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Mobile defense is a manoeuvre by military units that repulses an attack by the use of well planned counter-attacks by the defender which seek to avoid a pitched battle.
One modern example of mobile defense was during World War II during the Third Battle of Kharkov. The German commander Field Marshal Erich von Manstein used II SS Panzer Corps to launch an attack to the rear of the Russian spearhead force, encircling it. This success led to the stabilization of the German Army Group South. Manstein became a proponent of the use of a strategy of mobile defense on the Eastern Front as a whole. Manstein came to the conclusion that Germany could not defeat Russia in a traditional static defensive system used in World War I and that the only chance to achieve a draw was to wear down the Russian army in costly mobile battles.
Manstein formulated a plan for the summer of 1943 where he argued all mechanized forces should be deployed south of Kharkov and await the Russian summer offensive which was believed to be aimed at capturing the Donetz Basin. The mechanized force would launch an offensive south to the Sea of Azov once the Basin had been captured by the Russians. The German Führer Adolf Hitler ultimately rejected this and went with a more conventional, double-envelopment attack on Kursk.
- von Manstein, Erich, Lost Victories, Zenith Press, 1982
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