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The Theory Of The Defensive

Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual Advanced Training

The defensive is divided into the purely passive defense and the active


The passive defense seeks merely to delay the enemy. The results can

never be other than negative. It is usually for the purpose of gaining

time and most frequently used by a rear guard. Since the idea of taking

up the offensive is absent, no strong reserves are held out for a

counter attack; the firing line is as strong as p
ssible from the first;

every advantage is taken of obstacles, natural or artificial. The flanks

must be made secure.

The active defense seeks to attack the other side at some stage of the

engagement. It seeks to win and only the offensive wins. It is often

necessary for a commander to assume the defensive (active) either

voluntarily, in order to gain time, or to secure some advantage over the

enemy; or involuntarily, as in a meeting engagement where the enemy gets

a start in deployment for action or where the enemy's attack is

impetuous and without sufficient preparation. In either case the

defensive force contents itself with parrying the blows of the enemy,

while gathering and arranging its strength, looking and waiting for the

right place and time to deliver a decisive blow which is called the

counter attack. Hence, a counter attack is the offensive movement of an

active defense. Its success greatly depends on being delivered with

vigor and at the proper time. It may be delivered in two ways:

1st--straight to the front against a weak point in the attacking line,

or 2nd--by launching the reserves against the enemy's flank after he is

fully committed to the attack. The latter method offers the greatest

chances for success and the most effective results.