Why does an army inevitably suffer a major defeat once it falls into an ambush?

If the ambushed army is sufficiently excellent, can they not counterattack the enemy?

Military Tactics and Strategies in Marching and Combat

Troops, while marching, typically store their armor in supply wagons to pursue speed. Some warhorses are even unsaddled, as armor and saddles are heavy. Removing them conserves energy and quickens the pace. When nearing combat, soldiers don their armor and saddle their horses to maximize combat effectiveness.

In battle, armies adopt specific formations. The front lines use anti-cavalry tactics, followed by shield-bearers to block arrows, and spear-wielders to prevent cavalry charges. Cavalry units are positioned on the flanks, ready to encircle or pursue fleeing enemies. These formations are hard to maintain during a march, often becoming more relaxed due to road and terrain constraints. Marching typically involves a single-file formation, vulnerable to being divided and attacked from the rear, making mutual support and coordination between units challenging.

Scouts are dispatched during marches to survey the terrain and enemy movements. If ambushed, it’s often because scouts failed to detect the enemy, leaving the entire force unaware of the enemy’s numbers and strategic intentions. In an ambush, troops often believe the enemy is well-prepared and numerically superior, leading to a tendency to flee. Once fleeing begins, even officers can’t maintain order. Without organization, the ambushing forces can attack like wolves among sheep.

An ambushed army without armor, formation, coordination, or command, with disintegrated morale, is unlikely to succeed in combat. This scenario is analogous to a team playing a game like League of Legends (LOL). Imagine a team fighting a major objective with tanks in the front and ADCs (Attack Damage Carries) in the back. If the opposing team ambushes from behind, quickly eliminating the ADCs while the tanks are preoccupied, a swift and total defeat is likely.

Analysis of Recent Military Engagements in Northern Myanmar

This concept was vividly demonstrated in the recent battles in Northern Myanmar.

In essence, the crux lies in whether the ambushed side can eliminate the enemy entirely before they have a chance to react. If not, the effectiveness is questionable.

Historically, there have been battles where pre-war estimates greatly differed from post-war outcomes. For instance, the recent conflict in Northern Myanmar resulted in the largest organized surrender since the nation’s founding, with 3990 Myanmar troops capitulating to the Allied forces.

In the first 30 days of the Northern Myanmar battlefield, over 200 skirmishes occurred. Only three times did the Myanmar army suffer near or over 100 casualties.

Analyzing why the Myanmar army was annihilated:

  1. Airborne Operation at Qing Shui River: The Myanmar army’s 80 paratroopers were spotted right from their takeoff at La Shio. Entering the ambush zone, 73 were killed, 3 captured, and 4 escaped. This shows that airborne troops entering an ambush zone can easily be wiped out. The casualty ratio in this battle was 0:73.

  2. Battle of Meng Gu: The decapitation of the 99th Division commander near Meng Gu, a major base near the Chinese border, resulted in significant Myanmar army casualties. The specifics of the battle remain undisclosed. This incident is similar to a Russian military blunder in the Russia-Ukraine war, where a party of new recruits led to a catastrophic ammo depot explosion. In Meng Gu, an accidental drone strike by the Allied forces on the ammo depot resulted in the explosion that killed the 99th Division commander.

  3. Battle of Gong Zhang: Here, the Myanmar army had been stationed for nearly 30 years. Despite the Allied forces being outnumbered, due to poor combat morale, the entire 125th Infantry Battalion and parts of the 12th and 16th Field Brigades surrendered. The brigade commander, with fewer than 200 troops, fled to Xi Shan district. In total, 128 were killed in this operation, marking the highest casualty number for the Myanmar army in a single battle.

These cases highlight that the most effective ways to inflict maximum enemy casualties are bombing ammunition depots and ambushing during troop movements.

However, if the ambushed side is significantly stronger, the ambush may not be effective. For example, an ambush on a modern tank battalion with only primitive weapons would be futile. This was evident in the Korean War, where despite the Chinese volunteers' superiority in light infantry tactics, they couldn’t overcome a single U.S. division due to the latter’s industrial and firepower advantages.

Humans, like animals, can deal with direct threats but are powerless against betrayal from behind.

Therefore, in the Korean War, even if the American forces were encircled, they could effectively avoid the systematic annihilation of units larger than a regiment by forming a circular defensive formation consisting of tanks and heavy firepower (except for the Chosin Reservoir Campaign).

However, once the Chinese Volunteers infiltrated behind the American forces, it inevitably led to panic, desperate escapes, and the collapse of the defensive line…

Not necessarily,

The Red Tenth Army ambushed Wang Yaowu at Tanjiaqiao, resulting in the complete annihilation of the Red Tenth Army, with only Su Yu and a few hundred men surviving;

The 46th Army of the Gui Faction ambushed the 146th Division of the Fourth Field Army at Qingshuping, resulting in mutual heavy casualties for both sides.

However, in most cases, the number of significant defeats after the ambush is countless.

Zhuge Liang ambushed Sima Yi at Shangfang Valley, leaving behind a deep sigh.

When you take a math exam, your head will buzz and your heart will skip a beat when you encounter unfamiliar question types, and this is just an exam…

In the military, even if the general’s plans for an ambush are excellent, soldiers may still have doubts to some extent. If you fail an exam, it only affects your mood and your class ranking, at most it affects the level of university you can attend… Such effects make you nervous when you encounter unfamiliar questions… In the military, failure can cost lives, and encountering an ambush is like facing an unfamiliar emergency, it’s almost a biological instinctive response to a life-threatening situation.

Such an excellent army, and they haven’t even discovered “the number sufficient to annihilate their own enemy”?

A while ago, I was watching a Bilibili content creator discussing the late Qing Dynasty’s Zhao Erfeng’s expedition to suppress the rebellion in the snowy mountains. However, upon arrival, they fell into an ambush set by local rebels. Zhao Erfeng, who was ambushed, remained calm because he had brought two Maxim machine guns with him.

Street brawl, not afraid of someone on the other side being bigger and stronger than you, the most fearful thing is not knowing who’s hitting you from behind, Bang! One kick!

Driving normally, encountering pedestrians suddenly crossing the road can really startle me.

Even with insurance, if an accident happens, it’s just a minor responsibility, with insurance covering the repair costs.

The surprise of lurking in the middle of the road is even scarier than those jaywalking pedestrians.

I expect that I’ll be seeing these jaywalking pedestrians for a long time, and my heart will race every time.

Da Chun, you are different from others, please don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter.

Understanding Formation Deployment

In a 10v10 brawl, where both sides engage, surrounding the opponent allows up to 10 individuals to exert force simultaneously, rendering those in the middle unable to contribute effectively—a de facto numerical advantage.

Furthermore, if your opponents are warmed up and you’re caught off guard, you lose the initiative, making you vulnerable to psychological breakdown.

Subsequently, defeat can be as overwhelming as a mountain collapsing.

Not necessarily, it mainly depends on the officer’s command ability and the soldiers' mobility, this kind of PUBG command ability. Most officers encounter this situation. At that moment, their minds go blank. By the time they react, the troops are either dead or wounded. This has always been the case in military battles.

League of Legends players who often play the game know that, The 30-0-30 Katarina is ambushed by five level 18 players with a score of 0-6, she can be sent back to the fountain by the opposing team before she even uses her skills, Is her damage high? No, she might not even be able to take on one of the five opponents head-on. The reason is simple, before the ambushed person can react or counterattack, they are eliminated.

Most soldiers only encounter an ambush once in their lifetime.

There is nothing to be cautious about for the next time.

If there is anything, it will be in the next life.

Ambush Tactics: Understanding the Conditions for Success

Ambushes are a rare occurrence in large-scale military operations, as most battles involve direct confrontations between opposing forces. Ambushes typically occur when striking the enemy’s supply lines or reinforcing troops, or when pursuing retreating enemy forces. Therefore, it is often said, “Don’t pursue a defeated enemy too far.”

Ambushes are more likely to succeed when rear-guard units are less vigilant. Frontline units are equipped with various reconnaissance vanguards and thoroughly scout every terrain, especially areas prone to ambush. However, rear-guard units tend to be less cautious. Similarly, pursuing forces may not consider all possible risks, as they are focused on chasing down the enemy and achieving military honors. Therefore, the key condition for a successful ambush is the enemy’s complacency and lack of alertness. In such circumstances, the chances of a successful ambush significantly increase. Without the element of surprise and the enemy’s underestimation, ambushing frontline units becomes a conventional engagement rather than a true ambush, as the enemy is prepared to engage in direct combat.

The Key to Successful Ambush: Choosing the Right Moment

First, let’s correct the notion of “inevitability.” Didn’t Sima, the old fox from Shanggu Valley, successfully escape? There are also numerous cases where individuals like Hao Zhao held their ground and awaited reinforcements successfully. Even ambushes that fail to capture their targets are not uncommon. For example, Xiang Yu often turned the tables on armies many times larger than his own, and Zhang Fei even feigned falling into ambushes.

So, why does this impression persist? Let’s borrow a story from Mr. Luo to explain:

Zhang San was frequently bullied by Li Si and harbored a grudge against him, planning revenge. One day, Zhang San prepared a dagger and ambushed Li Si in a narrow alley on Li Si’s route home. After a long wait, Zhang San spotted Li Si in the distance, wearing a black mask and carrying an AK, accompanied by Wang Wu and Zhao Liu, who had just committed a crime. Faced with this situation, would Zhang San, who was lying in ambush, take action? Clearly, he wouldn’t.

But if the situation were different, and Zhang San had been waiting for a long time, only to see Li Si stumbling along, clearly intoxicated and leaning on the wall, he might consider doing something.

Therefore, the side setting the ambush holds the key to initiating the conflict—the enemy is in the light, and we are in the shadows. If we can win, we fight; if not, we let them go. This is the reason why falling into an ambush often leads to a significant defeat.

The Art of Ambush and Counter-Ambush in Military History

During long marches, soldiers in historical armies often didn’t wear armor, and their weapons and ammunition were not prepared for immediate combat. After the arduous journey, soldiers were often fatigued and relaxed. If they fell into an enemy ambush, they would be caught off guard and unprepared. Ambush tactics capitalize on the principle of “waiting for the enemy to tire, attacking when they are unprepared, and taking them by surprise.”

As Zhu Yuanzhang once said, “If a large army travels a long distance, it is essential to set ambushes along the way, catching the enemy off guard. Be cautious not to venture too far.”

In the era of cold weapons, did soldiers not wear armor before reaching the battlefield? Especially for ancient armies, not wearing armor put them at a disadvantage. Furthermore, encountering the enemy unexpectedly would lead to panic and disorder. “When soldiers encounter an ambush and panic, they may charge suddenly and become disorganized.”

Soldiers without preparations would be inferior to ambushing forces. If forced into combat, they might even collapse, with soldiers fleeing the battlefield. Once the rout begins, it’s easier for the enemy to annihilate them, resulting in a major defeat.

However, there were cases where ambushed forces managed to counter-attack. This was mainly because these armies remained highly vigilant, were armored, and mentally prepared. When the ambush occurred, they could immediately engage in battle.

Additionally, the ability of the commanding officer and the quality of the soldiers played a significant role. If they could maintain formation and quickly engage in combat when ambushed, there was a chance of counter-attack or at least avoiding defeat. For example, “At night, encountering an ambush, General Boyan remained steadfast and did not move, eventually leading the enemy away at dawn.”

Of course, having sufficient forces and not getting surrounded on all sides were also essential. Even with courageous soldiers, being trapped in a four-sided ambush without reinforcements would likely result in defeat, as seen in the case of Li Rusong.

During the early Ming Dynasty, General Zhang Fu was an expert at counter-ambushing. In one notable instance in the 9th year of the Yongle era, he and Mu Sheng led a large army to suppress a rebellion in Jiaozhi. The rebels set up many wooden stakes in the Month Chang River in Jiuzhenzhou, along with wooden barriers on both banks of the river. They also had over 300 boats and set up an ambush on the right side of the mountain, intending to surround and annihilate the Ming army.

Zhang Fu calmly dispatched naval forces to clear the stakes in the river and sent infantry to attack the ambush. In the end, they successfully turned the tables and achieved a major victory.

On the seventeenth day of the seventh month in the ninth year of Yongle, the General of Jiaozhi, Duke of Yingguo, Zhang Fu, and the Duke of Qianguo, Mu Sheng, defeated the rebel leader Ruan Shuai at the Month Chang River.
At that time, Sheng led cavalry, while Fu led the naval forces, advancing separately. Fu arrived at Jiuzhenzhou, Month Chang River. The enemy had placed wooden stakes in the river, extending over forty zhang. Wooden barriers stretched for two or three li on both sides of the river, with over 300 boats deployed. They set up an ambush on the right side of the mountain.
The rebel leaders Ruan Shuai, Hu Ju, Deng Jingyi, Deng Rong, and others led their troops to resist. They subsequently called for the command of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Zhu Guang, Commander Zhang Sheng, and the Chief of Boat Commanders, Yu Guang, to remove the stakes and advance. Fu led the commanders, including Fang Zheng, with infantry to suppress the ambushing enemy, breaking through the wooden barriers and pursuing to the riverbank. The combined land and naval attacks led to the enemy’s significant defeat.

Ruan Shuai and others scattered and fled. They captured Ruan Shuai’s fake Golden Guards General, Deng Zongmu, fake Ningwei General, Li Deyi, fake Wufu General, Ruan Zhong, and others, beheading over four hundred enemy soldiers. Many drowned, and they seized over one hundred and twenty enemy boats, along with the fake Chief Military General’s seal from Yanzhou and the false seal of General Yuangzhou.

Before this battle, Zhang Fu formed his troops and advanced, maintaining formation, leading the attack on the enemy’s left wing, charging into the core… and eventually achieving a successful counter-ambush.

The team is scattered, and it’s challenging to lead.