Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the military strategy. See Scorched Earth (computer game) for the computer game.
Scorched earth is a military tactic which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy whilst advancing through or withdrawing from an area. The name refers to the practice of burning crops to deny the enemy food sources. The practice may be carried out by an army in enemy territory, or by an army in its own home territory. An example of the latter occurred in World War II when the Soviet Red Army salted their own lands as the Nazis forced them to retreat back through it, preventing the Nazis from growing crops on it. This example also illustrates another important aspect to consider about scorched earth tactics: when the Soviets reclaimed the territory, they were equally unable to use it.
The tactic can also be used aggressively to cripple an enemy's ability to operate and fight in their own territory. General Sherman's March to the Sea during the American Civil War is a well known example.
During the Napoleonic Wars, scorched earth policies were successfully employed in both Spain (see Peninsular War) and Russia (see Napoleon's invasion of Russia). Contrary to popular opinion maintained mainly by the Tolstoy novel War and Peace, in Russia the tactic was first proposed not by Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov but Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly.
Wars that have involved scorched earth tactics
- The rebellion against Julius Caesar by Vercingetorix
- Romanian wars of defense against the invading Ottoman Empire forces.
- Charles XII of Sweden's invasion of Peter the Great's Russia.
- The Napoleonic Wars in Russia and Spain.
- The British used scorched earth techniques against the Afrikaners during the Boer Wars.
- During the American Civil War, General Sherman burned and plundered the Georgia countryside on his way from Atlanta to Savannah; General Philip Sheridan practiced similar tactics in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.
- In skirmishes with Indian settlers in the Great Plains, American soldiers used scorched earth tactics to destroy Indian food supplies and territories.
- During World War II, the Soviets employed a highly effective scorched earth policy to counter the Nazi invasion (see Great Patriotic War).
- The Nazis used a scorched earth strategy against the Finns during the Lapland War, part of World War II.
- The Nazis also used a scorched earth strategy against the Norwegians when pulling back from Northern Norway to escape the invading Soviet Red Army, part of World War II.
- The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when the Afghanis burned their oil fields to prevent the advance of the Soviet army and the use of them by the Soviet army.
- The United States' policy during the Vietnam War, such as Operation Ranch Hand.
- During the 1991 Gulf War the retreating Iraqi Forces set ablaze the oil fields in Kuwait as they were driven back by the enemy troops.
Future usage and modern alternatives
It remains to be seen whether nuclear, biological, and/or chemical weapons will be used as scorched earth weapons. Using land mines or semiautonomous artillery units (such as the Metal Storm systems) to create denied areas may be an alternative to scorched earth tactics in some cases, and modern solutions of these types may offer friend-or-foe selectivity.
Scorched earth is also used to describe a corporate business tactic. One such case is the anti-sales tactic taken by American movie rental chain Blockbuster. Rather than sell off excess stock or donate it to libraries, charities, and the like, store representatives are ordered to "field destroy" all merchandise that is of no further use to the company.
This practice prevents others from benefiting from the items in question without patronizing the company. The items can be toys, DVDs or promotional goods.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details