during an offensive, a troop crossing of a water barrier, such as a river, canal, reservoir, or strait, the opposite side of which is defended by the enemy. A forced crossing differs from an ordinary offensive in that the attacking forces, under enemy fire, cross the water barrier, capture bridgeheads, and develop a continuous offensive on the opposite shore. It may be carried out without pause in the course of an advance or after systematic preparation, depending on the width, depth, and flow rate of the barrier, the strength of the enemy defense, and the capabilities of the attacking forces.
In the early 18th century, Peter I the Great formed special pon-tonier teams for the organization of crossings. In the 20th century all armies use bridge trains and other crossing equipment. Soviet troops demonstrated great skill in making forced crossings during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. During offensive operations and without systematic preparation, they successfully crossed such major rivers as the Dnieper, Dnestr, Neman, Danube, Vistula, and Oder, thus creating favorable conditions for developing the offensive in depth and for routing large groupings of fascist German forces. In the concluding stage of the war, because of the increased depth of the offensive operations, Soviet troops often crossed several water barriers in succession during a single operation.
Modern armed forces are provided with amphibious materiel and crossing equipment that enables them to force water barriers without significantly slowing an advance. For forced crossings, units of all sizes use amphibious tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other combat vehicles, as well as organic and attached crossing equipment, such as self-propelled ferries and other landing equipment, bridge trains, and helicopters. In addition, tanks can cross by deep fording or deep wading.
When forced crossings are made without pausing in an advance, forward detachments and advance guards are sent out from the attacking forces and airborne assault forces are landed or parachuted in to capture the remaining bridges, hydraulic engineering installations, and sectors suitable for the forced crossing. The advancing troops then hastily cross the barrier, capture bridgeheads, and create favorable conditions for the crossing of the main forces. A forced crossing after systematic preparation is carried out simultaneously on a broad front by all the forces of the first echelon, usually after preparatory fire.
N. N. FOMIN