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In military language, rear guard troops have always been the troops tasked to protect the important positions behind the front lines (if used in the defensive role) or to clear pockets of enemy resistance (if used in the offensive role).


In history

Although they have always been used in every army, particular notes can be made of 20th century styles of employing rear guard troops.

In blitzkrieg

In the inter-war period German commanders (in particular Heinz Guderian) developed the doctrine of blitzkrieg. In this military doctrine the rear guard troops (mainly dismounted infantry) were tasked to eliminate the remaining enemy groups after Panzer and motorized troops had broken through the enemy positions.

Soviet doctrine

During and after World War II the Soviets developed the doctrine of the echelons, influenced by blitzkrieg. In spite of sending all the troops to the attack, they divided the force in various parts according to the mission: for example, in a division-launched attack, a regiment could overrun enemy defenses, the second could have exploited the breech and the third (the rear guard troops) could have mopped up the enemy pockets of resistance and guard the supply lines. For example, in an hypothetical attack on NATO lines during the Cold War, the Red Army had created the operational manoeuvre groups, corps-sized units (in general 5 or 6 tank or mechanized divisions) that had to exploit the success of an attack of the shock army creating the chaos behind Western lines, leaving disorganized enemy troops to be cleared off. To counter the operative manoeuvre groups, NATO created a lot of quickly deployable units (the bulk of NATO special forces)

Rear guard troops can also be troops that protect the withdrawal of an army, blocking the enemy advance.

See also



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