An elastic defense was used by most notably by Hannibal at Cannae, Daniel Morgan at Cowpens, and then polished by Ludendorff late in WW-1. Many call it ’flexible defense’ (CvC??), or ’resilient defense’. Or sometimes it is referred to as ’defense in depth’ although dummy that I am, I do not see for sure that the latter fits perfectly. A defense in depth can certainly be part of an elastic defense and vice versa. But I am stumped as to how they would fit into Venn diagrams. Zhukov at the Battle of Kursk is probably the best example of defense in depth. Petain reportedly pushed for defense in depth up to and during the 1918 Ludendorff Spring Offensive, but could not always get his subordinate generals to go along.
French General who did use an elastic defense in WW-1 was Henri Gouraud, the
one-armed Commanding General of the Fourth Army.
1918 during the 2nd Battle of the Marne the Fourth Army held a line 50 kilometers long from the Argonne Forest to
Rheims. And by-the-way in addition to
French troops the Fourth Army included the 42nd Rainbow Division (whose
CofS was young Colonel Douglas MacArthur), also the 369th Infantry
aka the Harlem Hellfighters (formerly the 15th New York National
Guard Regiment), and later the American Railroad Artillery (Naval).
is a quote from Col William Hayward, Commander of the 369th
is what Gen. Gouraud—Pa Gouraud we called him—did: He knew the Boche artillery
would at the appointed hour start firing on our front lines, believing as was
natural, that they would be strongly held. So he withdrew all his forces
including the old 15th, to the intermediate positions, which were at a safe
distance back of the front lines. Then, at the point where he expected would be
the apex of the drive he sent out two patrols, totalling sixteen men.”
sixteen split up and sent up rockets when the German attack started, mimicking signals
from regimental size units, which the Germans were assumed to know as well. They also set up unmanned machine guns all along
the line that continued to fire automatically after being started off. They had also placed gas canisters in all the
bunkers and dugouts along the line --- and then initiated the gas flow before
retreating. Meanwhile the artillery had pre-registered directly on those
NOTE: 16 would not be enough for a 50-kilometer front, so I am assuming there were many such units perhaps for each regiment at the supposed apex?
minutes before the Germans started their artillery preparation for the drive
Gen. Gouraud started his cannon going and there was a slaughter in the German
lines. Then when the German infantry crossed to our front line trenches (now
entirely vacant) they were smashed up because the French guns were firing
directly upon these positions, which they knew mathematically. And those of the
Boche who went down in the dugouts for safety were killed by the gas which the
Frenchmen had left there for them.
battle—the supreme German drive—raged over eighty-five kilometers (51 miles).
West of Rheims the enemy broke through the line, but they did not break through
anywhere in Gen. Gouraud's sector. Stonewall
Gouraud stopped them.
was the turning point of the war, because soon thereafter began Marshal Foch's
great counter thrust, in which the 1st and 2nd American Divisions participated
so wonderfully about Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry and that district. Gouraud in my belief, turned the tide of the
High praise in those underlined passages.
So did General Gouraud get the idea for such tactics from observing Ludendorff's empty battlefield technique? Most probably. But he possibly also got it from his 15 years experience in Africa where he served in the Mandingo Wars in what is now Mali and Guinea, and against Berbers, Tauregs, Hausa and other native people in Morrocco, Mali, Chad, and Mauritania.
In any case, as Wilhelm Balck is supposed to have said: “Bullets quickly write new tactics.” Too bad the butcher Field Marshals Sir John French 1st Earl of Ypres and Sir Douglas Haig 1st Earl Haig never understood that. Amazing that their nation bestowed honors and earldoms on them for their murderous incompetence.