Advantage of terrain
An Advantage of terrain occurs when military personnel gain an advantage over an enemy utilizing, or simply in spite of, the terrain around them. The term does not exclusively apply to battles, and can be used more generally regarding entire campaigns or theaters of war.
Mountains, for example, can block off certain areas, making it unnecessary to station troops within the inaccessible area. This deployment strategy can be applied with other formidable environmental features as well, such as forests and cliffs. In the former instance, dense vegetation can provide concealment for tactical movements such as setting up an ambush. In the latter, the elevation can provide an advantage to soldiers using projectile weapons, such as arrows or artillery pieces. Elevation itself is perhaps the most well-known example of terrain advantage, with gravity working to the advantage of the more elevated party.
While securing a terrain advantage is an important consideration for a modern commander, particularly those engaged in unconventional tactics such as guerrilla warfare, it was undoubtedly of even greater concern for pre-industrial forces, as lack of mobility and first generation warfare left soldiers very vulnerable to its effects. The ancient military strategist Sun-Tzu, for example, dedicated an entire chapter in his influential treatise The Art of War to terrain and situational positioning.
- The Battle of Agincourt- The nearby trees created a choke point where the French were hit by English long bowmen. The main environmental factor in English victory was the extremely muddy area. The field had recently been plowed, and it had been raining recently.
- The Invasion of Normandy- The Allies deployed soldiers in transports directly to Normandy Beach, where German Forces had heavily defended the area. At some portions of Normandy, cliffs bordered the beaches and allied troops were fired upon from above. Overall, the beach made it harder for Allied forces to take Normandy.
- The Alps have long been used to protect northern Italy. Few people have tried crossing the Alps in a military invasion, with some notable exceptions, (Hannibal Barca and Napoleon Bonaparte).
- The Himalaya Mountains have been used similarly.
- During the American Revolutionary War, Peninsular War, Vietnam War, etc., militants relied on the terrain to combat forces that were superior, either in numbers, or in quality.
- Steve Smith (2004-12-15). "Agincourt - the Battle". Aginc.net. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- "The Normandy Invasion June 6, 1944 - World War II Multimedia Database". Worldwar2database.com. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- "Hannibal Crosses the Alps « Cartographia". Cartographia.wordpress.com. 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "Peninsular War (1807-14)". Historyofwar.org. Archived from the original on 11 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- John Pike. "Understanding Revolutionary Warfare". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2010-04-27.