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In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small, lightly-equipped infantry forces attacking enemy rear areas while bypassing enemy front line strongpoints and isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons.

These tactics were used by the stormtroopers of the German Army in 1917 during World War I, where they were also called Hutier tactics, after General Oskar von Hutier, who used these tactics to great effect during Operation Michael in March 1918.

The first use of German infiltration tactics occurred on 3 September 1917 when the German Eighth Army decisively ended the long siege of the Russian (now Latvian) city of Riga. The Germans employed the same tactics to break through Allied lines during the Battle of Caporetto in October 1917.

Infiltration tactics were first proposed in the Allied armies by French Army captain Andre Laffargue.[1] Laffargue published a pamphlet "The attack in trench warfare" in 1915, based upon his experiences in combat that same year. He advocated that the first wave of an attack identify hard-to-defeat defenses but not attack them; subsequent waves would do this.

The French published his pamphlet "for information", but did not implement it. The British did not even translate it. Germany captured copies of the pamphlet in 1916, but contrary to myth, they did not "put its ideas into practice." An experimental German Pioneer unit, formed in 1915 and commanded by Major Willie Rohr, had already worked out better infiltration tactics independently.[2][3] [4]

The Russian general Aleksei Brusilov developed similar tactics and used them to great effect during the Brusilov Offensive of 1916.


Hutier tactics

Infiltration attacks began with brief and violent bombardments of the enemy front lines, to suppress and demoralize the soldiers stationed there. The bombardment also targeted the enemy rear areas to destroy or disrupt roads, artillery, and command units.

This was done to confuse the enemy, and reduce their capability to launch effective counterattacks from secondary defense lines. For maximum effect, the exact points of attack remained concealed until the last possible moment.

Light infantry led these attacks. They would attempt to penetrate enemy weak points to bypass and isolate heavily-defended positions in the front line. Infantrymen with heavier weapons would then follow-up and have a great advantage when attacking the isolated enemy strong points. Other reinforcements would then enter these breaches, and the entire enemy line would shortly collapse. The attacks relied heavily on speed and surprise.

This tactic initially worked well and saw heavy use. However, because of this extensive implementation, the enemy quickly developed effective defenses. Also, as in the case of the more traditional mass attack, reserve troops following the assault units had to consolidate any gains against an enemy counterattack.

One of the problems of World War I was that even when a breakthrough was made, the ground was so devastated that moving up reserves and material was difficult, allowing the enemy time to regroup. Thus, even with the new tactics and their relatively light use of artillery, attacks would tend to bog down sooner or later, and no massive breakthrough was possible.

Infiltration tactics led to the creation of the modern military formation of the fire team, a small group of soldiers with a certain degree of autonomy. Similar methods were used by other armies in the Second World War where they became standard infantry tactics.

Dien Bien Phu

At the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Major Marcel Bigeard, commander of the French 6th Colonial Parachute Battalion (6th BPC), used infiltration tactics in an attempt to defend the besieged garrison against the Viet Minh trench warfare tactics. Bigeard's parachute assault companies were supported by concentrated artillery and air support, and received help from tanks, allowing two companies (1st under Lieutenant René Le Page and 2nd under Lieutenant Hervé Trapp) numbering no more than 180 men to recapture the important hilltop position of Eliane 1 from a full Viet Minh battalion, on the early morning of 10 April 1954.

Other parachute battalion and company commanders also used similar tactics during the battle.[5]


  1. ^ CSI Report No. 13: Tactical responses to concentrated artillery: Introduction (Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth).
  2. ^ Samuels, Martin Doctrine and Dogma, passim
  3. ^ Samuels, Martin Command or Control?, passim
  4. ^ Stormtroop Tactics, Appendix C and passim
  5. ^ Davidson, Vietnam at War, page 265.


  • Doctrine and dogma : German and British infantry tactics in the First World War Samuels, Martin. New York : Greenwood Press, 1992
  • Command or control? : command, training, and tactics in the British and German armies, 1888-1918 Samuels, Martin. London ; Portland, OR : Frank Cass, 1995
  • Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918, Bruce I. Gudmundsson, New York, Praeger, (January 1, 1989)
  • Davidson, Phillip B. Vietnam at War: The History, 1946–1975. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-506792-4, ISBN 0891413065.

Further reading

  • House, Jonathan M. Toward Combined Arms Warfare: A Survey of 20th-Century Tactics, Doctrine, and Organization. U.S. Army Command General Staff College, 1984. Available online (5 February 2005) or through University Press of the Pacific (Honolulu, Hawaii, 2002). ISBN 1410201597.
  • Pope, Stephen, Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, and Keith Robbins, eds. The Macmillan Dictionary of the First World War. London: Macmillan Reference Books, 1995. ISBN 033361822X.

Simple English

File:Operation Michael
Operation Michael 1918

Oskar von Hutier was one of Germany's most successful and innovative generals of World War I.

After rising to army command early in 1917, Hutier began to apply the lessons learned from his three years of commanding troops, along with his study of tactics used by other armies. He devised a new strategy for the Germans to break the stalemate of trench warfare. These tactics were to prove so successful in 1917 and 1918 that the French dubbed them "Hutier tactics", although the more commonly used term today is "infiltration tactics". [[File:|thumb|left|Schock troops in Western Front in WWI]]

Operation Michael

The first of five previewed offensives operation was called Michael. At the beginning 21 March 1918, and they took to part three armys, for a total of 42 divisions. The aim was the break through of the forehead in the junction point between the French forces (south) and those English (north), the foreheads operations between Bapaume and Saint Simon, intending then to create a wedge between the two contingents, pushing out the British Expeditionary Force towards the sea. Already the first day the defensive lines were smashed in all allies, and the Germans altogether succeeded to advance of 65 kilometers long a forehead of approximately 80 km. In theirs sweeping advancing the German troops met greater resistances in the English field that in that French. But although the successes begin coming to them, after a few days the German offensive sudden were exhausted, and beginning March 27, when the French began to engage their reservoir strategic near Amiens, not was more, for the Germans, substantial territorial gain, being left over German did not have, after all, caught up some strategically determining result, and indeed, it had lengthened the forehead and created a salient exposed to the ally counter-offensives.

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