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Author Topic: Battle: what is? & Operation: what is?  (Read 8514 times)


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« on: 26 December 2008, 11:56:07 »


Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, wherein each group will seek to defeat the others within the scope of a military campaign.
The definition of a battle can not be arrived only through the names of historical battles, many of which are a misnomer.
The word battle is a loanword in English from the Old French bataille first attested in 1297, and is itself a borrowing from Late Latin battualia, meaning "exercise of soldiers and gladiators in fighting and fencing," from Latin battuere "beat", from which the English word battery is also derived via Middle English batri and comes from the staged battles in the Colosseum in Rome that may have numbered 10,000 individuals.
In general a battle during the 20th century was, and continues to be defined by the combat between opposing forces representing major components of total forces committed to the military campaign, used to achieve a specific military objectives, within a time-frame of less than a month.
The use of the term "battle" in military history has led to its misuse when referring to almost any scale of combat, notably by strategic forces involving hundreds of thousands of troops that may be engaged in either a single battle at one time (Battle of Leipzig) or multiple operations (Battle of Kursk).

There are numerous types of battles:

    * A battle of encounter is a meeting engagement where the opposing sides collide in the field without either having prepared their attack or defence.

    * A battle of attrition aims to inflict losses on an enemy that are less sustainable compared to one's own losses. These need not be greater numerical losses - if one side is much more numerous than the other then pursuing a strategy based on attrition can work even if casualties on both sides are relatively equal. Many battles of the Western Front in the First World War were intentionally (Verdun) or unintentionally (Somme) attrition battles.

    * A battle of breakthrough aims to pierce the enemy's defences, thereby exposing the vulnerable flanks which can be turned.

    * A battle of encirclement—the Kesselschlacht of the German Blitzkrieg—surrounds the enemy in a pocket.

    * A battle of envelopment involves an attack on one or both flanks; the classic example being the double-envelopment of the Battle of Cannae.

    * A battle of annihilation is one in which the defeated party is destroyed in the field, such as the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.



Military operations are the combat executions of military plans often referred to by a code name for the purpose of security. Military operations are often known for their more generally accepted common usage names then their actual operational objectives.

Military operations can be classified by the scale and scope of force employment, and their impact on the wider conflict. The scope of military operations can be:

    * Theatre: this describes an operation over a large, often continental area of operation and represents a strategic national commitment to the conflict such as Operation Barbarossa, with general goals that encompass areas of consideration outside of the military such as the economic and political impacts.

    * Campaign: this describes either a subset of the theatre operation, or a more limited geographic and operational strategic commitment such as Battle of Britain, and need not represent total national commitment to a conflict, or have broader goals outside of the military impacts.

    * Operational battle: this describes a subset of a campaign that will have specific military goals and geographic objectives, as well as clearly defined use of forces such as the Battle of Gallipoli, which operationally was a combined arms operation originally known as the "Dardanelles landings" as part of the Dardanelles Campaign, where about 480,000 Allied troops took part.

    * Engagement: this describes a tactical combat event of contest for specific area or objective by actions of distinct units. For example the Battle of Kursk, also known from its German designation as Operation Citadel, included many separate engagements, several of which were combined into the Battle of Prokhorovka. The "Battle of Kursk" in addition to describing the initial German offensive operation (or simply an offensive), also included two Soviet counter-offensive operations Operation Kutuzov and Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev.

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« Reply #1 on: 24 March 2012, 19:15:31 »

The definitions of what a battle and operation/campaign is has blurred as time goes on.

In times past a battle was two forces in a relatively small area fighting until one side quit fighting. For the most part by forces that a single commander could 'see'. The size of the forces could be anything from a few men per side to hundreds of thousands of men per side. It could take anywhere from a few minutes to days to fight it out.

For instance:

The Battle of Antietam was a single day fight in the American Civil War that produced the single most American casualties in the history of the United States. There were roughly 38,000 men involved and the battle created 3,654 killed and 17,292 wounded.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a three day fight in the American Civil War that had the most soldiers involved. There were 165,620 men engaged with 7,863 being killed and 27,224 wounded.

The Battle of Barbourville, Kentucky had about 1,100 soldiers involved and 20 total casualties.

Operations, or campaigns, the term is interchangeable, are different because they are often over a much larger area and take place over an extended period of time that the forces of both sides are not in constant combat with each other.

For instance:

The Maryland Campaign of 1862 was a series of movements by the Confederate forces to invade Union territory starting 3 September 1862 through 20 September 1862. It included three separate battles. The Battle of Harpers Ferry, The Battle of South Mountain and the Battle of Antietam.

The blurring of the two terms of battle and operation/campaign starts to develop around the time of World War I. The main reason for the blurring of the definition is an advance in communication technology. The greater the ability of a single man to control forces outside his own personal range of vision the wider the term battle was used to describe the outcome.

Now we have terms coming into use such as the Battle for Normandy, the Battle for Stalingrad, the Battle of Kursk or the Battle of the Bulge. Combat engagements which were spread over long distances and over long periods of time. By earlier definitions these would have been campaigns or operations.

Some such as the Battle for Moscow or Operation Typhoon are used interchangeably to describe the same event.

Now, the definitions are more goal oriented.

A battle has a short term tactical goal, usually within a few days duration. The destruction of a relatively small enemy force or the seizure of a specific local terrain location, or both being the determining factor.

An operation, or campaign, has a longer term duration. Which has the goal destroying large enemy forces or seizure of a large region of terrain.

A strategic operation, or campaign, takes that one step further with the goal of destroying the enemies ability to wage by destroying it's ability to field, supply or support it's nations armies in the field.

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« Reply #2 on: 6 October 2012, 15:18:16 »

I am with MR here, except for one point (which might be of a language induced misunderstanding):

From my POV a campaign is a series (MR used that world also but maybe did not conoctated the importance of it) of operations.

Some of those operations might result in battles, others not.


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