Scorched earth

Scorched earth

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A scorched earth policy is a military strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

 or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. Although initially referring to the practice of burning crops to deny the enemy food sources, in its modern usage the term includes the destruction of infrastructure such as shelter, transportation, communications and industrial resources. The practice may be carried out by an army in enemy territory, or its own home territory. It may overlap with, but is not the same as, punitive destruction of an enemy's resources, which is done for purely strategic/political reasons rather than strategic/operational reasons. It was most famously used against Napoleon's and Hitler's armies invading Russia.

The strategy of destroying the food supply of the civilian population in an area of conflict has been banned under Article 54 of Protocol I
Protocol I
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

 of the 1977 Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

. The relevant passage says:


It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.


Despite being prohibited, it is still a common practice. The protocol only applies to those countries that have ratified it, notable exceptions being the United States, Israel, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq.

Ancient times


The Scythians used scorched earth methods against King Darius the Great of Persia. Nomadic herders, the Scythians retreated into the depths of the Steppes, destroying food supplies and poisoning wells. As a result, Darius the Great was forced to concede defeat. A large number of his troops died from starvation and dehydration.

The Greek general Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 records in his Anabasis
Anabasis (Xenophon)
Anabasis is the most famous work, in seven books, of the Greek professional soldier and writer Xenophon. The journey it narrates is his best known accomplishment and "one of the great adventures in human history," as Will Durant expressed the common assessment.- The account :Xenophon accompanied...

that the Armenians
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 burned their crops and food supplies as they withdrew before the advance of the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...

.

The Greek mercenary general Memnon
Memnon of Rhodes
Memnon of Rhodes was the commander of the Greek mercenaries working for the Persian king Darius III when Alexander the Great of Macedonia invaded Persia in 334 BC. He commanded the mercenaries at the Battle of the Granicus River, where his troops were massacred by the victorious Macedonians...

 suggested to the Persian Satraps the use of the scorched earth policy against Alexander as he moved into Asia Minor. He was refused.

Roman era


The system of punitive destruction of property and subjugation of people when accompanying a military campaign was known as vastatio. Two of the first uses of scorched earth recorded both happened in the Gallic Wars
Gallic Wars
The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...

. The first was used when the Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic Helvetii
Helvetii
The Helvetii were a Celtic tribe or tribal confederation occupying most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC...

 were forced to evacuate their homes in Southern Germany and Switzerland due to incursions of unfriendly Germanic tribes. To add incentive to the march, the Helvetii destroyed everything they could not bring. After the Helvetii were defeated by a combined Roman-Gallic force, the Helvetii were forced to rebuild themselves on the shattered German and Swiss plains they themselves had destroyed.

The second case shows actual military value: during the "Great Gallic War
Battle of Alesia
The Battle of Alesia or Siege of Alesia took place in September, 52 BC around the Gallic oppidum of Alesia, a major town centre and hill fort of the Mandubii tribe...

" the Gauls
Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....

 under Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe, who united the Gauls in an ultimately unsuccessful revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars....

 planned to lure the Roman armies into Gaul and then trap and obliterate them. To this end, they ravaged the countryside of what are now the Benelux
Benelux
The Benelux is an economic union in Western Europe comprising three neighbouring countries, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. These countries are located in northwestern Europe between France and Germany...

 countries and France. This did cause immense problems for the Romans, but Roman military triumphs over the Gallic alliance showed that this alone was not enough to save Gaul from subjugation by Rome.

During the Second Punic War
Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of the Berbers on...

 in 218–202 BC, the Carthaginians used this method while storming through Italy
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

. After the end of the Third Punic War
Third Punic War
The Third Punic War was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between the former Phoenician colony of Carthage, and the Roman Republic...

 in 146 BC, the Roman Senate also elected to use this method to permanently destroy the Carthaginian capital city, Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 (near modern-day Tunis
Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

). The buildings were torn down, their stones scattered so not even rubble remained, and the fields were burned. However, the story that they salted the earth is apocryphal.

In the year AD 363, the Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

's invasion of Persia was turned back by a scorched earth policy:
"The extensive region that lies between the River Tigris and the mountains of Media...was in a very improved state of cultivation. Julian might expect, that a conqueror, who possessed the two forcible instruments of persuasion, steel and gold, would easily procure a plentiful subsistence from the fears or avarice of the natives. But, on the approach of the Romans, the rich and smiling prospect was instantly blasted. Wherever they moved...the cattle was driven away; the grass and ripe corn were consumed with fire; and, as soon as the flames had subsided which interrupted the march of Julian, he beheld the melancholy face of a smoking and naked desert. This desperate but effectual method of defence can only be executed by the enthusiasm of a people who prefer their independence to their property; or by the rigor of an arbitrary government, which consults the public safety without submitting to their inclinations the liberty of choice."

Viking Period


During the great Viking invasion of England opposed by Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

 and various other Saxon and Welsh rulers, the Viking chieftain Hastein
Hastein
Hastein was a notable Viking chieftain of the late 9th century who made several raiding voyages.- Early life :...

 in late summer 893 marched his men to Chester
Chester
Chester is a city in Cheshire, England. Lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales, it is home to 77,040 inhabitants, and is the largest and most populous settlement of the wider unitary authority area of Cheshire West and Chester, which had a population of 328,100 according to the...

 to occupy the ruined Roman fortress there. The refortified fortress should have made an excellent base for raiding northern Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

, but the Mercians are recorded as having taken the drastic measure of destroying all crops and livestock in the surrounding countryside in order to starve the Danes out.

Harrying of the North


In the Harrying of the North
Harrying of the North
The Harrying of the North was a series of campaigns waged by William the Conqueror in the winter of 1069–1070 to subjugate Northern England, and is part of the Norman conquest of England...

, William the Conqueror's brutal conquest and subjugation of the North of England, William's men burnt whole villages from the Humber
Humber
The Humber is a large tidal estuary on the east coast of Northern England. It is formed at Trent Falls, Faxfleet, by the confluence of the tidal River Ouse and the tidal River Trent. From here to the North Sea, it forms part of the boundary between the East Riding of Yorkshire on the north bank...

 to Tees, and slaughtered the inhabitants. Foodstores and livestock were destroyed so that anyone surviving the initial massacre would soon succumb to starvation over the winter. The survivors were reduced to cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

, with one report stating that the skulls
Human skull
The human skull is a bony structure, skeleton, that is in the human head and which supports the structures of the face and forms a cavity for the brain.In humans, the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bones...

 of the dead were cracked open so that the brains could be eaten. Between 100,000 and 150,000 perished and the area took centuries to recover from the damage.

High and Late Middle Ages



During the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

, both the English and the French conducted chevauchée
Chevauchée
A chevauchée was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging enemy territory, in order to reduce the productivity of a region; as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest...

 raids over the enemy territory to damage its infrastructure.

Robert the Bruce
Robert I of Scotland
Robert I , popularly known as Robert the Bruce , was King of Scots from March 25, 1306, until his death in 1329.His paternal ancestors were of Scoto-Norman heritage , and...

 counselled using these operational methods to hold off the English King Edward's
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 forces when the English invaded Scotland, according to an anonymous 14th-century poem:

...in strait places gar keep all store,

And byrnen ye plainland them before,

That they shall pass away in haist

What that they find na thing but waist.

...This is the counsel and intent

Of gud King Robert's testiment.



In 1336, the defenders of Pilėnai
Pilenai
Pilėnai was a fortress in medieval Lithuania. It is well known in the Lithuanian history due to the heroic defense of the castle.-Defence:The defence, led by the Duke Margiris, took place on February 25, 1336, when the castle was besieged by the army of the Teutonic Knights...

 in Lithuania set their castle on fire and committed mass suicide in order to make the attacking Teutonic Order's victory a costly one
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

.

The strategy was widely used in the Romanian Principalities of Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

 and Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

. Prince Mircea I of Wallachia
Mircea I of Wallachia
Mircea the Elder was ruler of Wallachia from 1386 until his death. The byname "elder" was given to him after his death in order to distinguish him from his grandson Mircea II...

 used it against the Ottomans in 1395 and prince Stephen III of Moldavia
Stephen III of Moldavia
Stephen III of Moldavia was Prince of Moldavia between 1457 and 1504 and the most prominent representative of the House of Mușat.During his reign, he strengthened Moldavia and maintained its independence against the ambitions of Hungary, Poland, and the...

 scorched the earth in his country as the Ottoman army advanced in 1475 and 1476.

Early Modern era


Further British use of scorched earth policies in war was seen during the 16th century in Ireland, where it was used by English commanders such as Walter Devereux
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, KG , an English nobleman and general. From 1573 until his death he fought in Ireland in connection with the Plantation of Ulster, where he ordered the massacre of Rathlin Island...

 and Richard Bingham. Its most infamous use was by Humphrey Gilbert
Humphrey Gilbert
Sir Humphrey Gilbert of Devon in England was a half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. Adventurer, explorer, member of parliament, and soldier, he served during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was a pioneer of English colonization in North America and the Plantations of Ireland.-Early life:Gilbert...

 during the wars against the native Irish in Munster in the 1560s and 1570s, actions which earned the praise of the poet Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

 in his A View of the Present State of Ireland in 1596.

The Desmond Rebellions
Desmond Rebellions
The Desmond Rebellions occurred in 1569-1573 and 1579-1583 in the Irish province of Munster.They were rebellions by the Earl of Desmond – head of the FitzGerald dynasty in Munster – and his followers, the Geraldines and their allies against the threat of the extension of Elizabethan English...

 are a famous case in Ireland. Much of the entire province of Munster
Munster
Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

 was laid waste. The poet Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

 left an account of it:
In 1630, Field-Marshal General
Generalfeldmarschall
Field Marshal or Generalfeldmarschall in German, was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire; in the Austrian Empire, the rank Feldmarschall was used...

 Torquato Conti
Torquato Conti
Torquato Conti was an Italian military commander who served as a General-Field Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years War. His barbarous treatment of defenceless villagers earned him the nickname, The Devil...

 was in command of Imperial
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 forces during the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

. Forced to retreat from the advancing Swedish army of King Gustavus Adolphus
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

, Conti ordered his troops to burn houses, destroy villages and generally cause as much harm to property and people as possible. His actions were remembered thus:
During the Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

, Russia scorched earth in the way of Swedish king Charles XII's forces.

Napoleonic Wars



During the 1810 (third) Napoleonic invasion of Portugal, the Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 population retreated, destroying all the food supplies the French might capture (it should be reminded that the recent invention of effective food preserving techniques was still not fit for military because a suitably rugged container had not yet been invented). This attitude was the result of French plundering and general ill-treatment of civilians in the previous invasions. The poor, angered people would rather destroy anything that had to be left behind rather than leaving it to the French. French soldiers reported that the country "seemed to empty ahead of them". When Massená reached the city of Viseu
Viseu
Viseu is both a city and a municipality in the Dão-Lafões Subregion of Centro Region, Portugal. The municipality, with an area of 507.1 km², has a population of 99,593 , and the city proper has 47,250...

 wanting to replenish his armies dwindling food supplies, none of the inhabitants remained, and all there was to eat were grapes and lemons that when eaten in large quantities would be a better laxative than a source of calories. After the subsequent defeat at Bussaco, Massená's army marched on to Coimbra
Coimbra
Coimbra is a city in the municipality of Coimbra in Portugal. Although it served as the nation's capital during the High Middle Ages, it is better-known for its university, the University of Coimbra, which is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest academic institution in the...

 where much of the city's old university and library were vandalised, houses and furniture were destroyed and the few civilians that did not seek refuge further south were murdered. While there were instances of similar behavior by British soldiers, considering that Portugal was their ally, such crimes were generally investigated, and those found punished. Coimbra's sack made the populace even more determined in leaving nothing and when the French armies reached the Lines of Torres Vedras
Lines of Torres Vedras
The Lines of Torres Vedras were lines of forts built in secrecy to defend Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Named after the nearby town of Torres Vedras, they were ordered by Arthur Wellesley, Viscount Wellington, constructed by Sir Richard Fletcher, 1st Baronet and his Portuguese workers between...

 on the way to Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, low morale, hunger, disease, and indiscipline had rendered the French Army of Portugal into a much weaker force. This method was later recommended to Russia when Napoleon made his move.

In 1812 Czar Alexander I
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

 was able to render Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Russia useless by utilizing a scorched-earth retreat method, similar to that made by the Portuguese. As Russian forces withdrew from the advancing French army, they burned the countryside (and, allegedly, Moscow
Fire of Moscow (1812)
The 1812 Fire of Moscow broke out on September 14, 1812 in Moscow on the day when Russian troops and most residents abandoned the city and Napoleon's vanguard troops entered the city following the Battle of Borodino...

) over which they passed, leaving nothing of value for the pursuing French army. Encountering only desolate and useless land Napoleon's Grand Army was prevented from using its accustomed doctrine of living off the lands it conquered. Pushing relentlessly on despite dwindling numbers, the Grand Army met with disaster as the invasion progressed. Napoleon's army arrived in a virtually abandoned Moscow, which was a tattered starving shell of its former self due largely to the use of scorched-earth tactics by retreating Russians. Having essentially conquered nothing, Napoleon's troops diminished. Tragically, the effects of this policy on the civilian population in those areas in which it was applied was equally, if not more, devastating than they were on the Grande Armée.

Philippine-American War


U.S. attacks into the Philippine countryside often included scorched earth campaigns where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure
Water cure (torture)
Water cure as a term for a form of torture refers to a method in which the victim is forced to drink large quantities of water in a short time, resulting in gastric distension, water intoxication and possibly death....

) and the concentration of civilians into "protected zones". Many of the civilian casualties resulted from disease and famine.

In the hunt for the Guerrilla General Emilio Aguinaldo
Emilio Aguinaldo
Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy was a Filipino general, politician, and independence leader. He played an instrumental role during the Philippines' revolution against Spain, and the subsequent Philippine-American War or War of Philippine Independence that resisted American occupation...

 American troops also poisoned water wells to try to force out the Filipino rebels.

American Civil War



In the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, General Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War , for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched...

 utilized this policy during his March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted around Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army in the American Civil War...

. In another Civil War event the U.S. Army General Order No. 11 (1863) ordered the near-total evacuation of three and a half counties in western Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

, south of Kansas City, which were subsequently looted and burned by U.S. Army troops. Under Sherman's overall direction, General Sheridan
Philip Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S...

 followed this policy in the Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

 of Virginia and subsequently in the Indian Wars of the Great Plains.

When General Grant's forces broke through Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

's defenses, Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 ordered the destruction of Richmond's militarily significant supplies; the resulting conflagration destroyed many – mainly commercial – buildings and some Southern warships docked on the James River. Civilians in panic were forced to escape not only Grant's army but the fires started by their own government. This debacle was not the result of a scorched-earth tactic but the consequences of desperate action instigated by dislodged government officials.

Native American wars


During the wars with Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 tribes of the American West, under Carleton's direction, Kit Carson
Kit Carson
Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was an American frontiersman and Indian fighter. Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 and became a Mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married...

 instituted a scorched earth policy, burning Navajo
Navajo people
The Navajo of the Southwestern United States are the largest single federally recognized tribe of the United States of America. The Navajo Nation has 300,048 enrolled tribal members. The Navajo Nation constitutes an independent governmental body which manages the Navajo Indian reservation in the...

 fields and homes, and stealing or killing their livestock. He was aided by other Indian tribes with long-standing enmity toward the Navajos, chiefly the Ute
Ute Tribe
The Ute are an American Indian people now living primarily in Utah and Colorado. There are three Ute tribal reservations: Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah ; Southern Ute in Colorado ; and Ute Mountain which primarily lies in Colorado, but extends to Utah and New Mexico . The name of the state of...

s. The Navajo were forced to surrender due to the destruction of their livestock and food supplies. In the spring of 1864, 8,000 Navajo men, women and children were forced to march 300 miles to Fort Sumner
Fort Sumner
Fort Sumner was a military fort in De Baca County in southeastern New Mexico charged with the internment of Navajo and Mescalero Apache populations from 1863-1868 at nearby Bosque Redondo.-History:...

, New Mexico. Navajos call this "The Long Walk
Long Walk of the Navajo
The Long Walk of the Navajo, also called the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo , refers to the 1864 deportation of the Navajo people by the U.S. Government. Navajos were forced to walk at gunpoint from their reservation in what is now Arizona to eastern New Mexico. The trip lasted about 18 days...

." Many died along the way or during the next four years of their internment.

A military expedition led by U.S. Army Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Ranald S. Mackenzie
Ranald S. Mackenzie
Ranald Slidell Mackenzie was a career United States Army officer and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, described by General Ulysses S. Grant as its most promising young officer...

 was sent to the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma Territory Panhandle area in 1874 to remove the Indians to reservations in Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

. The Mackenzie expedition captured about 1,200 of the Indians' horses, drove them into Tule Canyon, and shot them all. Denied their main source of livelihood and demoralized, the Comanche and Kiowa abandoned the area (see Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Amarillo, Texas, United States. As the second largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly long and has an average width of , but reaches a width of at places. Its depth is around...

).

Boer War



Lord Kitchener applied Scorched Earth policy during the later part of the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 (1899–1902) when the Boers, defeated when their two capital cities had been captured but never on the battlefield, adopted guerrilla warfare in order to rid their republics of the British. So the British ordered destruction of the farms and the homes of civilians in order to prevent the still-fighting Boers from obtaining food and supplies. An eloquent description of this comes from an Army officer at the time. This destruction left women and children without means to survive since crops and livestock were also destroyed. The existence of the concentration camps was exposed by Emily Hobhouse
Emily Hobhouse
Emily Hobhouse was a British welfare campaigner, who is primarily remembered for bringing to the attention of the British public, and working to change, the poor conditions inside the British concentration camps in South Africa built for Boer women and children during the Second Boer War.-Early...

, who toured the camps and began petitioning the British government to change its policy. In an attempt to counter Hobhouse's activism, the British commissioned the Fawcett Commission, that confirmed Hobhouse's findings. The British later perceived the concentration camps as a humanitarian measure, to care for displaced persons until the war was ended, in response to the Hobhouse and Fawcett reports. Negligence by the British, lack of planning and supplies and overcrowding led to much loss of life. A decade after the war P.L.A. Goldman officially determined that an astonishing number of 27,927 Boers died in the concentration camps: 26,251 women and children (of whom more than 22,000 were under the age of 16), and 1,676 men over the age of 16, of whom 1,421 were aged persons.

Other


In the Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 war of independence, the Jujuy Exodus
Jujuy Exodus
The Jujuy Exodus was an episode of the Argentine War of Independence. It was a massive forced displacement of people from the Jujuy Province, under by General Manuel Belgrano, conducted by his patriot forces that were battling a Royalist army...

, led by Manuel Belgrano
Manuel Belgrano
Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano , usually referred to as Manuel Belgrano, was an Argentine economist, lawyer, politician, and military leader. He took part in the Argentine Wars of Independence and created the Flag of Argentina...

, also used a scorched earth strategy.

In 1868, Tūhoe
Tuhoe
Ngāi Tūhoe , a Māori iwi of New Zealand, takes its name from an ancestral figure, Tūhoe-pōtiki. The word tūhoe literally means "steep" or "high noon" in the Māori language...

 sheltered the Māori leader Te Kooti
Te Kooti
Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki was a Māori leader, the founder of the Ringatu religion and guerrilla.While fighting alongside government forces against the Hauhau in 1865, he was accused of spying. Exiled to the Chatham Islands without trial along with captured Hauhau, he experienced visions and...

, and for this were subjected to a scorched earth policy, in which their crops and buildings were destroyed and their people of fighting age were captured.

Twentieth century


Efraín Ríos Montt
Efraín Ríos Montt
José Efraín Ríos Montt is a former de facto President of Guatemala, dictator, army general, and former president of Congress. In the 2003 presidential elections, he unsuccessfully ran as the candidate of the ruling Guatemalan Republican Front .Huehuetenango-born Ríos Montt remains one of the most...

 utilized this method in the Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

n highlands in 1982-3, resulting in the death of approximately 10,000 indigenous peoples, and causing 100,000 to leave their homes.

The Indonesian military and pro-Indonesia militia
Pro-Indonesia militia
Pro-Indonesia militias were East Timorese paramilitary militia groups that formed to show loyalty to the Indonesian government during the movement for East Timorese independence in the late 1990s...

s used this method in their Timor-Leste Scorched Earth campaign around the time of East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

's referendum for independence in 1999.

The Sudanese government has used scorched earth as a military strategy in Darfur
Darfur
Darfur is a region in western Sudan. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur...

.

World War I



Russian army used scorched earth strategy during its retreat in summer/autumn of 1915.

On 24 February 1917, the German army made a strategic scorched earth withdrawal from the Somme
Somme
Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France....

 battlefield to the prepared fortifications of the Hindenburg Line
Hindenburg Line
The Hindenburg Line was a vast system of defences in northeastern France during World War I. It was constructed by the Germans during the winter of 1916–17. The line stretched from Lens to beyond Verdun...

, thereby shortening the front line they had to occupy. Since a scorched earth campaign requires that there be a war of movement, World War I provided little opportunity in general for this policy as it was a stalemated war fought mostly in the same concentrated area for its entire duration.

Second Sino-Japanese War


During the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 had a scorched-earth policy, known as "Three Alls Policy
Three Alls Policy
The Three Alls Policy was a Japanese scorched earth policy adopted in China during World War II, the three alls being: "Kill All", "Burn All" and "Loot All" . In Japanese documents, the policy was originally referred to as...

". Due to the Japanese scorched-earth policy immense environmental and infrastructure damage have been recorded. Additionally it contributed to the complete destruction of entire villages and partial destruction of entire cities like Chongqing
Bombing of Chongqing
The bombing of Chongqing was part of a terror bombing operation conducted by Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service on the Chinese provisional capital of Chongqing, authorized by the Imperial General Headquarters.A conservative estimate places the...

 or Nanjing
Nanking Massacre
The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder, genocide and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing , the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second...

.

The Chinese National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

 destroyed dams and levees in an attempt to flood the land to slow down the advancement of Japanese soldiers, further adding to the environmental impact. This policy resulted in the 1938 Huang He flood.

World War II



When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 ordered both soldiers and civilians to initiate a scorched earth policy to deny the invaders basic supplies as they moved eastward. The process was repeated later in the war by the retreating German forces, which burned or destroyed farms, buildings, weapons, and food to deprive Soviet forces of their use.

At the close of World War II, Finland, which had made a separate peace with the Allies
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

, was required to evict the German forces, which had been fighting against the Soviets alongside the Finnish troops in the Northern part of the country. Finnish forces, under the leadership of general Hjalmar Siilasvuo
Hjalmar Siilasvuo
Hjalmar Fridolf Siilasvuo was a Finnish general who led troops in the Winter War, Continuation War and Lapland War...

, struck aggressively in August 1944 by making a landfall at Tornio. This accelerated the German retreat, and by November 1944 the Germans had left most of northern Finland. The German forces, forced to retreat due to overall strategic situation, covered their retreat towards Norway by devastating large areas of northern Finland using scorched earth strategy. More than one-third of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital Rovaniemi
Battle of Rovaniemi
The Battle of Rovaniemi was an event during the 1944 Lapland War. The actual fighting between the Finnish Armoured Division and the troops of the German Twentieth Mountain Army took place to the south of the town of Rovaniemi...

 was burned to the ground. All but two bridges in Lapland Province were blown up and roads mined. In Northern Norway which was at the same time invaded by Soviet forces in pursuit of the retreating German army in 1944, the Germans also undertook a scorched earth policy, destroying every building that could offer shelter and thus interposing a belt of "scorched earth" between themselves and the allies.

In 1945, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 ordered his minister of armaments Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 to carry out a nationwide scorched earth policy, in what became known as the Nero Decree
Nero Decree
The Nero Decree was issued by Adolf Hitler on March 19, 1945 ordering the destruction of German infrastructure to prevent their use by Allied forces as they penetrated deep within Germany...

. Speer, who was looking to the future, actively resisted the order, just as he had earlier refused Hitler's command to destroy French industry when the Wehrmacht was being driven out of France, and managed to continue doing so even after Hitler became aware of his actions.

Vietnam War


Throughout the 1960s
1960s
The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe...

, the US employed herbicides (chiefly Agent Orange
Agent Orange
Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth...

), as a part of its herbicidal warfare program Trail Dust to destroy crops and foliage in order to expose possible enemy hideouts. Agent Blue
Agent Blue
Agent Blue is one of the "rainbow herbicides" that is known for its use by the United States during the Vietnam War. It was sprayed on rice paddies and other crops in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of valuable crops. Agent Blue is a mixture of two arsenic-containing compounds, sodium...

 was used on rice fields to deny food to the Vietcong. Napalm
Napalm
Napalm is a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with gasoline or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, primarily as an anti-personnel weapon...

 was also extensively used for such purposes.

According to Jeanne Stellman of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, 4.8 million people have been exposed to Agent Orange, with some 3 million of them suffering health problems related to the exposure

Gulf War


During the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 in 1990 when Iraqi forces were driven out of Kuwait they set the oil wells on fire. The possible reasons for this are discussed in more detail in the article on the Kuwaiti oil fires
Kuwaiti oil fires
The Kuwaiti oil fires were caused by Iraqi military forces setting fire to 700 oil wells as part of a scorched earth policy while retreating from Kuwait in 1991 after invading the country but being driven out by Coalition military forces...

.

Libyan Civil War


During the 2011 Libyan civil war
2011 Libyan civil war
The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

, forces loyal to Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

 planted a large number of landmines within the petroleum port of Brega
Brega
Brega may refer to:*Brega , an inhabited location in Libya**Marsa Brega Airport, the airport for Brega-People:...

 to prevent advancing rebel forces from utilizing the port facilities.

See also



  • Burmah Oil Co. v Lord Advocate
    Burmah Oil Co. v Lord Advocate
    Burmah Oil Company Ltd. v Lord Advocate, [1965] AC 75, was a court case, raised in Scotland, and decided ultimately in the House of Lords. The case is an important decision in UK constitutional law and had unusual legal repercussions at the time....

  • Carthaginian peace
    Carthaginian peace
    Carthaginian Peace can refer to two things: either the peace imposed on Carthage by Rome in 146 BC, whereby the Romans systematically burned Carthage to the ground, or the imposition of a very brutal 'peace' in general.-Origin:...

  • Chevauchée
    Chevauchée
    A chevauchée was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging enemy territory, in order to reduce the productivity of a region; as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest...

  • Early thermal weapons

  • Harrying of the North
    Harrying of the North
    The Harrying of the North was a series of campaigns waged by William the Conqueror in the winter of 1069–1070 to subjugate Northern England, and is part of the Norman conquest of England...

  • Sherman's neckties
    Sherman's neckties
    Sherman's neckties were a phenomenon of the American Civil War. Named after Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army, Sherman's neckties were railway rails destroyed by heating them until they were malleable and twisting them into loops resembling neckties, often around trees...

  • Soviet Winter
  • Total war
    Total war
    Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...