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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.]


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

James J. Wirtz

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