I looked at some field manuals, both american and russian/soviet and I kind of understand how offense and defense on the frontline works, but the thing that I have problem with understanding is how ,exploitation" works, so is there a field manual or something that describes it in more than a page or 2? For example everywhere where I look it more or less says that the goal of a offense is to break a line in the enemy’s defense, done, but what comes after that? I’ll try to create a scenario, a small country is defending, most of what units it has are located on the frontline with the enemy. The enemy breaks the defense line and envelops/encircles those frontline units and none escape and from there you have a direct route to the capital some 50 kilometers south, but you also have 2 cities on each side of that main route, let’s say 10-20 miles from it in each direction, so, 1. do you advance straight on the capital right away through the hole that you created without focusing on those two cities, but risking that units from those cities cut your line of communication, 2. do you wait for the rest of the frontline to be destroyed to free the rest of your forces in order to capture both of those cities on the sides of the main route and advance on all fronts with same speed or do you do something else? I hope that I haven’t overcomplicated the question…
It depends on your strength versus the strength of the enemy, and the political situation of the enemy. Communication is not usually the issue but if the units from the cities are big enough to cut off your army from reinforcements and supplies if you send it to the capital you might want to deal with those units first. If you think taking the capital will win you the war, then go right to the capital is the best option if you think your army can take whoever is defending the capital.
The example that is confusing me is Poland 39, on maps it is usually represented as a few axes of advance straight to the center, while the western part, around Poznan, seems to be ,intact" at first https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/images/maps/PolandAug1939.jpg and http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/EuropeatWar/images/map.jpg , but for example on youtube animations, which are of course not reliable, but still easier to understand, it is represented like there were no real breakthroughs and exploitation on a big scale, but simply the front moving towards the center and it seems like all units were moving at the same time, instead of having someone break a hole in the defense, then others entering it, expanding it,etc. which is usually the idea someone has when you hear about blitzkrieg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50ZROzRnDaA
Pick a ficticious enemy and good guys, usually its red and blue force. But you have to base those two forces on real world enemies. The theory works the same, but there is a difference between 1945 Germany and 2016 Germany, both offence and defence.
My Preference is a option 1, thunder run to the capital and your boot on his neck, the speed of your advance will determine the feed back of the other two cities, and what what their garrison forces bring to the table.
First part of option two is military choice, but the second part that I italizced is political control. Which is to say that you halt about ten miles from the capital and let the diplomats get to work. If your at that point , the war is pretty much done anyways, so whats the point of taking casualties in a mout enviroment, if you dont have to.
Then you have Bagdad.
If you encircle most of the enemy army and it doesn’t escape, you’re effectively beyond issues of exploitation.
Exploitation involves leveraging a breakthrough to achieve something – usually, the encirclement of enemy forces.
Your example of “which city to aim for” brings to mind Liddell-Hart’s “indirect approach,” a principle of attack in which you seek to confuse the enemy as to your objective. In purest form, you wouldn’t decide which city to take; you’d advance on a line between them and wait for your enemy to commit to defending one or the other (or both). Then you’d proceed to take advantage of whatever mistakes or vulnerabilities this response created.
Liddell-Hart praised US Civil War general Sherman for this strategy. Of course, Sherman was operating at a considerable advantage. But often he’d aim his marches to threaten multiple objectives, intending to snap up whichever were least well-defended. And surprisingly often, his enemies couldn’t decide which objectives to defend and abandoned all of them without serious fighting.
Thanks everyone, here’s a real life scenario that could maybe be applicable, a modified 1991 Croatian war scenario, in 1991 Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia and Serbian parts of Croatia declared independence from Croatia in return ( map https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Map_of_Republika_Srpska_Krajina.png ) , Yugoslav forces remained in those territories for some short time and fought there, the main action was the battle for the eastern city of Vukovar, after a few months Yugoslavia captured it, but after that (end of 1991, the war lasted for a few more years until August 1995) Yugoslavia withdrew and left local Serbian forces there, which didn’t have that many troops, equipment,etc. , but, what if Yugoslav forces decided to invade Croatia from that east direction after the fall of Vukovar? Since Croatians didn’t have that big of a military then let’s assume that Yugoslavia broke their defenses, would Yugoslavia 1.capture Osijek, Bjelovar, Sisak and a few other cities on the way to Zagreb ( http://www.visit-croatia.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/croatia_map1.jpg ) or would it 2. advance straight to Zagreb in the west-center?
After the German breakthrough during the campaign of France, the allies where exactly in this confusing situation : would the German head east to attack the Maginot line from behind, south to take Paris, or west to cut off the armies that had entered Belgium?
Apart from that, there’s no answer to the OP question, it’w way too dependant on circumstances. Taking a capital doesn’t mean you get some sort of automatic win, so you can’t make any kind of general statement.
Modern warfare tends to utilize the concept of a “front” or “front lines”, where there’s a sort of imaginary line where the enemy’s on one side of the line, and the friendlies are facing them on the other side. The reason that they’re “lines” is because you don’t want the enemy to get beside your units and fire at them from the side and the front (flanked/enfilade). So you string the units out so that all your units and all of theirs (ideally) are front-to-front.
Behind the “lines”, there are a bunch of relatively soft things (i.e. not meant for directly engaging enemy forces) like headquarters units, field kitchens, communication units, supply depots, fuel distribution infrastructure, and so on.
Generally speaking, the fighting happens along that line where the enemy and friendly forces face each other. When one side or the other achieves a “breakthrough”, it means that they either destroyed or routed the enemy troops across from them- through better tactics, more fire support, sheer numbers, etc…
Exploitation is when the fast moving armored forces go through that breakthrough gap that’s been created and get in among the soft units behind the line, destroying communications, supplies, etc… and also forcing the line units to rather quickly retreat, or risk being surrounded/flanked.
That’s why good generals tend to keep a mobile reserve- they can rush them to breakthroughs and cut them off / destroy them, and keep the line stable.
In an operational sense, it’s much the same, except that the soft targets are cities and large scale supply dumps, rail yards, etc…