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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Scorched earth,Roman era,Viking Period,World War I,World War II

A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method (possibly more often referred to as a tactic, but this is not entirely correct, as there is a difference between the terms) 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 is not limited to food stocks, and can include the destruction of shelter, transportation, communications and industrial resources. The practice may be carried out by an army in enemy territory, or its own home territory. It is often confused with the term "slash and burn", which is not a military method but rather an agricultural technique. It may overlap with, but is not the same as, punitive destruction of an enemy's resources, which is done for purely strategic/political rather than strategic/operational reasons.

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 records in his Anabasis that the Armenians burned their crops and food supplies as they withdrew before the advance of the Ten Thousand.

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. The first was used when the Celtic Helvetii 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" the Gauls under Vercingetorix 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 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 in 218-202 BC, the Carthaginians used this method while storming through Italy. After the end of the Third Punic War in 146 BC, the Roman Senate also elected to use this method to destroy permanently the Carthaginian capital city, Carthage (near modern-day Tunis). 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 so nothing would grow again is apocryphal.

Viking Period

During the great viking invasion of England opposed by Alfred the Great and various other Saxon and Welsh rulers, the Viking chieftain Hastein in late summer 893 marched his men to Chester to occupy the ruined Roman fortress there.

The refortified fortress should have made an excellent base for raiding northern Mercia, 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, William the Conqueror's brutal conquest and sunjucation of the North of England, William's men burnt whole villages from the Humber 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 land was salted to destroy its productivity for decades forward. The survivors were reduced to cannibalism, with one report stating that the skulls 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.

Early Modern era

In the Hundred Years War both the English and the French conducted chevauchée raids over the enemy territory to damage its infrastructure.

Robert the Bruce counselled using these operational methods to hold off the English King Edward’s forces when the English invaded Scotland, according to an anonymous 14th-century poem: 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.

Vlad Ţepes also used such methods to great effect in 1462 during the Turks' invasion of Wallachia.[citation needed]

British use of scorched earth policies in war was seen as early as the sixteenth century in Ireland where it was used by English commanders such as Walter Devereux and Richard Bingham. Its most infamous use was by Humphrey 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 in his A View of the Present State of Ireland in 1596. Persians also used scorched earth tactics against the invading Turks during the long Ottoman-Iran wars between 1578-90.

Late 19th century

General Jacob H. Smith's infamous order "KILL EVERY ONE OVER TEN" was the caption in the New York Journal cartoon on May 5, 1902. The Old Glory draped an American shield on which a vulture replaced the bald eagle. The bottom caption exclaimed, "Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines". Published in the New York Journal-American, May 5, 1902.

In 1908, Manuel Arellano Remondo, in a book entitled "General Geography of the Philippine Islands", wrote: “The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number.”

U.S. attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure) and the concentration of civilians into “protected zones” (concentration camps). Many of the civilian casualties resulted from disease and famine.

American soldiers' letters and response

From almost the beginning of the war, soldiers wrote home describing, and usually bragging about, atrocities committed against Filipinos, soldiers and civilians alike. Increasingly, such personal letters, or portions of them, reached a national audience as anti-imperialist editors across the nation reproduced them.

Once these accounts were widely reproduced, the War Department was forced to demand that General Otis investigate their authenticity. For each press clipping, he forwarded it to the writer’s commanding officer, who would then convince the soldier to write a retraction.

Private Charles Brenner of the Kansas regiment resisted such pressure. He insisted that Colonel Funston[6] had ordered that all prisoners be shot and that Major Metcalf and Captain Bishop enforced these orders. Otis was obliged to order the Northern Luzon sector commander, General MacArthur, to look into the charge. Brenner confronted MacArthur’s aide with a corroborating witness, Private Putman, who confessed to shooting two prisoners after Bishop or Metcalf ordered, “Kill them! Damn it, Kill them!” MacArthur sent his aide’s report on to Otis with no comment. Otis ordered Brenner court-martialed “for writing and conniving at the publication of an article which... contains willful falsehoods concerning himself and a false charge against Captain Bishop.” The judge advocate in Manila convinced Otis that such a trial could open a Pandora’s box because “facts would develop implicating many others.”

General Otis sent the Brenner case to Washington writing: “After mature deliberation, I doubt the wisdom of court-martial in this case, as it would give the insurgent authorities a knowledge of what was taking place and they would assert positively that our troops had practiced inhumanities, whether the charge should be proven or not, as they would use it as an excuse to defend their own barbarities;” and Otis went on, justifying the war crimes, “and it is not thought that his charge is very grievous under the circumstances then existing, as it was very early in the war, and the patience of our men was under great strain.”

Towards the end of 1899, General Otis attempted to repair his battered image. He began to work to win new friends among the journalists in Manila and bestowed favors on any journalist who gave him favorable press.

Concentration camps

As one historian wrote about Marinduque, the first island with concentration camps:

“The triple press of concentration (camps), devastation, and harassment led Abad (the Marinduque commander) …to request a truce to negotiate surrender terms… The Army pacified Marinduque not by winning the allegiance of the people, but by imposing coercive measures to control their behavior and separate them from the insurgents in the field. Ultimately, military and security measures proved to be the (essential element) of Philippine pacification.”

In the American Civil War, General Sherman utilized this policy during his March to the Sea. It was also used by the confederates to destroy any items that could have been used by Sherman's advancing army; this may have contributed to the burning of Columbia. In another event in that conflict, Union General Order No. 11 (1863) ordered the near-total evacuation of three and a half counties in Missouri, which were subsequently looted and burned.

In the Argentina war of independence, the Jujuy Exodus, led by Manuel Belgrano, also used a scorched earth strategy.

In 1868, Tūhoe sheltered the Māori leader Te Kooti, 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.

Indian wars (America)

During the wars with Native American tribes of the American West, under Carleton's direction, Kit Carson instituted a scorched earth policy, burning Navajo 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 Utes. 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, New Mexico. Navajos call this “The Long Walk.” Many died along the way or during the next four years of imprisonment.
Boer civilians watching British soldiers burn down their house: Boers were given 10 minutes to gather belongings

Boer War

Lord Kitchener applied this policy during the later part of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) when the Boers, defeated on the battlefield, resorted to guerilla warfare. This took the form of the destruction of farms in order to prevent the fighting Boers from obtaining food and supplies. However, the destruction left women and children without means to survive since crops and livestock were also destroyed. The British conceived concentration camps as a 'humanitarian' measure, to 'care' for displaced persons until the war was ended. Negligence, 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.

20th century

Efraín Ríos Montt utilized this method in the Guatemalan 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 militias used this tactic in their Timor-Leste Scorched Earth campaign around the time of East Timor's referendum for independence in 1999.

The Sudanese government has used scorched earth tactics as a military strategy in Darfur.

World War I

Russian army used scorched earth tactic during its retreat in summer/fall of 1915.

Sino-Japanese War

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese soldiers destroyed dams and levees in an attempt to flood the land to slow down the advancement of Japanese soldiers. This policy resulted in the 1938 Huang He flood. The Japanese also adopted a scorched-earth policy in China during the war, known as "Three Alls Policy".

World War II

When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin 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 (German "verbrannte Erde"), when retreating German forces 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, 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, 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 tactics. More than one-third of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital Rovaniemi was burned to the ground. All but two bridges in Lapland were blown up and roads mined. In Northern Norway which was at the same time invaded by Finnish 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, including churches, thus interposing a belt of "scorched earth" between themselves and the allies.

In 1945, Adolf Hitler, desperately attempting to save Nazi Germany from the Allies and the Soviet Union, ordered Albert Speer, his armaments minister, to carry out the nationwide scorched earth policy, in what was termed the Nero Order. Speer refused the order and left Berlin.

Millions of civilian people starved or froze to death because of this tactic, especially in the Soviet Union.

The Australian government had a scorched earth policy as a worst case scenario during 1942. Due to the threat of invasion from Japan, the Australian government considered what land could be burnt and surrendered to possible Japanese invading forces. This was known as the "Brisbane Line".

Vietnam War

Throughout the 60s, the US employed herbicides (chiefly Agent Orange), as a part of its herbicidal warfare program Trail Dust to destroy crops and foliage in order to expose possible enemy hideouts and to deny food to the enemy. Napalm was also extensively used for such purposes.

Gulf War

During the Gulf War 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.

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