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10 Strategies and Tactics Used in the History of Warfare

Strategies and Tactics Used in the History of Warfare

The best wars have been won not by strength or forces but by strategies and tactics. The goal of every war is to win, but seeking smart ways to win it with fewer casualties is important. Using warfare strategies and tactics such as learning about the enemy’s plans, creating illusions, creating bait for the enemy, and using different military techniques to beat the enemy. All such things are required to win a war and create history. Let’s learn about 10 strategies and tactics used in the history of warfare.

1. In 1398, Timur besieged Delhi by using the enemy’s elephants to charge their army. He dropped caltrops on the path of elephants and put bales of hay on the back of the camels and ignited them. Because of this, camels charged forward which scared elephants and they trampled their own troops.

Timur
Statue of the 14th Century Uzbek Leader Amir Temur (Timur) on Amir Timur Square (Maydoni) in the Center of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Image credit: Nixy Jungle/Shutterstock

The Mongol-Turkish warrior Timur-e-Lang, who was also the ruler of Central Asia, invaded India. He had the reputation of a seasoned warrior with a great military. He invaded Delhi in December 1398. During the battle of Delhi, Timur just walked in and captured it with just a unique war strategy.

Before invading Delhi, he had heard of the legendary Indian-war elephants who were heavily armored and tusks bound with swords. To defeat these war elephants he used an ingenious war tactic that forced the Indian elephants to charge their own army.

Timur asked his army to plant caltrops, which are four metal spikes with one of the spikes always pointed upwards. He planned to teach his horsemen to engage with elephants and drop caltrops on their path, but instead of this, he used the cleverest strategy. Timur ordered his troops to tie dry grass on the back of buffaloes and camels, then ignite the grass.

The panic-stricken camels and buffaloes charged madly at elephants, which scared elephants and they went on a confusing rampage, trampling their troops and destroying their army. Timur simply captured Delhi, and the next day he marched into Delhi’s Jahanpanah Fort. He then built towers out of skulls. (1, 2)

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2. The 32nd of the Chinese Thirty-Six Stratagems was the “Empty Fort Strategy.” It was used by Chinese kingdoms and was completely based on luck. This involves using reverse psychology in which fort gates were opened for the enemy to enter so they would think that an ambush was waiting for them inside causing them to eventually retreat.

Empty Fort Strategy
Image credit: 三猎 via Wikimedia.org

The “Empty Fort Strategy” used by Chinese kingdoms is the 32nd of the Chinese Thirty-Six Stratagems. This strategy involves using reverse psychology to confuse the enemy. The fort gates are opened wide for the enemies to enter but instead of entering, they retreat after thinking that an empty location might be a trap set for them and could be a setup for an ambush.

This Chinese warfare strategy is based on luck and was successfully used by Zhao Yun, Cao Cao, Wen Ping, and many more.

Cao Cao used this strategy against his rival Lü Bu. When Lü Bu arrived with 10,000 troops and Cao Cao had only a few soldiers with him, he set up this trap and defeated Lü Bu.

The Empty Fort Strategy was also used by Liu Bei’s general Zhao Yun during the Battle of Han River in 219 when Zhao Yun tricked his rival Cao Cao and defeated them in the Hanzhong Campaign. (1, 2)

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3. During WWII, to trick Nazis, British illusionist Jasper Maskelyne with his “Magic Gang” consisting of criminals, designers, chemists, etc., hid the Suez Canal with mirrors and reflectors which disoriented enemy pilots resulting in crashes. He created a ghost army consisting of 1,000 dummy tanks and fake pipelines which were easily spotted and bombarded by German aircraft.

Jasper Maskelyne
Jasper Maskelyne (Image to the left), 6-pdr anti-tank gun semi-armored portee. Image credits: strangehistory.net, No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit/Imperial War Museums via Wikimedia.org

During World War II, the British illusionist Jasper Maskelyne created a “Magic Gang” in 1941, which consisted of a carpenter, an electrician, a painter, a criminal, a chemist, a stage designer, and a picture restorer. Jasper with his Magic Gang has protected Alexandria Harbor from the German Air Force. The harbor was huge, so hiding the many ships was not an option.

Instead of hiding in Alexandria Harbor, he lit another nearby harbor. He created dummy ships and houses from mud and cardboard and lit them up. The German pilots thought that they had bombed the wrong harbor, so they dropped more at that fake harbor and saved Alexandria Harbor.

Jasper was ordered to hide the Suez Canal so British gunmen could spot Nazi planes in the dark. He hid the Canal with mirrors, lights, and reflectors, which disoriented the enemy pilots resulting in crashes.

In 1942, during the Battle of El Alamein (Egypt), he created a ghost army consisting of 1,000 dummy tanks, fake pipelines, dummy men, dummy shell flashes by the million, dummy aircraft, and dummy guns by the tens of thousands.

These were easily spotted and bombarded by the German Air Force. Jasper and his men diverted the German force towards the south with his illusion, while the British attacked the north. (Source)

4. Israeli spy, Eli Cohen, convinced Syrian officials that planting eucalyptus trees around the fortifications would be beneficial for them as Israelis will think these areas are not inhabited and would give Syrian soldiers some shade. However, his planted trees made it easy for Israeli forces to find and bomb them.

Eli Cohen
Nadia and Eli Cohen pictured in the 1960s (Image to the left), Image is used for representational purposes only. Image credits: wishnews.timesofisrael.com, pixabay.com

 In 1965, Kamel Amin Tsa’abet was hanged on charges of spying for Israel under the name of Eliahu Cohen. He was the third in line to the presidency of Syria when his secret was revealed. He infiltrated the Syrian military and government by passing secret information to Israel between 1961 and 1965.

In the early 1960s, during the Six-Day War, he strategically advised Syria to plant eucalyptus trees at military outposts in the Golan Heights. He told them these plants will help to shade Syrian soldiers and Israelis will not attack here as they will think that these areas are not inhabited.

However, his advice backfired for Syria, and they become easy targets for Israeli forces to spot and bomb. With the help of Cohen’s strategy and contributions, Israel won the 1967 Six-Day War. (1, 2)

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5. During WWII, the British captured German officers, took them to a beautiful country mansion and showered them with luxuries. They allowed officers to listen to German radio and read newspapers. The British wired the entire mansion and British intelligence listened to their conversations. This helped Britishers to learn a lot about Hitler and German military strategies.

Luxury Prison
Trent Park was home to 59 German generals during World War II. Image credit: Philafrenzy via Wikimedia.org

During World War II, thousands of German POWs were held captive in England. When one group of German generals were captured, they were taken to a high-class mansion instead of a prison. They were showered with luxuries.

They were held in a stately home, had personal servants, and were given good food and wine. They were allowed to listen to German radio and given newspapers to be updated on the war.

German generals used to think that how stupid the British were, but they didn’t know that the British have covered the mansion with listening devices. The British intelligence used to listen to all the conversation going between the Germans from their bugging devices.

They learned a lot of information about the German military and its strategies and tactics. They also learned the relations of senior commanders with Hitler. (Source)

Also read: 10 Wars That Were Fought for Ridiculous Reasons

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