Skip to main content

Order of Battle

Order of Battle refers to listings that count and categorize military forces in terms of unit type (e.g., armor, infantry, brigade, division) and quality and quantity of armament. Sometimes order of battle intelligence analysis offers estimates of military units' combat effectiveness by extrapolating from recent events. Units engaged heavily in combat might be rated less effective—because of recent personnel and equipment losses—than experienced full‐strength units.

Order of battle information is crucial to battlefield success: a commander who is unaware of the number, type, and quality of opposing units risks disaster. Attacks are more likely to succeed if they are directed against inexperienced units or units weakened by combat. Movement of experienced units to a given sector can indicate that an attack is imminent.

Because of its importance, operational security and deception often focus on order of battle information. Before the invasion of Normandy, France, in World War II, the Allies staged a massive deception operation, code‐named “Fortitude South,” to confuse German intelligence about the Allied order of battle. A variety of ruses were used—phony bases, rubber tanks, simulated radio traffic—to create evidence that a fictional formation, First United States Army Group (FUSAG), actually existed. Nominally “commanded” by George S. Patton, one of America's best general officers, FUSAG was located in Dover and helped tie down German units in the Pas de Calais as real Allied units stormed ashore 170 miles southwest at Normandy.

Order of battle intelligence also can be controversial. During the Vietnam War, analysts at the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) and the Central Intelligence Agency debated the size and composition of enemy units operating in South Vietnam. The debate continued after the war and was the subject of a federal libel case—Westmoreland V. CBS—in 1985.
[See also Intelligence, Military and Political; Tactics.]

Bibliography

David Eisenhower , Eisenhower at War 1943–1945, 1986.
Renatta Adler , Reckless Disregard, 1986.

James J. Wirtz

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Order of Battle." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Order of Battle." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/order-battle

"Order of Battle." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved September 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/order-battle

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.