Human wave attack

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Human wave attack is an offensive infantry tactic, in which an attacker conducts an unprotected frontal assault with densely concentrated infantry formations against the enemy line, intended to overrun the defenders by engaging in melee combat.

Contents

Definition

According to US Army analyst Edward C. O'Dowd, the technical definition of a human wave attack tactic is a frontal assault by densely concentrated infantry formations against an enemy line, without any attempts to shield or to mask the attacker's movement.[1] The goal of the human wave attack is to maneuver as many men as possible into melee range, hoping that the shock from a large mass of attackers engaged in melee combat would force the enemy to disintegrate or fall back.[1]

The human wave attack's reliance on melee combat usually made the skills of individual soldiers irrelevant, but it requires either great physical courage, coercion or esprit de corps for the attackers to advance into enemy fire.[2] However, when matched against modern weaponry such as automatic firearms, artillery and aircraft, human wave attack is an extremely dangerous and costly tactic in the face of devastating firepower.[1] Thus for the human wave attack to succeed on the modern battlefield, it is imperative for the attackers to charge into the enemy line in the shortest time and in the greatest number possible, so that a sufficient mass can be preserved when the attackers reached melee range.[1] But this solution usually meant that the attackers must sacrifice concealment and covers for numbers and speed.[1] Because of this trade off, human wave attack tactic is normally used by an attacker with a lack of tactical training, or one who lacks firepower and the ability to maneuver, but whose main advantage is in motivating and controlling their men.[3]

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