A bombardment is an attack by artillery fire or by dropping bombs from
aircraft on fortifications, combatants, or towns and buildings.
Prior to World
War I, the term was only applied to the bombardment of
defenseless or undefended objects, houses, public buildings, etc. It
was only loosely employed to describe artillery attacks upon forts or
fortified positions in preparation for assaults by infantry. Since
then, it has come to mean any mass attack delivered by artillery or
short-range tactical missiles, and later, aerial bombardment delivered
by aircraft or long-range missiles.
In its old strict sense, the term was only applied to the bombardment
of defenseless or undefended objects, houses, public buildings, etc.,
by an assailant with the object of disheartening his opponent, and
specially to force the civilian population and authorities of a
besieged place to persuade their military commander to capitulate
before the actual defenses of the place have been reduced to
impotence. The practice of employing artillery to achieve these
ends was especially common up until World
War I; since then long range
artillery bombardment has been joined by aerial bombardment delivered
by aircraft or missiles.
A bombard, Malbork Castle
Bombardment can only achieve its objective when the amount of
suffering inflicted upon non-combatants is sufficient to break down
their resolution, and when the commander permits himself to be
influenced or coerced by the sufferers. A threat of bombardment will
sometimes induce the target to surrender, but instances of its
fulfillment being followed by success are rare; in general, with a
determined commander, bombardments fail in their objective. Further,
intentionally intense fire at a large target, unlike the slow, steady
and minutely accurate artillery attacks directed upon the
fortifications, requires the expenditure of large quantities of
ammunition and wears out the guns of the attack. Bombardments are,
however, frequently resorted to in order to test the temper of the
garrison and the civilian population, a notable instance being the
Siege of Strasbourg in 1870.
The term has evolved during the twentieth century to incorporate
broader massed artillery attacks by one army against another, for
example the front wide bombardment prior to the 1916 attack on the
Somme or the massed bombardments preceding
Operation Uranus during
War II.
^ a b c One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates
text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh,
ed. (1911). "Bombardment". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press.