle weary and if the breakout is expected to involve long and heavy fighting, the operation must be conducted in several phases to provide rest between periods of movement or combat. For reasons of security, especially in the case of small pockets, all movements should be carried out during the night. Control of the troops is greatly facilitated if the fighting can be confined to the daytime.
If a breakout must be executed without simultaneous relief from the outside, a new position should be selected in which the liberated pocket force might be able to rally and to face the pursuing enemy; in most instances that will be no more than a line designated on the map where the troops are to be reorganized after their successful escape from encirclement.
The lessons learned by the Germans during World War II on the relative value of pockets left behind the enemy lines might be summarized as follows:
a. As a method of defensive combat designed to tie down substantial enemy forces, the deliberate stand of an encircled force rarely achieves the desired result.
b. The deliberate creation of a pocket and the insistence on its continued defense can only be justified if the surrounded force consists of experienced and well-disciplined troops who are able to cope with the unusual difficulties involved in this kind of fighting. Otherwise the price will be excessive since the encircled troops are usually lost and even those who manage to escape are certain to remain unfit for combat for a long time.
c. Whenever friendly forces are cut off and surrounded by the enemy, steps must be taken without delay to assure their liberation. The senior commander of the encircled units must be immediately authorized to force a breakout. It is even better to issue a standing order at the beginning of hostilities that would make it mandatory for the commander of an encircled force to break out as soon as possible. Only then can there be any hope of saving the surrounded troops
without suffering excessive losses. The German High Command during World War II greatly overestimated the defensive value of such pockets. Orders for a breakout from encirclement were issued either much too late or not at all. This turned out to be a grave tactical error which could not fail to have a disastrous effect upon the entire conduct of operations on the Russian front.