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Shock tactics facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Sport and General Press Agency Collection Q53834
A Bayonet attack can be a very effective shock tactic

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.

Historic examples

The charge of the Persian scythed chariots at the battle of Gaugamela by Andre Castaigne (1898-1899)
Persian scythed chariot

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

  • 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.
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1975-102-14A, Panzer VI (Tiger II, Königstiger)
German Tiger II tanks
  • 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).

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