Deep Maneuver

Historical Case Studies of Maneuver in Large-Scale Combat Operations

Jack D. Kem, PhD

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Residents of Lodz, Poland, greet Soviet tank crews in 1945 as they enter the city. (Photo courtesy of the State Archive of the Russian Federation)

Deep attack is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity to winning.

—Gen. Donn A. Starry

All right Mister, let me tell you what winning means … you’re willing to go longer, work harder, give more than anyone else.

—Vince Lombardi

The terms deep maneuver, deep attack, and deep operations have been prominent in Army doctrine for many years. The concept of deep operations relates to extending operations in time, space, and purpose to gain an advantage over enemy forces and capabilities before adversaries can use their capabilities against friendly forces.1

Field Manual 3-0, Operations, emphasizes this concept of extending operations in time, space, and purpose to gain an advantage over potential peer enemies in highly contested, lethal environments to prevail and win.2 Deep maneuver, the employment of forces using the combination of movement and fires to gain a position of relative advantage over enemies, is fundamental to warfighting.3

Deep maneuver for large-scale combat operations (LSCO) at the division and corps level has not been practiced for many years in the U.S. Army. The focus on stability operations and protracted counterinsurgency campaigns caused a shift away from LSCO and conducting deep maneuver. The current operational environment demands that we, once again, sharpen our focus on the threats that exist today, and that we study deep maneuver as a core competency.

So, we turn to the past to study both the successes and failures of deep maneuver in warfighting. Deep Maneuver: Historical Case Studies of Maneuver in Large-Scale Combat Operations is a collection of eleven chronologically ordered historical case studies drawn from the past one hundred years with lessons for modern LSCO. Included in the collection are case studies from World War II, the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The last two chapters provide perspectives on the future of deep maneuver.

The authors were asked to look at deep operations regarding time, space, and purpose; the default is to think of deep maneuver only in terms of space, but time and purpose are critical factors to understand the concept of deep operations. We also asked the authors to not only include successes but to also include failures and shortfalls. Each chapter is relatively short and is focused on deep maneuver. When possible, the authors provided their insight into the implications of the lessons learned—or not learned.

Deep operations require boldness and audacity, and yet carry an element of risk as a result of overextension. Readers should carefully review these case studies and reflect on the components that still apply today and in the future as well as consider those components that are not applicable today. The critical role of commanders communicating their vision regarding purpose and end state are enduring; weapon systems and their capabilities are ever-changing. Balancing boldness and risk are enduring challenges; geography and weather are situationally independent. Readers should read, study, and analyze each case study in light of these considerations.

Edward P. Shanahan studies the German penetration of the Ardennes in May 1940 in chapter 1’s “Surprise: The XIX Panzer Corps’ Lightning Advance into France, May 1940.” The Wehrmacht’s operations took less than one week to shatter the French army; in less than three weeks, the Germans had conquered France and had driven the British army from the European continent. This element of surprise—attacking in a way that was completely unexpected—allowed the German army to accomplish in six days what they had only attempted to complete in World War I.

Glen L. Scott addresses operations in northern Africa in November 1941 in “Considerations for Deep Maneuver: Operation ‘Crusader.’” Chapter 2, focused on corps-level operations, details the actions of the British XXX Corps, which had moved deep into Axis territory to fight the German Afrika Korps. Initially, Lt. Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps achieved a tactical victory in a series of battles and maneuvers. Rommel then led the Axis mobile forces on a bold, but futile, maneuver designed to encircle the British 8th Army and break their will to continue the offensive. At the end of the operation, neither side had a conclusive victory.

Chapter 3, “The Debaltsevo Raid by the Bashkir Cavalry Division during ‘Operation Gallop,’ February 1943,” by Robert F. Baumann and William E. Bassett, outlines a 1943 raid by the most-decorated Soviet division in World War II, the 112th “Bashkir” Cavalry Division, which would later be redesignated as the 16th Guards Cavalry Division. The division, which began the operation at only 48 percent strength, conducted two successive major operations and months of hard combat against some of the best German divisions fielded during World War II. The 112th Cavalry Division penetrated German defenses and achieved tactical mission objectives but complicated coordinated operations with friendly units over vast distances.

Christopher J. Shepherd describes the second invasion of Western Europe (after Normandy) along the Southern Riviera known as Operation Dragoon in chapter 4’s “Creating Operational Depth through Coalition Integration.” The objectives of Dragoon were to secure the ports of Marseille and Toulon, which enabled the logistical support for the Allies continued efforts through France and into Germany. A key consideration for this operation was the integration of U.S., French, and British forces, including the U.S. Seventh Army, the French Armée B, the American VI Corps, the American-Canadian First Special Service Force, the First Airborne Task Force, the French Group of Commandos, and French Naval Assault Group.

In December 1944, Adolf Hitler’s Fifth and Sixth Panzer armies attacked the U.S. First Army in the Ardennes Forest of eastern Belgium, a surprise move that penetrated the Army’s front and created a large salient in the Allied lines known as “the Bulge.” Rather than focusing on the defense in the early days of the German offensive, Dean A. Nowowiejski’s chapter, “Command Decisions on Counterattack and Deep Envelopment in the Battle of the Bulge,” focuses on the decisions that the Allied generals made to counterattack the German salient to save Bastogne and, most importantly, the decisions they made to remove the Bulge itself. Nowowiejski specifically addresses the employment of counterattacks in the Battle of the Bulge to not only gain a position of tactical advantage but also to achieve the larger purpose of counterattacking to stop the enemy and to take the initiative away from the enemy through envelopment.

An Interim Armored Vehicle “Stryker” and AH-64 Apache helicopters move to secure an area 15 June 2018 during a lethality demonstration for exercise Puma 2 with Battle Group Poland as part of Saber Strike 18 at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland. The exercise tested allies and partners from nineteen countries on their ability work together to deter aggression in the region and improved each unit’s ability to perform its designated mission. (Photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III, U.S. Army)

Chapter 6, “Vistula to the Oder: Soviet Deep Maneuver in 1945,” is the final chapter that addresses World War II deep maneuver and is written by Timothy Heck. By 1945, the Soviet army had pushed the German army back to Poland’s Vistula River. It then planned a series of front-sized campaigns to defeat the Germans and liberate Berlin. The Vistula-Oder Offensive was the main Soviet effort in these 1945 campaigns. The offensive was conducted on two fronts, each consisting of ten armies (approximately 2.2 million men), an air army, and four to five corps-sized mobile groups, giving the two front commanders the ability to echelon their forces for breakthrough and exploitation phases. The application of mass and tempo, along with the necessary enablers, were fundamental to Soviet success when conducting large-scale maneuver in depth during the Vistula-Oder Offensive.

We shift away from the case studies of World War II in chapter 7. In Ronnie L. Coutts’s “The Israeli Experience: The Apogee of Blitzkrieg,” he describes the adoption of the deep maneuver concept in 1967 and 1973, necessitated by the lack of maneuver space by the Israelis and the need to avoid deliberate battles of destruction. In 1967, Gen. Israel Tal’s Ugda (division) conducted rapid deep maneuver across the Sinai to quickly bring the battle into Arab territory; and in 1973, Gen. Ariel Sharon gambled by attacking across the Suez Canal into Egyptian rear areas—a gamble that was won only due to the piecemeal attacks by the Egyptians.

Col. Paul Berg and Ken Tilley’s chapter, “Task Force Normandy: Deep Operation that Started Operation Desert Storm,” describes the initial strikes in Operation Desert Storm by Task Force Normandy in January 1991. This operation by Task Force Normandy displayed the effects of dramatic changes in thinking about the dimensional multi-domain battlefield and how to organize and fight in it. Task Force Normandy helped to prove the doctrinal ideas about deep attack operations in LSCO and aviation in the 1990s. In addition, this deep maneuver mission also proved the importance of moving toward joint integrated operations that were fundamental in the thinking of future Army doctrine and the continued concepts of current LSCO.

A CH-47 Chinook with a sling loaded M-777 155 mm howitzer flies overhead as soldiers of 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery Regiment, use picks to remove inches of ice 1 March 2014 in order to place their howitzer during a live-fire exercise at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Grayling, Michigan. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Derryberry, Michigan National Guard)

Initially published in On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gregory Fontenot, E. J. Degen, and David Tohn describe the unsuccessful deep strike 23 March 2003 by the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in chapter 9’s “Army Attack Aviation: The 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment’s Attack in Karbala.” In this attack, thirty-one of thirty-two aircraft were damaged—one aircraft was downed in enemy territory, and two pilots were captured—without decisively engaging the Iraqi Medina Division. As a result, it took thirty days for the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment to restore to full capability and cast a shadow over deep-attack operations throughout the duration of major combat operations.

Daniel E. Stoltz, Stephen E. Ryan, and Joseph A. Royo’s chapter, “Task Force Viking: Conventional Forces—Special Operations Forces—Synergy in Large-Scale Ground Combat Operations,” outlines the importance of gaining synergy between conventional forces, special operations forces, and indigenous forces at all levels of warfare. Using coalition operations in northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the authors describe how Task Force Viking integrated over fifty-two thousand-strong Kurdish Peshmerga to secure the liberation of Kirkuk and Mosul in 2003.

Brendon E. Terry describes the importance of a critical enabling capability for deep operations—dismounted reconnaissance—in chapter 11’s “Maintaining Capability and Options: Dismounted Reconnaissance in the Division and Corps Deep Area.” Focusing on the division and corps fights, Terry describes the evolution of dismounted reconnaissance including long-range reconnaissance, Rangers, and long-range surveillance units. The author also provides two case studies on the utility of this enabling capability: Vietnam’s long-range patrol units, and Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom I’s long-range surveillance units. He concludes that the U.S. Army must maintain this capability for the future.

The final two chapters provide insight into the future of deep maneuver. Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, discusses “The Future of Army Aviation in Deep Maneuver” in chapter 12. Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, and Maj. Keith Boring discuss the future of multi-domain operations in chapter 13, “Disrupted, Degraded, Denied, but Dominant: The Future Multi-Domain Operational Environment.”

We owe thanks to the staff of Army University Press for putting this book into physical and electronic form as part of the Historical Case Studies in Large-Scale Combat Operations book set. Special thanks to Col. Paul Berg, book set general editor; Dr. Donald Wright; Ms. Robin Kern; Ms. Diane Walker; and Dr. Lynne Garcia for their support. As general book editors, we alone are responsible for the errors, omissions, or limitations of this work.


  • Epigraph. Donn A. Starry, “Extending the Battlefield,” Military Review 61, no. 3 (March 1981): 32.
  • Epigraph. Hannah Hutyra, “115 Vince Lombardi Quotes to Use in the Game of Life,” Keep Inspiring Me (website), accessed 17 July 2018,
  1. Army Techniques Publication 3-94.2, Deep Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO], 1 September 2016), para. 1-2.
  2. “Foreword,” Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, October 2017).
  3. Ibid., para. 2-202.

Jack D. Kem, PhD, is the associate dean of academics and a professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He holds a BA from Western Kentucky University, an MPA from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a PhD from North Carolina State University. He previously served as a supervisory professor in the Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations and as a teaching team leader for the Command and General Staff School. Kem deployed as a member of the senior executive service to Afghanistan as the deputy to the commander, NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A)/Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A). A retired Army colonel, he has authored three books on campaign planning and has published over thirty articles in various publications. Kem has served as a discussant and invited lecturer for fifteen different organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Atlantic Council, the Atlantic Council of Finland, the National Defense University, the Air War College, the Marine War College, and U.S. Strategic Command.

September-October 2018