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A scorched-earth policy is a
military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek word '' strategos'', the term strategy, when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow ...
that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. Any assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted, which usually includes obvious weapons, transport vehicles, communication sites, and industrial resources. However, anything useful to the advancing enemy may be targeted, including food stores and agricultural areas, water sources, and even the local people themselves, though the last has been banned under the 1977 Geneva Conventions. The practice can be carried out by the
military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct ...
in enemy territory or in its own home territory while it is being invaded. It may overlap with, but is not the same as, punitive destruction of the enemy's resources, which is usually done as part of political strategy, rather than operational strategy. Notable historic examples of scorched-earth tactics include
William Tecumseh Sherman William Tecumseh Sherman ( ; February 8, 1820February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a General officer, general in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–1865), achieving recogn ...
's March to the Sea in
the American Civil War The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 26, 1865; also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States. It was fought between the Union (American Civil War), Union ("the North") and t ...
,
Kit Carson Christopher Houston Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868) was an American frontiersman. He was a fur trapper, wilderness guide, Indian agent, and U.S. Army officer. He became a frontier legend in his own lifetime by biographies and n ...
's subjugation of the American Navajo Indians, Lord Kitchener's advance against the
Boers Boers ( ; af, Boere ()) are the descendants of the Dutch-speaking Free Burghers Free Burghers (Dutch language, Dutch: ''Vrijburgher'', Afrikaans: ''Vryburger'') were early Europeans, European settlers at the Cape of Good Hope in the 18 ...
, and the setting on fire of 605 to 732 oil wells by retreating Iraqi military forces during the
Gulf War The Gulf War was a 1990–1991 armed campaign waged by a Coalition of the Gulf War, 35-country military coalition in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Spearheaded by the United States, the coalition's efforts against Ba'athist Iraq, ...
. Also notable were the Russian army's strategies during the failed
Swedish invasion of Russia The invasion of Russia by Charles XII of Sweden was a campaign undertaken during the Great Northern War The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the s ...
, the failed Napoleonic invasion of Russia, the initial
Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
retreat commanded by
Joseph Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili; – 5 March 1953) was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former ...
during the German Army's
invasion An invasion is a Offensive (military), military offensive in which large numbers of combatants of one geopolitics, geopolitical Legal entity, entity aggressively enter territory (country subdivision), territory owned by another such entity, gen ...
during the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, and
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...
's retreat on the Eastern Front. The concept of
scorched-earth defense The scorched-earth defense is a form of risk arbitrage and anti-takeover strategy. When a target corporation, firm implements this provision, it will make an effort to make itself unattractive to the hostile bidder. For example, a company may ag ...
is sometimes applied figuratively to the business world in which a firm facing a
takeover In business, a takeover is the purchase of one company (law), company (the ''target'') by another (the ''acquirer'' or ''bidder''). In the UK, the term refers to the acquisition of a public company whose shares are listed on a stock exchange, in ...
attempts to make itself less valuable by selling off its assets.


Ancient warfare


Scythian

The
Scythians The Scythians or Scyths, and sometimes also referred to as the Classical Scythians and the Pontic Scythians, were an ancient Eastern * : "In modern scholarship the name 'Sakas' is reserved for the ancient tribes of northern and eastern Cent ...
used scorched-earth methods against the Persian
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
, led by King
Darius the Great Darius I ( peo, wiktionary:𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; grc-gre, Δαρεῖος ; – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was a List of monarchs of Persia, Persian ruler who served as the third King o ...
, during his European Scythian campaign. The Scythians, who were nomadic herders, evaded the Persian invaders and retreated into the depths of the
steppes In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may include: * the montane grasslands and shrublands biome * the temperate grasslands, ...
after they had destroyed food supplies and poisoned wells.


Armenian

The Greek general
Xenophon Xenophon of Athens (; grc, wikt:Ξενοφῶν, Ξενοφῶν ; – probably 355 or 354 BC) was a Greek military leader, philosopher, and historian, born in Athens. At the age of 30, Xenophon was elected commander of one of the biggest Anci ...
recorded in his '' Anabasis'' that the
Armenians Armenians ( hy, հայեր, ''Romanization of Armenian, hayer'' ) are an ethnic group native to the Armenian highlands of Western Asia. Armenians constitute the main population of Armenia and the ''de facto'' independent Republic of Artsakh ...
, as they withdrew, burned their crops and food supplies before the
Ten Thousand The Ten Thousand ( grc, οἱ Μύριοι, ''oi Myrioi'') were a force of mercenary units, mainly Ancient Greece, Greeks, employed by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire from his brother, Ar ...
could advance.


Greek

The Greek mercenary general
Memnon of Rhodes Memnon of Rhodes (Greek: Μέμνων ὁ Ῥόδιος; c. 380 – 333 BC) was a prominent Rhodes, Rhodian Greeks, Greek commander in the service of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Achaemenid Empire. Related to the Persian aristocracy by the m ...
unsuccessfully suggested to the Persian
satraps A satrap () was a governor of the province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territori ...
to use a scorched-earth policy against
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, wikt:Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Maced ...
, who was moving into
Asia Minor Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
.


Roman

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 Gallic Wars were waged between 58 and 50 BC by the Roman general Julius Caesar against the peoples of Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and A ...
. The first was used when the Celtic
Helvetii The Helvetii ( , Gaulish: *''Heluētī''), anglicized as Helvetians, 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. According to Jul ...
were forced to evacuate their homes in
Southern Germany Southern Germany () is a region of Germany which has no exact boundary, but is generally taken to include the areas in which Upper German dialects are spoken, historically the stem duchy, stem duchies of Duchy of Bavaria, Bavaria and Duchy of Sw ...
and
Switzerland ). Swiss law does not designate a ''capital'' as such, but the federal parliament and government are in Bern, while other federal institutions, such as the federal courts, are in other cities (Bellinzona, Lausanne, Luzern, Neuchâtel, St. Gall ...
because of incursions of unfriendly
Germanic tribes The Germanic peoples were historical groups of people that once occupied Central Europe and Scandinavia during antiquity and into the early Middle Ages. Since the 19th century, they have traditionally been defined by the use of ancient and ear ...
: to add incentive to the march, the Helvetii destroyed everything they could not bring. After the Helvetii were defeated by combined Roman and Gallic forces, the Helvetii were forced to rebuild themselves on the plains they themselves had destroyed. The second case shows actual military value: during the Great Gallic War the
Gauls The Gauls ( la, Galli; grc, Γαλάται, ''Galátai'') were a group of Celts, Celtic peoples of mainland Europe in the Iron Age Europe, Iron Age and the Roman Gaul, Roman period (roughly 5th century BC to 5th century AD). Their homeland was k ...
under
Vercingetorix Vercingetorix (; Ancient Greek, Greek: Οὐερκιγγετόριξ; – 46 BC) was a Gauls, Gallic king and chieftain of the Arverni tribe who united the Gauls in a failed revolt against Roman Republic, Roman forces during the last phase of Ju ...
planned to lure the Roman armies into Gaul and then trap and obliterate them. They thus ravaged the countryside of what are now the
Benelux The Benelux Union ( nl, Benelux Unie; french: Union Benelux; lb, Benelux-Unioun), also known as simply Benelux, is a Political union, politico-economic union and formal international intergovernmental cooperation of three neighboring states in ...
countries and France. This caused immense problems for the Romans, but the Roman military triumphs over the Gallic alliance showed that the ravaging alone was not to be enough to save Gaul from subjugation by Rome. During the
Second Punic War The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) was the second of Punic Wars, three wars fought between Ancient Carthage, Carthage and Roman Republic, Rome, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC. For ...
in 218–202 BCE, both Carthaginians and Romans used the method selectively during Hannibal's invasion of
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
. After the Roman defeat at
Lake Trasimene Lake Trasimeno ( , also ; it, Lago Trasimeno ; la, Trasumennus; ett, Tarśmina), also referred to as Trasimene ( ) or Thrasimene in English, is a lake in the province of Perugia The Province of Perugia ( it, Provincia di Perugia) is the ...
, Quintus Fabius Maximus instructed those living in the path of the invading Carthaginians to burn their houses and grain. After the end of the
Third Punic War The Third Punic War (149–146 BC) was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between Ancient Carthage, Carthage and Roman Republic, Rome. The war was fought entirely within Carthaginian territory, in modern northern Tunisia. When the S ...
in 146 BCE, the
Roman Senate The Roman Senate ( la, Senātus Rōmānus) was a governing and advisory assembly in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the Rome, city of Rome (traditionally found ...
also elected to use this method to permanently destroy the Carthaginian capital city,
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of Ancient Carthage, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in ...
(near modern-day
Tunis Tunis ( ar, تونس ') is the capital city, capital and largest city of Tunisia. The greater metropolitan area of Tunis, often referred to as "Grand Tunis", has about 2,700,000 inhabitants. , it is the third-largest city in the Maghreb region (a ...
). 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 Apocrypha are works, usually written, of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin. The word ''apocryphal'' (ἀπόκρυφος) was first applied to writings which were kept secret because they were the vehicles of esoteric knowledge considered ...
. In the year CE 363, the Emperor Julian's invasion of Persia was turned back by a scorched-earth policy:


Post-classical warfare


Late antiquity and early medieval period in Europe

The British monk
Gildas Gildas (Breton language, Breton: ''Gweltaz''; c. 450/500 – c. 570) — also known as Gildas the Wise or ''Gildas Sapiens'' — was a 6th-century Britons (historic), British monk best known for his scathing religious polemic ''De Excidio et Co ...
wrote in his 6th-century treatise "On the Ruin of Britain" on an earlier invasion: "For the fire of vengeance ... spread from sea to sea ... and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island". During the
First Fitna The First Fitna ( ar, فتنة مقتل عثمان, fitnat maqtal ʻUthmān, Fitna (word), strife/sedition of the killing of Uthman) was the first civil war in the Islamic community. It led to the overthrow of the Rashidun Caliphate and the estab ...
(656–661),
Muawiyah I Mu'awiya I ( ar, معاوية بن أبي سفيان, Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān; –April 680) was the founder and first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate, ruling from 661 until his death. He became caliph less than thirty years after the deat ...
sent
Busr ibn Abi Artat Busr ibn Abi Artat al-Amiri ( ar, بسر بن أبي أرطأة العامري, Busr ibn Abī Arṭāt al-ʿĀmirī; 620s–) was a prominent Arab commander in the service of Mu'awiya I, the governor of Bilad al-Sham, Islamic Syria (640s–661) a ...
to a campaign in the
Hejaz The Hejaz (, also ; ar, ٱلْحِجَاز, al-Ḥijāz, lit=the Barrier, ) is a region in the west of Saudi Arabia. It includes the cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, Tabuk, Yanbu, Taif, and Baljurashi. It is also known as ...
and
Yemen Yemen (; ar, ٱلْيَمَن, al-Yaman), officially the Republic of Yemen,, ) is a country in Western Asia. It is situated on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, and borders Saudi Arabia to the Saudi Arabia–Yemen border, north and ...
to ravage territory loyal to Muawiyah's opponent
Ali ibn Abi Talib ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib ( ar, عَلِيّ بْن أَبِي طَالِب; 600 – 661 common era, CE) was the last of four Rashidun, Rightly Guided Caliphs to rule Islam (r. 656 – 661) immediately after the death of Muhammad, and he was ...
. According to
Tabari ( ar, أبو جعفر محمد بن جرير بن يزيد الطبري), more commonly known as al-Ṭabarī (), was a Muslim historian and scholar from Amol, Tabaristan. Among the most prominent figures of the Islamic Golden Age, al-Tabari i ...
, 30,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed during that campaign of the civil war. Muawiyah also sent Sufyan ibn Awf to
Iraq Iraq,; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq officially the Republic of Iraq, '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to Iraq–Turkey border, the north, Iran to Iran–Iraq ...
to burn the crops and homes of Ali's supporters. During the great Viking invasion of England that was opposed by
Alfred the Great Alfred the Great (alt. Ælfred 848/849 – 26 October 899) was King of the West Saxons from 871 to 886, and King of the Anglo-Saxons from 886 until his death in 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf, King of Wessex, Æthelwulf and his ...
and various other
Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * * peoples whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country (Old Saxony, la, Saxo ...
and Welsh rulers, the Viking chieftain
Hastein Hastein (Old Norse: ''Hásteinn'', also recorded as ''Hastingus'', ''Anstign'', ''Haesten'', ''Hæsten'', ''Hæstenn'' or ''Hæsting'' and alias ''Alsting''Jones, Aled (2003). ''Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Sixth Series'' Cambridge ...
marched his men to
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, Wales, River Dee, close to the England–Wales border, English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: Peop ...
in late summer 893 to occupy the ruined Roman fortress there. The refortified fortress would have made an excellent base for raiding northern
Mercia la, Merciorum regnum , conventional_long_name=Kingdom of Mercia , common_name=Mercia , status=Kingdom , status_text=Independent kingdom (527–879)Client state of Wessex () , life_span=527–918 , era=Heptarchy , event_start= , date_start= , ye ...
, but the Mercians are recorded as having taken the drastic measure of destroying all crops and livestock in the surrounding countryside to starve the Vikings out. They left
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, Wales, River Dee, close to the England–Wales border, English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: Peop ...
next year and marched into Wales.


Harrying of the North

In the
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, where the presence of the last House of Wessex, Wessex claimant, Edgar Ætheling, had encouraged An ...
,
William the Conqueror William I; ang, WillelmI (Bates ''William the Conqueror'' p. 33– 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first House of Normandy, Norman List of English monarchs#House of Norman ...
's solution to stop a rebellion in 1069 was the brutal conquest and subjugation of
northern England Northern England, also known as the North of England, the North Country, or simply the North, is the northern area of England. It broadly corresponds to the former borders of Angles, Angle Northumbria, the Anglo-Scandinavian Scandinavian York, K ...
. William's men burnt whole villages from the
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 rivers River Ouse, Yorkshire, Ouse and River Trent, Trent. From there to the North Sea, it for ...
to Tees and slaughtered the inhabitants. Food stores and livestock were destroyed so that anyone surviving the initial massacre would soon succumb to starvation over the winter. The destruction is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. The survivors were reduced to
cannibalism Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a common ecology, ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species. Human cannibalism is well docum ...
, with one report stating that the skulls of the dead were cracked open so that their brains could be eaten. Between 100,000 and 150,000 perished, and the area took centuries to recover from the damage.


In India

During 1019 and 1022 AD the
Chandela The Chandelas of Jejakabhukti was an Indian dynasty in Central India. The Chandelas ruled much of the Bundelkhand region (then called ''Jejakabhukti'') between the 9th and the 13th centuries. They belonged to the Chandel (Rajput clan), Chandel c ...
Kingdom was attacked by
Mahmud of Ghazni Yamīn-ud-Dawla Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebüktegīn ( fa, ; 2 November 971 – 30 April 1030), usually known as Mahmud of Ghazni or Mahmud Ghaznavi ( fa, ), was the founder of the Turkic peoples, Turkic Ghaznavid dynasty, ruling from 998 ...
. The Chandellas adopted a scorched earth policy. Mahmud, afraid of penetrating too far into the interior, had each time to retreat without much gain and ultimately established a friendly relationship with the Chandellas.


Medieval Europe

During the
Hundred Years' War The Hundred Years' War (; 1337–1453) was a series of armed conflicts between the kingdoms of Kingdom of England, England and Kingdom of France, France during the Late Middle Ages. It originated from disputed claims to the French Crown, ...
, both the English and the French conducted chevauchée raids over the enemy territory to damage its infrastructure.
Robert the Bruce Robert I (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), popularly known as Robert the Bruce (Scottish Gaelic: ''Raibeart an Bruis''), was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. One of the most renowned warriors of his generation, Robert eventuall ...
counselled using those methods to hold off the forces of
Edward I of England Edward I (17/18 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1272 to 1307. Concurrently, he ruled the duchies of Duchy of Aquitaine, Aquitaine and D ...
, who were Scotland, according to an anonymous 14th-century poem: In 1336, the defenders of Pilėnai,
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no ), is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. It is one of three Baltic states and lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania ...
, set their castle on fire and committed
mass suicide Mass suicide is a form of suicide, occurring when a group of people simultaneously kill themselves. Overview Mass suicide sometimes occurs in religious settings. In war, defeated groups may resort to mass suicide rather than being captured. Su ...
to make the attacking
Teutonic Order The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, commonly known as the Teutonic Order, is a religious order (Catholic), Catholic religious institution founded as a military order (religious society), military society in ...
have only a
Pyrrhic victory A Pyrrhic victory ( ) is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Such a victory negates any true sense of achievement or damages long-term progress. The phrase originates from a quote from ...
. The strategy was widely used in
Wallachia Wallachia or Walachia (; ro, Țara Românească, lit=The Romanian Land' or 'The Romanian Country, ; Archaism, archaic: ', Romanian Cyrillic alphabet: ) is a Historical regions of Romania, historical and geographical region of Romania. It is si ...
and
Moldavia Moldavia ( ro, Moldova, or , literally "The Country of Moldavia"; in Romanian Cyrillic alphabet, Romanian Cyrillic: or ; chu, Землѧ Молдавскаѧ; el, Ἡγεμονία τῆς Μολδαβίας) is a historical region and for ...
, now mostly in
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country located at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern, and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. It borders Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, S ...
and
Moldova Moldova ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Moldova ( ro, Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country located at the crossroads of Central Europe ...
. Prince
Mircea the Elder Mircea the Elder ( ro, Mircea cel Bătrân, ; c. 1355 – 31 January 1418) was the Voivode of Wallachia from 1386 until his death in 1418. He was the son of Radu I of Wallachia and brother of Dan I of Wallachia, after whose death he inherited th ...
used it against the
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire, * ; is an archaic version. The definite article forms and were synonymous * and el, Оθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία, Othōmanikē Avtokratoria, label=none * info page on book at Martin Luther University) ...
in 1395, and
Stephen the Great Stephen III of Moldavia, most commonly known as Stephen the Great ( ro, Ștefan cel Mare; ; died on 2 July 1504), was List of rulers of Moldavia, Voivode (or Prince) of Moldavia from 1457 to 1504. He was the son of and co-ruler with Bogdan II ...
did the same as the
Ottoman Army The military of the Ottoman Empire ( tr, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'nun silahlı kuvvetleri) was the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire, * ; is an archaic version. The definite article forms and were synonymous * a ...
advanced in 1475 and 1476. A
slighting Slighting is the deliberate damage of high-status buildings to reduce their value as military, administrative or social structures. This destruction of property sometimes extended to the contents of buildings and the surrounding landscape. It is ...
is the deliberate destruction, whether partial or complete, of a
fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to establish rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from Latin ''fortis'' ("strong") and ''facere'' ...
without opposition. Sometimes, such as during the
Wars of Scottish Independence The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns fought between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The First War of Scottish Independence, First War (1296–1328) ...
and the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists led by Charles I ("Cavaliers"), mainly over the manner of Kingdom of England, England's governanc ...
, it was done to render the structure unusable as a fortress. In England, adulterine (unauthorised) castles would usually be slighted if captured by a king. During the
Wars of Scottish Independence The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns fought between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The First War of Scottish Independence, First War (1296–1328) ...
, Robert the Bruce adopted a strategy of slighting Scottish castles to prevent them being occupied by the invading English. A strategy of slighting castles in Palestine was also adopted by the
Mamluk Mamluk ( ar, مملوك, mamlūk (singular), , ''mamālīk'' (plural), translated as "one who is owned", meaning "History of slavery in the Muslim world, slave", also Arabic transliteration, transliterated as ''Mameluke'', ''mamluq'', ''mamluke ...
es during their wars with the
Crusaders The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these Crusades are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were in ...
.


Early modern era

Further use of scorched-earth policies in a war was seen during the 16th century in
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
, where it was used by English commanders such as Walter Devereux and Richard Bingham. The
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, the head of the FitzGerald dynasty, Fitzmaurice/FitzGerald Dynasty in Munster, and his followers, t ...
were a famous case in Ireland. Much of the province of
Munster Munster ( gle, an Mhumhain or ) is one of the provinces of Ireland, in the south of Ireland. In early Ireland, the Kingdom of Munster was one of the kingdoms of Gaelic Ireland ruled by a "king of over-kings" ( ga, rí ruirech). Following the ...
was laid waste. The poet
Edmund Spenser Edmund Spenser (; 1552/1553 – 13 January 1599) 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 recognized as one of the premier craftsmen ...
left an account of it: In 1630, Field-Marshal General Torquato Conti was in command of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire was a Polity, political entity in Western Europe, Western, Central Europe, Central, and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, dissolution i ...
's forces during the
Thirty Years' War The Thirty Years' War was one of the longest and List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, most destructive conflicts in History of Europe, European history, lasting from 1618 to 1648. Fought primarily in Central Europe, an es ...
. Forced to retreat from the advancing Swedish army of King
Gustavus Adolphus Gustavus Adolphus (9 December ld Style and New Style dates, N.S 19 December15946 November ld Style and New Style dates, N.S 16 November1632), also known in English as Gustav II Adolf or Gustav II Adolph, was King of Sweden from 1611 to ...
, Conti ordered his troops to burn houses, destroy villages and cause as much harm generally to property and people as possible. His actions were remembered thus:''The History of the Thirty Years' War in Germany'' by Friedrich Schiller (translated by Christoph Martin Wieland, printed for W. Miller, 1799) During the
Great Northern War The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern Europe, Northern, Central Europe, Central and Eastern Europe. The i ...
, Russian Emperor
Peter the Great Peter I ( – ), most commonly known as Peter the Great,) or Pyotr Alekséyevich ( rus, Пётр Алексе́евич, p=ˈpʲɵtr ɐlʲɪˈksʲejɪvʲɪtɕ, , group=pron was a List of Russian monarchs, Russian monarch who ruled the ...
's forces used scorched-earth tactics to hold back Swedish King
Charles XII Charles XII, sometimes Carl XII ( sv, Karl XII) or Carolus Rex (17 June 1682 – 30 November 1718 Adoption of the Gregorian calendar, O.S.), was King of Sweden (including current Finland) from 1697 to 1718. He belonged to the House of Palatina ...
's campaign towards
Moscow Moscow ( , US chiefly ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐskˈva, a=Москва.ogg) is the capital and largest city of Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transco ...
.


Wallachian-Ottoman Wars

In 1462, a massive Ottoman army, led by
Sultan Sultan (; ar, سلطان ', ) is a Royal and noble ranks, position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", derived from the verbal noun ', meaning "authority" ...
Mehmed II Mehmed II ( ota, محمد ثانى, translit=Meḥmed-i s̱ānī; tr, II. Mehmed, ; 30 March 14323 May 1481), commonly known as Mehmed the Conqueror ( ota, ابو الفتح, Ebū'l-fetḥ, lit=the Father of Conquest, links=no; tr, Fâtih Su ...
, marched into Wallachia.
Vlad the Impaler Vlad III, commonly known as Vlad the Impaler ( ro, Vlad Țepeș ) or Vlad Dracula (; ro, Vlad Drăculea ; 1428/311476/77), was List of rulers of Wallachia, Voivode of Wallachia three times between 1448 and his death in 1476/77. He is often c ...
retreated to
Transylvania Transylvania ( ro, Ardeal or ; hu, Erdély; german: Siebenbürgen) is a historical and cultural region in Central Europe, encompassing central Romania. To the east and south its natural border is the Carpathian Mountains, and to the west the Ap ...
. During his departure, he conducted scorched-earth tactics to ward off Mehmed's approach. When the Ottoman forces approached Tirgoviste, they encountered over 20,000 people impaled by the forces of Vlad the Impaler, creating a "forest" of dead or dying bodies on stakes. The atrocious, gut-wrenching sight caused Mehmed to withdraw from battle and to send instead Radu, Vlad's brother, to fight Vlad the Impaler.


Great Siege of Malta

In early 1565, Grandmaster
Jean Parisot de Valette Fra' Jean "Parisot" de la Valette (4 February 1495 – 21 August 1568) was a French people, French nobleman and 49th Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, from 21 August 1557 to his death in 1568. As a K ...
ordered the harvesting of all the crops in Malta, including unripened grain, to deprive the Ottomans of any local food supplies since spies had warned of an imminent Ottoman attack. Furthermore, the Knights poisoned all of the wells with bitter herbs and dead animals. The Ottomans arrived on 18 May, and the
Great Siege of Malta The Great Siege of Malta (Maltese language, Maltese: ''L-Assedju l-Kbir'') occurred in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire attempted to conquer the island of Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller. The siege lasted nearly four months, from 18 May ...
began. The Ottomans managed to capture one fort but were eventually defeated by the Knights, the Maltese militia and a Spanish relief force.


Nine Years' War

In 1688, France attacked the German
Electoral Palatinate The Electoral Palatinate (german: Kurpfalz) or the Palatinate (), officially the Electorate of the Palatinate (), was a Imperial State, state that was part of the Holy Roman Empire. The electorate had its origins under the rulership of the Lis ...
. The German states responded by forming an alliance and assembling a sizeable armed force to push the French out of Germany. The French had not prepared for such an eventuality. Realising that the war in Germany was not going to end quickly and that the war would not be a brief and decisive parade of French glory,
Louis XIV Louis XIV (Louis Dieudonné; 5 September 16381 September 1715), also known as Louis the Great () or the Sun King (), was List of French monarchs, King of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the Li ...
and War Minister Marquis de Louvois resolved upon a scorched-earth policy in the Palatinate,
Baden Baden (; ) is a historical territory in South Germany, in earlier times on both sides of the Upper Rhine but since the Napoleonic Wars only East of the Rhine. History The margraves of Baden originated from the House of Zähringen. Baden is ...
and Württemberg. The French were intent on denying enemy troops local resources and on preventing the Germans from invading France.Childs (1991), p. 17. By 20 December 1688, Louvois had selected all the cities, towns, villages and châteaux intended for destruction. On 2 March 1689, the Count of Tessé torched
Heidelberg Heidelberg (; Palatine German: ''Heidlberg'') is a city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science ...
, and on 8 March, Montclar levelled
Mannheim Mannheim (; Palatine German language, Palatine German: or ), officially the University City of Mannheim (german: Universitätsstadt Mannheim), is the List of cities in Baden-Württemberg by population, second-largest city in the States of Germ ...
. Oppenheim and Worms were finally destroyed on 31 May, followed by
Speyer Speyer (, older spelling ''Speier'', French language, French: ''Spire,'' historical English language, English: ''Spires''; pfl, Schbaija) is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located on the left b ...
on 1 June, and Bingen on 4 June. In all, French troops burnt over 20 substantial towns as well as numerous villages.


Mughal-Maratha Wars

In the
Maratha Empire The Maratha Empire, also referred to as the Maratha Confederacy, was an early modern Indian confederation that came to dominate much of the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century. Maratha rule formally began in 1674 with the coronation of Shi ...
, Shivaji Maharaj had introduced scorched-earth tactics, known as ''Ganimi Kava''. His forces looted traders and businessmen from
Aurangzeb Muhi al-Din Muhammad (; – 3 March 1707), commonly known as ( fa, , lit=Ornament of the Throne) and by his regnal title Alamgir ( fa, , translit=ʿĀlamgīr, lit=Conqueror of the World), was the sixth emperor of the Mughal Empire, ruling ...
's
Mughal Empire The Mughal Empire was an early-modern empire that controlled much of South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries. Quote: "Although the first two Timurid emperors and many of their noblemen were recent migrants to the subcontinent, the d ...
and burnt down his cities, but they were strictly ordered not to rape or hurt the innocent civilians and not to cause any sort of disrespect to any of the religious institutes. Shivaji's son, Sambhaji Maharaj, was detested throughout the Mughal Empire for his scorched-earth tactics until he and his men were captured by Muqarrab Khan and his
Mughal Army The Army of the Mughal Empire was the force by which the Mughal emperors established Mughal Empire, their empire in the 15th century and expanded it to its greatest extent at the beginning of the 18th century. Although its origins, like the Mugha ...
contingent of 25,000. On 11 March 1689, a panel of Mughal
qadi A qāḍī ( ar, قاضي, Qāḍī; otherwise transliterated as qazi, cadi, kadi, or kazi) is the magistrate or judge of a ''Sharia, sharīʿa'' court, who also exercises extrajudicial functions such as mediation, guardianship over orphans a ...
s indicted and sentenced Sambhaji to death on accusations of casual
torture Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on a person for reasons such as punishment, extracting a confession, interrogational torture, interrogation for information, or intimidating third parties. definitions of tortur ...
,
arson Arson is the crime of willfully and deliberately setting fire to or charring property. Although the act of arson typically involves Building, buildings, the term can also refer to the intentional Combustion, burning of other things, such as ...
, looting and massacres but most prominently for giving shelter to Sultan Muhammad Akbar, the fourth son of Aurangzeb, who had sought Sambhaji's aid in winning the Mughal throne from the emperor, his father. Sambhaji was particularly condemned for the three days of ravaging committed after the Battle of Burhanpur.


19th century


Napoleonic Wars

During the third Napoleonic invasion of Portugal in 1810, the Portuguese population retreated towards
Lisbon Lisbon (; pt, Lisboa ) is the capital and largest city of Portugal, with an estimated population of 544,851 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km2. Grande Lisboa, Lisbon's urban area extends beyond the city's administr ...
and was ordered to destroy all the food supplies the French might capture as well as forage and shelter in a wide belt across the country. (Although effective food-preserving techniques had recently been invented, they were still not fit for military use because a suitably-rugged container had not yet been invented.) The command was obeyed as a result of French plundering and general ill-treatment of civilians in the previous invasions. The poor angry people would rather destroy anything that had to be left behind, rather than leave it to the French. After the Battle of Bussaco, André Masséna's army marched on to
Coimbra Coimbra (, also , , or ) is a city and a concelho, municipality in Portugal. The population of the municipality at the 2011 census was 143,397, in an area of . The fourth-largest urban area in Portugal after Lisbon Metropolitan Area, Lisbon, Por ...
, where much of the city's old university and library were vandalised. Houses and furniture were destroyed, and the few civilians who did not seek refuge farther south were murdered. While there were instances of similar behavior by British soldiers, since Portugal was their ally, such crimes were generally investigated and those found punished. Coimbra's sack made the populace even more determined to leave nothing, and when the French armies reached the
Lines of Torres Vedras The Lines of Torres Vedras were lines of Fortification, forts and other military defences built in secrecy to defend Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Named after the nearby town of Torres Vedras, they were ordered by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duk ...
on the way to Lisbon, French soldiers reported that the country "seemed to empty ahead of them". When Massená reached the city of
Viseu Viseu () is a city and municipality in the Centro Region of Portugal and the capital of the Viseu District, district of the same name, with a population of 100,000 inhabitants, and center of the Viseu Dão Lafões Intermunicipal communities of Por ...
, he wanted to replenish his armies' dwindling food supplies, but none of the inhabitants remained, and all there was to eat were grapes and lemons that if eaten in large quantities would be better laxatives than sources of calories. Low morale, hunger, disease and indiscipline greatly weakened the French army and compelled the forces to retreat the next spring. That method was later recommended to Russia when
Napoleon Napoleon Bonaparte ; it, Napoleone Bonaparte, ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), later known by his regnal name Napoleon I, was a French military commander and political leader who ...
made his move. In 1812, Emperor Alexander I was able to render
Napoleon's invasion of Russia The French invasion of Russia, also known as the Russian campaign, the Second Polish War, the Army of Twenty nations, and the Patriotic War of 1812 was launched by Napoleon Bonaparte to force the Russian Empire back into the Continental System ...
useless by using a scorched-earth retreat policy, similar to that of Portugal. As Russians withdrew from the advancing French army, they burned the countryside ( and allegedly Moscow) over which they passed, leaving nothing of value for the pursuing French army. Encountering only desolate and useless land Napoleon's Grande Armée was prevented from using its usual doctrine of living off the lands that 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 Moscow ( , US chiefly ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐskˈva, a=Москва.ogg) is the capital and largest city of Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transco ...
, which was a tattered starving shell of its former self, largely because of scorched-earth tactics by the retreating Russians. Having conquered essentially nothing, Napoleon's troops retreated, but the scorched-earth policy came into effect again because even though some large supply dumps had been established on the advance, the route between them had both been scorched and marched over once already. Thus, the French army starved as it marched along the resource-depleted invasion route.


South American War of Independence

In August 1812,
Argentine Argentines (mistakenly translated Argentineans in the past; in Spanish language, Spanish (Grammatical gender, masculine) or (Grammatical gender, feminine)) are people identified with the country of Argentina. This connection may be resident ...
General
Manuel Belgrano Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano y González (3 June 1770 – 20 June 1820), usually referred to as Manuel Belgrano (), was an Argentina, Argentine public servant, economist, lawyer, politician, journalist, and military l ...
led the Jujuy Exodus, a massive forced displacement of people from what is now Jujuy and Salta Provinces to the south. The Jujuy Exodus was conducted by the patriot forces of the Army of the North, which was battling a
Royalist A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of gov ...
army. Belgrano, faced with the prospect of total defeat and territorial loss, ordered all people to pack their necessities, including food and furniture, and to follow him in carriages or on foot together with whatever cattle and beasts of burden that could endure the journey. The rest (houses, crops, food stocks and any objects made of iron) was to be burned to deprive the Royalists of resources. The strict scorched-earth policy made him ask on 29 July 1812 the people of Jujuy to "show their heroism" and to join the march of the army under his command "if, as you assure, you want to be free". The punishment for ignoring the order was execution, with destruction of the defector's properties. Belgrano labored to win the support of the populace and later reported that most of the people had willingly followed him without the need of force. The exodus started on 23 August and gathered people from Jujuy and Salta. People travelled south about 250 km and finally arrived at the banks of the Pasaje River, in Tucumán Province in the early hours of 29 August. They applied a scorched-earth policy and so the Spaniards advanced into a wasteland. Belgrano's army destroyed everything that could provide shelter or be useful to the Royalists.


Greek War of Independence

In 1827,
Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt Ibrahim Pasha ( tr, Kavalalı İbrahim Paşa; ar, إبراهيم باشا ''Ibrāhīm Bāshā''; 1789 – 10 November 1848) was an Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Albanians, Albanian general in the Egyptian Army, Egyptian army and the eldest son of Muha ...
led an Ottoman-Egyptian combined force in a campaign to crush Greek revolutionaries in the
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos,(), or Morea is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the Isthmu ...
. In response to Greek guerrilla attacks on his forces in the
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos,(), or Morea is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the Isthmu ...
, Ibrahim launched a scorched earth campaign which threatened the population with starvation and deported many civilians into slavery in
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning the North Africa, northeast corner of Africa and Western Asia, southwest corner of Asia via a land bridg ...
. He also allegedly planned to bring in Arab settlers to replace the Greek population. The fires of burning villages and fields were clearly visible from Allied ships standing offshore. A British landing party reported that the population of Messinia was close to mass starvation. Ibrahim's scorched-earth policy caused much outrage in
Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent of Eurasia ...
, which was one factor for the
Great Powers A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power i ...
(
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
, the
Kingdom of France The Kingdom of France ( fro, Reaume de France; frm, Royaulme de France; french: link=yes, Royaume de France) is the historiographical name or umbrella term given to various political entities of France France (), officially the Fr ...
and the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire was an empire and the final period of the List of Russian monarchs, Russian monarchy from 1721 to 1917, ruling across large parts of Eurasia. It succeeded the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad, which ended th ...
) decisively intervening against him in the
Battle of Navarino The Battle of Navarino was a naval battle fought on 20 October (O. S. 8 October) 1827, during the Greek War of Independence (1821–29), in Pylos, Navarino Bay (modern Pylos), on the west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, in the Ionian Sea. Al ...
.


Philippine–American War

The
Philippine–American War The Philippine–American War or Filipino–American War ( es, Guerra filipina-estadounidense, tl, Digmaang Pilipino–Amerikano), previously referred to as the Philippine Insurrection or the Tagalog Insurgency by the United States, was an arm ...
often included scorched-earth campaigns in the countryside. Entire villages were burned and destroyed, with torture ('' water cure'') and the concentration of civilians into "protected zones." Many civilian casualties were caused by disease and famine. In the hunt for guerrilla leader
Emilio Aguinaldo Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (: March 22, 1869February 6, 1964) was a Filipino revolutionary, statesman, and military leader who is the youngest List of presidents of the Philippines, president of the Philippines (1899–1901) and is recognized a ...
, American troops also poisoned water wells to try to force out the Filipino rebels.


American Civil War

In the
American Civil War The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 26, 1865; also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States. It was fought between the Union (American Civil War), Union ("the North") and t ...
, Union forces under
Philip Sheridan General of the Army (United States), General of the Army Philip Henry Sheridan (March 6, 1831 – August 5, 1888) was a career United States Army officer and a Union Army, Union General officers in the United_States, general in the Americ ...
and
William Tecumseh Sherman William Tecumseh Sherman ( ; February 8, 1820February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a General officer, general in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–1865), achieving recogn ...
used the policy widely. General Sherman used that policy during his March to the Sea. Sherman's tactics were an attempt to destroy the enemy's will and logistics through burning or destroying crops or other resources that might be used for the Confederate force. Later generations of American war leaders would use similar
total war Total war is a type of warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combata ...
tactics in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq war, and the Afghanistan War, largely through the use of air power. During Sherman's campaign, his "men piled all deed books in front of the courthouse and burned them. The logic was that the big plantations would not be able to prove land ownership. These actions are the bane of Georgia and
South Carolina )''Animis opibusque parati'' ( for, , Latin, Prepared in mind and resources, links=no) , anthem = "Carolina (state song), Carolina";"South Carolina On My Mind" , Former = Province of South Carolina , seat = Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia , ...
genealogists.” Another event, in response to
William Quantrill William Clarke Quantrill (July 31, 1837 – June 6, 1865) was a Confederate States of America, Confederate guerrilla warfare, guerrilla leader during the American Civil War. Having endured a tempestuous childhood before later becoming a school ...
's raid on Lawrence, Kansas and the many civilian casualties, including the killing of 180 men, Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr., Sherman's brother-in-law, issued US Army General Order No. 11 (1863) to order the near-total evacuation of three-and-a-half counties in western
Missouri Missouri is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. Ranking List of U.S. states and territories by area, 21st in land area, it is bordered by eight states (tied for the most with Tennessee ...
, south of Kansas City, which were subsequently looted and burned by
US Army The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare, land military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight Uniformed services of the United States, U.S. uniformed services, and is designated as the Army o ...
troops. Under Sherman's overall direction, General
Philip Sheridan General of the Army (United States), General of the Army Philip Henry Sheridan (March 6, 1831 – August 5, 1888) was a career United States Army officer and a Union Army, Union General officers in the United_States, general in the Americ ...
followed that policy in the
Shenandoah Valley The Shenandoah Valley () is a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge- ...
of
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...
and then in the
Indian Wars The American Indian Wars, also known as the American Frontier Wars, and the Indian Wars, were fought by European governments and colonists in North America, and later by the United States and Canadian governments and American and Canadian settle ...
of the
Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a broad expanse of plain, flatland in North America. It is located west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, much of it covered in prairie, step ...
. When General
Ulysses Grant Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant ; April 27, 1822July 23, 1885) was an American military officer and politician who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877. As Commanding General of the United States ...
's forces broke through the defenses of
Richmond, Virginia (Thus do we reach the stars) , image_map = , mapsize = 250 px , map_caption = Location within Virginia , pushpin_map = Virginia#USA , pushpin_label = Richmond , pushpin_m ...
, Confederate President
Jefferson Davis Jefferson F. Davis (June 3, 1808December 6, 1889) was an American politician who served as the President of the Confederate States of America, president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. He represented Mississippi in the United Sta ...
ordered the destruction of Richmond's militarily-significant supplies. The resulting conflagration destroyed many buildings, most of which were commercial, as well as Confederate warships docked on the
James River The James River is a river in the U.S. state of Virginia that begins in the Appalachian Mountains and flows U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline dataThe National Map , accessed April 1, 2011 to Chesapea ...
. Civilians in panic were forced to escape the fires that had been started.


Native American Wars

During the wars with Native American tribes of the
American West The Western United States (also called the American West, the Far West, and the West) is the region In geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia''. Combination of Greek words ‘Geo’ (The Earth) and ‘Graphie ...
,
Kit Carson Christopher Houston Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868) was an American frontiersman. He was a fur trapper, wilderness guide, Indian agent, and U.S. Army officer. He became a frontier legend in his own lifetime by biographies and n ...
, under
James Henry Carleton James Henry Carleton (December 27, 1814 – January 7, 1873) was an officer in the United States Army, US Army and a Union Army, Union general during the American Civil War. Carleton is best known as an Indian fighter in the Southwestern United S ...
's direction, instituted a scorched-earth policy, burning
Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest or simply the Southwest, is a geographic and cultur ...
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 tribe Ute () are the Indigenous people of the Ute tribe and culture among the Indigenous peoples of the Great Basin. They had lived in sovereignty in the regions of present-day Utah and Colorado in the Southwestern United States for many centuries unt ...
. The Navajo were forced to surrender because of the destruction of their livestock and food supplies. In the spring of 1864, 8000 Navajo men, women, and children were forced to march 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Navajos call it " The Long Walk." Many died along the way or during their four years of internment. A military expedition, led by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, was sent to the
Texas Panhandle The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 List of Texas counties, counties in the state. The Salient (geography), panhandle is a square-shaped area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklaho ...
and the Oklahoma Territory Panhandle in 1874 to remove the Indians to reservations in
Oklahoma Oklahoma (; Choctaw language, Choctaw: ; chr, ᎣᎧᎳᎰᎹ, ''Okalahoma'' ) is a U.S. state, state in the South Central United States, South Central region of the United States, bordered by Texas on the south and west, Kansas on the nor ...
. The Mackenzie expedition captured about 1,200 of the Indians' horses, drove them into Tule Canyon, and shot all of them. Denied their main source of livelihood and demoralized, the
Comanche The Comanche or Nʉmʉnʉʉ ( com, Nʉmʉnʉʉ, "the people") are a Native Americans in the United States, Native American tribe (Native American), tribe from the Great Plains, Southern Plains of the present-day United States. Comanche people t ...
and the
Kiowa Kiowa () people are a Native Americans in the United States, Native American tribe and an indigenous people of the Great Plains of the United States. They migrated southward from western Montana into the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in the 17th a ...
abandoned the area (see
Palo Duro Canyon Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the cities of Amarillo, Texas, Amarillo and Canyon, Texas, Canyon. As the second-largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly long and has an ...
).


Second Boer War

During the
Second Boer War The Second Boer War ( af, Tweede Vryheidsoorlog, , 11 October 189931 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, the Anglo–Boer War, or the South African War, was a conflict fought between the British Empire and the two Boer Republics (the South ...
(1899–1902), British forces applied a scorched-earth policy in the occupied Boer republics under the direction of General Lord Kitchener. Numerous
Boers Boers ( ; af, Boere ()) are the descendants of the Dutch-speaking Free Burghers Free Burghers (Dutch language, Dutch: ''Vrijburgher'', Afrikaans: ''Vryburger'') were early Europeans, European settlers at the Cape of Good Hope in the 18 ...
, refusing to accept military defeat, adopted guerrilla warfare despite the capture of both of their capital cities. As a result, under Lord Kitchener's command British forces initiated a policy of the destruction of the farms and the homes of civilians in the republics to prevent the Boers who were still fighting from obtaining food and supplies. Boer noncombatants inhabiting the republics (mostly women and children) were interned in
concentration camps Internment is the imprisonment of people, commonly in large groups, without Criminal charge, charges or Indictment, intent to file charges. The term is especially used for the confinement "of enemy citizens in wartime or of terrorism suspects ...
to prevent them from supplying guerillas still in the field. The existence of the concentration camps was exposed by English activist Emily Hobhouse, who toured the camps and began petitioning the
British government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal coat of arms of t ...
to change its policy. In an attempt to counter Hobhouse's activism, the British government commissioned the Fawcett Commission, but it confirmed Hobhouse's findings. The British government then claimed that it perceived the concentration camps to be humanitarian measure and were established to care for displaced noncombatants until the war's end, in response to mounting criticism of the camps in Britain. A number of factors, including outbreaks of infectious diseases, a lack of planning and supplies for the camps, and overcrowding led to numerous internees dying in the camps. A decade after the war, historian P. L. A. Goldman estimated that 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, with 1,421 being above the age of 16.


Māori Wars

In 1868, the Tūhoe, who had sheltered the Māori leader
Te Kooti Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (c. 1832–1893) was a Māori people, Māori leader, the founder of the Ringatū religion and Guerrilla warfare, guerrilla fighter. While fighting alongside government forces against the Hauhau in 1865, he was accu ...
, were thus subjected to a scorched-earth policy in which their crops and buildings were destroyed and the people of fighting age were captured.


20th century


World War I

On the Eastern Front of
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
, the
Imperial Russian Army The Imperial Russian Army (russian: Ру́сская импера́торская а́рмия, Romanization of Russian, tr. ) was the armed land force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the earl ...
created a zone of destruction by using a massive scorched-earth strategy during their retreat from the
Imperial German Army The Imperial German Army (1871–1919), officially referred to as the German Army (german: Deutsches Heer), was the unified ground and air force of the German Empire. It was established in 1871 with the political unification of Germany under the l ...
in the summer and the autumn of 1915. The Russian troops, retreating along a front of more than 600 miles, destroyed anything that might be of use to their enemy, including crops, houses, railways and entire cities. They also forcibly removed huge numbers of people. In pushing the Russian troops back into Russia's interior, the German army gained a large area of territory from the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire was an empire and the final period of the List of Russian monarchs, Russian monarchy from 1721 to 1917, ruling across large parts of Eurasia. It succeeded the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad, which ended th ...
that is now
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative provinces called Voivodeships of Poland, voivodeships, covering an area of . Poland has a population of over 38 million and is ...
,
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the List of European countries by area, second-largest European country after Russia, which it borders Russia–Ukraine border, to the east and northeast. Ukraine ...
,
Belarus Belarus,, , ; alternatively and formerly known as Byelorussia (from Russian ). officially the Republic of Belarus,; rus, Республика Беларусь, Respublika Belarus. is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by R ...
,
Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links=no, liv, Leţmō Vabāmō, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region of ...
and
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no ), is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. It is one of three Baltic states and lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania ...
. On the Western Front on 24 February 1917, the
German army The German Army (, "army") is the land component of the armed forces of Federal Republic of Germany, Germany. The present-day German Army was founded in 1955 as part of the newly formed West German ''Bundeswehr'' together with the German Navy, '' ...
made a strategic scorched-earth withdrawal from the Somme battlefield to the prepared fortifications of the
Hindenburg Line The Hindenburg Line (German: , Siegfried Position) was a German defensive position built during the winter of 1916–1917 on the Western Front during the First World War. The line ran from Arras to Laffaux, near Soissons on the Aisne. In 19 ...
to shorten the line that had to be occupied. Since a scorched-earth campaign requires a war of movement, the Western Front provided little opportunity for the policy as the war was mostly a
stalemate Stalemate is a situation in the game of chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check (chess), check and has no legal move. Stalemate results in a draw (chess), draw. During the chess endgame, endgame, stalemate is a resource ...
and was fought mostly in the same concentrated area for its entire duration.


Greco-Turkish War (1919–22)

During the
Greco-Turkish War (1919–22) There have been several Greco-Turkish Wars: *Greek War of Independence (1821–1830), against the Ottoman Empire *Undeclared war in 1854 during the Crimean War, with Greek irregulars invading Ottoman Epirus (Epirus Revolt of 1854) and Thessaly *Grec ...
, the retreating
Greek Army The Hellenic Army ( el, Ελληνικός Στρατός, Ellinikós Stratós, sometimes abbreviated as ΕΣ), formed in 1828, is the army, land force of Greece. The term Names of the Greeks, ''Hellenic'' is the endogenous synonym for ''Greek'' ...
carried out a scorched-earth policy while it was fleeing from
Anatolia Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
in the final phase of the war. The historian Sydney Nettleton Fisher wrote, "The Greek army in retreat pursued a burned-earth policy and committed every known outrage against defenceless Turkish villagers in its path". Norman Naimark noted that "the Greek retreat was even more devastating for the local population than the occupation".


Second Sino-Japanese War

During the
Second Sino-Japanese War The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) or War of Resistance (Chinese term) was a military conflict that was primarily waged between the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. The war made up the Chinese ...
, the
Imperial Japanese Army The was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until t ...
had a scorched-earth policy, known as "
Three Alls Policy The Three Alls Policy (, ja, 三光作戦 Sankō Sakusen) was a Japanese scorched earth A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. Any assets that could be used by the en ...
", which caused immense environmental and infrastructure damage to be recorded. It contributed to the complete destruction of entire villages and partial destruction of entire cities. The Chinese
National Revolutionary Army The National Revolutionary Army (NRA; ), sometimes shortened to Revolutionary Army () before 1928, and as National Army () after 1928, was the military arm of the Kuomintang (KMT, or the Chinese Nationalist Party) from 1925 until 1947 in Repub ...
destroyed dams and levees in an attempt to flood the land to slow down the advancement of Japanese soldiers, which further added to the environmental impact and resulting in the 1938 Yellow River flood. In the 1938 Changsha fire, the city of
Changsha Changsha (; ; ; Changshanese pronunciation: (), Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is the Capital city, capital and the largest city of Hunan Province of China. Changsha is the 17th most populous city in China with a popul ...
was put on fire by the
Kuomintang The Kuomintang (KMT), also referred to as the Guomindang (GMD), the Nationalist Party of China (NPC) or the Chinese Nationalist Party (CNP), is a major political party in the Taiwan, Republic of China, initially on the Mainland China, Chin ...
to prevent any wealth from falling into enemy hands.


World War II

At the start of the
Winter War The Winter War,, sv, Vinterkriget, rus, Зи́мняя война́, r=Zimnyaya voyna. The names Soviet–Finnish War 1939–1940 (russian: link=no, Сове́тско-финская война́ 1939–1940) and Soviet–Finland War 1 ...
in 1939, the Finns used the tactic in the vicinity of the border in order to deprive the invading Soviet
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Russian language, Russian: Рабо́че-крестья́нская Кра́сная армия),) often shortened to the Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist R ...
's provisions and shelter for the forthcoming cold winter. In some cases, fighting took place in areas that were familiar to the Finnish soldiers who were fighting it. There were accounts of soldiers burning down their very own homes and parishes. One of the burned parishes was
Suomussalmi Suomussalmi () is a municipalities of Finland, municipality in Finland and is located in the Kainuu regions of Finland, region about northeast of Kajaani, the capital of Kainuu and south of Kuusamo. The municipality has a population of () and c ...
. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, many district governments took the initiative to begin a partial scorched-earth policy to deny the invaders access to electrical, telecommunications, rail, and industrial resources. Parts of the telegraph network were destroyed, some rail and road bridges were blown up, most electrical generators were sabotaged through the removal of key components, and many mineshafts were collapsed. The process was repeated later in the war by the German forces of
Army Group North Army Group North (german: Heeresgruppe Nord) was a German strategic formation, commanding a grouping of Field Army, field armies during World War II. The German Army Group was subordinated to the ''Oberkommando des Heeres'' (OKH), the German army ...
and
Erich von Manstein Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Manstein (born Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Lewinski; 24 November 1887 – 9 June 1973) was a German Field Marshal (Germany), Field Marshal of the ''Wehrmacht'' during the Second World War, who was subsequently con ...
's Army Group Don, which stole crops, destroyed farms, and razed cities and smaller settlements during several military operations. The rationale for the policy was that it would slow pursuing Soviet forces by forcing them to save their own civilians, but in Manstein's postwar memoirs, the policy was justified as to have prevented the Soviets from stealing food and shelter from their own civilians. The best-known victims of the German scorched-earth policy were the people of the historic city of
Novgorod Veliky Novgorod ( rus, links=no, Великий Новгород, t=Great Newtown, p=vʲɪˈlʲikʲɪj ˈnovɡərət), also known as just Novgorod (), is the largest city and administrative centre of Novgorod Oblast, Russia. It is one of the ol ...
, which was razed during the winter of 1944 to cover Army Group North's retreat from
Leningrad Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), i ...
. Near the end of the summer of 1944,
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia Russia (, , ), or the Ru ...
, which had made a separate peace with the Allies, was required to evict the German forces, which had been fighting against the Soviets alongside Finnish troops in northern Finland. The Finnish forces, under the leadership of General Hjalmar Siilasvuo, struck aggressively in late September 1944 by making a landfall at
Tornio Tornio (; sv, Torneå; sme, Duortnus ; smn, Tuárnus) is a city and municipalities of Finland, municipality in Lapland, Finland. The city forms a cross-border Twin cities, twin city together with Haparanda on the Swedish side. The municipal ...
. That accelerated the German retreat, and by November 1944, the Germans had left most of northern Finland. The German forces, forced to retreat because of an overall strategic situation, covered their retreat towards
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe, the mainland territory of which comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The remote Arctic island of ...
by devastating large areas of northern Finland by using a scorched-earth strategy. More than a third of the area's dwellings were destroyed, and the provincial capital
Rovaniemi Rovaniemi ( , ; sme, Roavvenjárga ; smn, Ruávinjargâ; sms, Ruäʹvnjargg) is a List of cities and towns in Finland, city and Municipalities of Finland, municipality of Finland. It is the administrative Capital (political), capital and commer ...
was burned to the ground. All but two bridges in Lapland Province were blown up, and all roads were mined. In
northern Norway Northern Norway ( nb, Nord-Norge, , nn, Nord-Noreg; se, Davvi-Norga) is a geographical Regions of Norway, region of Norway, consisting of the two northernmost counties Nordland and Troms og Finnmark, in total about 35% of the Norwegian mainlan ...
, which was also being invaded by Soviet forces in pursuit of the retreating
Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the German Army (1935–1945), ''Heer'' (army), the ''Kriegsmarine'' (navy) and the ''Luftwaffe'' (air force). The designation "''Wehrmach ...
in 1944, the Germans also undertook a scorched-earth policy of 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 (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was dictator of Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populo ...
ordered his minister of armaments,
Albert Speer Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer (; ; 19 March 1905 – 1 September 1981) was a German architect who served as the Reich Ministry of Armaments and War Production, Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany during most of ...
, to carry out a nationwide scorched-earth policy, in what became known as the Nero Decree. 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. Speer managed to continue doing so even after Hitler became aware of his actions. During the Second World War, the
railroad plough A railroad plough is a railroad car, rail vehicle which supports an immensely strong, hook-shaped plough. It is used for destruction of railroad ties, sleepers in warfare, as part of a scorched earth policy, so that the track becomes unusable for ...
was used during retreats in
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated between ...
,
Czechoslovakia , rue, Чеськословеньско, , yi, טשעכאסלאוואקיי, , common_name = Czechoslovakia , life_span = 1918–19391945–1992 , p1 = Austria-Hungary , image_p1 ...
and other countries to deny enemy use of railways by partially destroying them.


Malayan Emergency

Britain was the first nation to employ
herbicides Herbicides (, ), also commonly known as weedkillers, are substances used to control undesired plants, also known as weeds.EPA. February 201Pesticides Industry. Sales and Usage 2006 and 2007: Market Estimates. Summary in press releasMain page fo ...
and defoliants (chiefly
Agent Orange Agent Orange is a chemical herbicide and defoliant, one of the "tactical use" Rainbow Herbicides. It was used by the United States Armed Forces, U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam ...
) to destroy the crops and the bushes of
Malayan National Liberation Army The Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), often mistranslated as the Malayan Races Liberation Army, was a communist guerrilla army that fought for Malayan independence from the British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dom ...
(MNLA) insurgents in Malaya during the
Malayan Emergency The Malayan Emergency, also known as the Anti–British National Liberation War was a guerrilla warfare, guerrilla war fought in British Malaya between communist pro-independence fighters of the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) and th ...
. The intent was to prevent MNLA insurgents from utilizing rice fields to resupply their rations and using them as a cover to ambush passing convoys of Commonwealth troops.


Goa War

In response to
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
's invasion of Portuguese Goa in December 1961 during the annexation of Portuguese India, orders delivered from Portuguese President Américo Tomás called for a scorched-earth policy for Goa to be destroyed before its surrender to India. However, despite his orders from
Lisbon Lisbon (; pt, Lisboa ) is the capital and largest city of Portugal, with an estimated population of 544,851 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km2. Grande Lisboa, Lisbon's urban area extends beyond the city's administr ...
, Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva took stock of the superiority of the Indian troops and of his forces' supplies of food and ammunition and took the decision to surrender. He later described his orders to destroy Goa as "a useless sacrifice" (''um sacrifício inútil'')".


Vietnam War

The United States used
Agent Orange Agent Orange is a chemical herbicide and defoliant, one of the "tactical use" Rainbow Herbicides. It was used by the United States Armed Forces, U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam ...
as a part of its
herbicidal warfare Herbicidal warfare is the use of substances primarily designed to destroy the plant-based ecosystem of an area. Although herbicidal warfare use chemical substance A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition ...
program Operation Ranch Hand to destroy crops and foliage to expose possible enemy hideouts during the
Vietnam War The Vietnam War (also known by #Names, other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vi ...
.
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 contained a mixture of dimethylarsinic acid (also known as cacodylic acid) and its related salt, sodium cacodylate, and wat ...
was used on rice fields to deny food to the
Viet Cong The Viet Cong, ; contraction of (Vietnamese communist) was an armed Communism, communist organization in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It fought under the direction of North Vietnam against the South Vietnamese and United States governments ...
.


Persian Gulf War

During the 1990
Persian Gulf War The Gulf War was a 1990–1991 armed campaign waged by a 35-country military coalition in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Spearheaded by the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as t ...
, when Iraqi forces were driven out of
Kuwait Kuwait (; ar, الكويت ', or ), officially the State of Kuwait ( ar, دولة الكويت '), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, bordering Iraq to Iraq–Ku ...
, they set more than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells on fire. That was done as part of a scorched-earth policy during the retreat from Kuwait in 1991 after Iraqi forces had been driven out by
Coalition A coalition is a group formed when two or more people or groups temporarily work together to achieve a common goal. The term is most frequently used to denote a formation of power in political or economical spaces. Formation According to ''A Gui ...
military forces. The fires were started in January and February 1991, and the last one was extinguished by November 1991.


Central America

Efraín Ríos Montt used the policy in
Guatemala Guatemala ( ; ), officially the Republic of Guatemala ( es, República de Guatemala, links=no), is a country in Central America. It is bordered to the north and west by Mexico Mexico (Spanish language, Spanish: México), officially th ...
's highlands in 1981 and 1982, but it had been used under the previous president, Fernando Romeo Lucas García. Upon entering office, Ríos Montt implemented a new counterinsurgency strategy that called for the use of scorched earth to combat the
Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (in Spanish language, Spanish: ''Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca'', URNG-MAIZ or most commonly URNG) is a Guatemalan List of political parties in Guatemala, political party that started as a ...
rebels. Plan Victoria 82 was more commonly known by the nickname of the rural pacification elements of the strategy, ''Fusiles y Frijoles'' (Bullets and Beans). Ríos Montt's policies resulted in the death of thousands, most of them indigenous
Mayans The Maya peoples () are an ethnolinguistic group An ethnolinguistic group (or ethno-linguistic group) is a group that is unified by both a common ethnicity and language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure ...
.


Bandung Sea of Fire

The
Indonesian military , founded = as the ('People's Security Forces') , current_form = , disbanded = , branches = , headquarters = Cilangkap, Jakarta Jakarta (; , bew, Jakarte), officially the Special Capita ...
used the method during
Indonesian National Revolution The Indonesian National Revolution, or the Indonesian War of Independence, was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between the Republic of Indonesia and the Dutch Empire and an internal social revolution during Aftermath of WWII, postw ...
when the British forces in
Bandung Bandung ( su, ᮘᮔ᮪ᮓᮥᮀ, Bandung, ; ) is the capital city of the Provinces of Indonesia, Indonesian province of West Java. It has a population of 2,452,943 within its city limits according to the official estimates as at mid 2021, maki ...
gave an ultimatum for Indonesian fighters to leave the city. In response, the southern part of Bandung was deliberately burned down in an act of defiance as they left the city on 24 March 1946. This event is known as the Bandung Sea of Fire (''Bandung Lautan Api''). The
Indonesian military , founded = as the ('People's Security Forces') , current_form = , disbanded = , branches = , headquarters = Cilangkap, Jakarta Jakarta (; , bew, Jakarte), officially the Special Capita ...
and pro-Indonesia militias also used the method in the
1999 East Timorese crisis The 1999 East Timorese crisis began with attacks by pro-Indonesia militia groups on civilians, and expanded to general violence throughout the country, centred in the capital Dili. The violence intensified after a majority of eligible East Timor ...
. The Timor-Leste scorched-earth campaign was around the time of
East Timor East Timor (), also known as Timor-Leste (), officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is an island country in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the exclave of Oecusse on the island's north-wester ...
's referendum for independence in 1999.


Yugoslav Wars

The method was used during the
Yugoslav Wars The Yugoslav Wars were a series of separate but related#Naimark, Naimark (2003), p. xvii. ethnic conflicts, wars of independence, and Insurgency, insurgencies that took place in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, SFR Yugoslavia from ...
, such as against the
Serbs The Serbs ( sr-Cyr, Срби, Srbi, ) are the most numerous South Slavs, South Slavic ethnic group native to the Balkans in Southeastern Europe, who share a common Serbian Cultural heritage, ancestry, Culture of Serbia, culture, History of ...
in Krajina by the
Croatian Army The Croatian Army ( hr, Hrvatska kopnena vojska or HKoV) is the largest and most significant component of the Croatian Armed Forces (CAF). Role and deployment The fundamental role and purpose of the Croatian Army is to protect vital national i ...
, and by Serbian paramilitary groups.


21st century


Darfur War

The government of
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān, officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic ...
used scorched earth as a military strategy in
Darfur War The War in Darfur, also nicknamed the Land Cruiser War, is a major armed conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan that began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality ...
.


Sri Lankan Civil War

During the 2009 Sri Lankan Civil War, the United Nations Regional Information Centre accused the government of
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (, ; si, ශ්‍රී ලංකා, Śrī Laṅkā, translit-std=ISO (); ta, இலங்கை, Ilaṅkai, translit-std=ISO ()), formerly known as Ceylon and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an ...
of using scorched-earth tactics.


Libyan Civil War

During the
2011 Libyan Civil War The First Libyan Civil War was an armed conflict in 2011 in the North African country of Libya which was fought between forces which were loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and rebel groups that were seeking to oust Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, his go ...
, forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi planted a large number of
landmines A land mine is an explosive weapon, explosive device concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from combatants to vehicles and tanks, as they pass over or near it. Such a device is typically d ...
within the
petroleum Petroleum, also known as crude oil, or simply oil, is a naturally occurring yellowish-black liquid mixture of mainly hydrocarbons, and is found in geological formations. The name ''petroleum'' covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude ...
port of
Brega Brega , also known as ''Mersa Brega'' or ''Marsa al-Brega'' ( ar, مرسى البريقة , i.e. "Brega Seaport"), is a complex of several smaller towns, industry installations and education establishments situated in Libya on the Gulf of Sidra, ...
to prevent advancing rebel forces from utilizing the port facilities. Libyan rebel forces practiced scorched-earth policies when they completely demolished and refused to rebuild critical infrastructure in towns and cities that had been loyal to Gadhafi such as
Sirte Sirte (; ar, سِرْت, ), also spelled Sirt, Surt, Sert or Syrte, is a city in Libya. It is located south of the Gulf of Sirte, between Tripoli, Libya, Tripoli and Benghazi. It is famously known for its battles, Demographics of Libya, eth ...
and Tawargha.


Russian invasion of Ukraine

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022 under the guise of a "Special Military Operation." Russia is using a scorched earth policy to destroy the Ukrainian economy to cause panic within the civilian population and to destroy the civil infrastructure of cities and villages.What Hundreds of Photos of Weapons Reveal About Russia’s Brutal War Strategy-Danielle Ivory, John Ismay, Denise Lu, Marco Hernandez, Cierra S. Queen, Jess Ruderman, Kristine White, Lauryn Higgins and Bonnie G. WongJune 19, 2022


See also

*
Area bombing In military aviation, area bombardment (or area bombing) is a type of aerial bombardment in which bombs are dropped over the general area of a target. The term "area bombing" came into prominence during World War II. Area bombing is a form of str ...
**
Aerial bombing of cities The aerial bombing of cities is an optional element of strategic bombing, which became widespread in warfare during World War I. The bombing of cities grew to a vast scale in World War II, and is still practiced today. The development of aeri ...
*
Area denial An area denial weapon is a defensive device used to prevent an adversary from occupying or traversing an area of land, sea or air. The specific method used does not have to be totally effective in preventing passage (and sometimes is not) as lo ...
* '' Bellum se ipsum alet'', the strategy of relying on occupied territories for resources * '' Burmah Oil Co. v Lord Advocate'' *
Carthaginian peace A Carthaginian peace is the imposition of a very brutal "peace" intended to permanently cripple the losing side. The term derives from the peace terms imposed on the Ancient Carthage, Carthaginian Empire by the Roman Republic following the Punic Wa ...
* Chevauchée *
Early thermal weapons Early thermal weapons, which used heat or burning action to destroy or damage enemy personnel, fortifications or territories, were employed in warfare during the Classical antiquity, classical and Middle Ages, medieval periods (approximately the ...
*
Ecocide Ecocide is human impact on the environment causing mass destruction to that environment. Ten nations have Codification (law), codified ecocide as a crime. Activities that might constitute ecocide in these nations include substantially damaging ...
* Environmental impact of war *
Fabian strategy The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a attrition warfare, war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employ ...
*
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, where the presence of the last House of Wessex, Wessex claimant, Edgar Ætheling, had encouraged An ...
* Lam chau (doctrine) *
Railroad plough A railroad plough is a railroad car, rail vehicle which supports an immensely strong, hook-shaped plough. It is used for destruction of railroad ties, sleepers in warfare, as part of a scorched earth policy, so that the track becomes unusable for ...
* Salted bomb * Sherman's neckties *
Total war Total war is a type of warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combata ...
*
Well poisoning Well poisoning is the act of malicious manipulation of potable water resources in order to cause illness or death, or to deny an opponent access to fresh water resources. Well poisoning has been historically documented as a strategy during war ...


Notes


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Scorched Earth Aftermath of war Environmental impact of war Military tactics Military terminology Economic warfare