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Henry Mikheev
Henry Mikheev

Total War [TOP]


In the mid-19th century, scholars identified total war as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, the differentiation between combatants and non-combatants diminishes due to the capacity of opposing sides to consider nearly every human, including non-combatants, as resources that are used in the war effort.[2]




total war



Tiziano Peccia adds a fifth dimension to Förster's: "total change". After a total war, the analysis shows that the political, cultural, economic and social assets persist beyond the end of the conflict ("total war is an earthquake that has the world as its epicenter").[3][4]


The phrase "total war" can be traced back to the 1935 publication of German general Erich Ludendorff's World War I memoir, Der totale Krieg ("The total war"). Some authors extend the concept back as far as classic work of Carl von Clausewitz, On War, as "absoluter Krieg" (absolute war), even-though he did not use the term; others interpret Clausewitz differently.[6] Total war also describes the French "guerre à outrance" during the Franco-Prussian War.[7][8][9]


United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay updated the concept for the nuclear age. In 1949, he first proposed that a total war in the nuclear age would consist of delivering the entire nuclear arsenal in a single overwhelming blow, going as far as "killing a nation".[11]


Written by academics at Eastern Michigan University, the Cengage Advantage Books: World History textbook claims that while total war "is traditionally associated with the two global wars of the twentieth century... it would seem that instances of total war predate the twentieth century." They write:


As an aggressor nation, the ancient Mongols, no less than the modern Nazis, practiced total war against an enemy by organizing all available resources, including military personnel, non-combatant workers, intelligence, transport, money, and provisions.[12]


The Sullivan Expedition of 1779 was an example of total warfare. As Native American and Loyalist forces massacred American farmers, killed livestock and burned buildings in remote frontier areas, General George Washington sent General John Sullivan with 4,000 troops to seek "the total destruction and devastation of their settlements" in upstate New York. There was only one small battle as the expedition devastated "14 towns and most flourishing crops of corn." The Native Americans escaped to Canada where the British fed them; they remained there after the war.[13][14][15]


One of the features of total war in Britain was the use of government propaganda posters to divert all attention to the war on the home front. Posters were used to influence public opinion about what to eat and what occupations to take, and to change the attitude of support towards the war effort. Even the Music Hall was used as propaganda, with propaganda songs aimed at recruitment.[citation needed]


The Second World War was the quintessential total war of modernity.[22] The level of national mobilization of resources on all sides of the conflict, the battlespace being contested, the scale of the armies, navies, and air forces raised through conscription, the active targeting of non-combatants (and non-combatant property), the general disregard for collateral damage, and the unrestricted aims of the belligerents marked total war on an unprecedented and unsurpassed, multicontinental scale.[23]


During the first part of the Shōwa era, the government of Imperial Japan launched a string of policies to promote a total war effort against China and occidental powers and increase industrial production. Among these were the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement and the Imperial Rule Assistance Association.[citation needed]


Goebbels and Hitler had spoken in March 1942 about Goebbels' idea to put the entire home front on a war footing. Hitler appeared to accept the concept, but took no action. Goebbels had the support of minister of armaments Albert Speer, economics minister Walther Funk and Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front, and they pressed Hitler in October 1942 to take action, but Hitler, while outwardly agreeing, continued to dither. Finally, after the holidays in 1942, Hitler sent his powerful personal secretary, Martin Bormann, to discuss the question with Goebbels and Hans Lammers, the head of the Reich Chancellery. As a result, Bormann told Goebbels to go ahead and draw up a draft of the necessary decree, to be signed in January 1943. Hitler signed the decree on 13 January, almost a year after Goebbels first discussed the concept with him. The decree set up a steering committee consisting of Bormann, Lammers, and General Wilhelm Keitel to oversee the effort, with Goebbels and Speer as advisors; Goebbels had expected to be one of the triumvirate. Hitler remained aloof from the project, and it was Goebbels and Hermann Göring who gave the "total war" radio address from the Sportspalast the next month, on the 10th anniversary of the Nazi's "seizure of power".[31]


In Canada early use of the term concerned whether or not the country was committing enough to mobilizing its resources, rather than whether or not to target civilians of the enemy countries. During the early days of the Second World War, whether or not Canada was committed to a "total war effort" was point of partisan political debate between the governing Liberals and the opposition Conservatives. The Conservatives elected as their national leader Arthur Meighen, who had been the cabinet minister responsible for implementing conscription during the First World War, and advocated for conscription again. Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King argued that Canada could still be said to have a "total war effort" without conscription, and delivered nationally-broadcast speeches to this effect 1942.[33] Meighen failed to win his seat in by-election in 1942, and the issue subsided for a short time. But eventually, national conscription was introduced in Canada in 1944, as well as dramatically increased taxation, another symbol of the "total war effort".


The Soviet Union (USSR) was a command economy which already had an economic and legal system allowing the economy and society to be redirected into fighting a total war. The transportation of factories and whole labour forces east of the Urals as the Germans advanced across the USSR in 1941 was an impressive feat of planning. Only those factories which were useful for war production were moved because of the total war commitment of the Soviet government.[citation needed]


The United States underwent an unprecedented mobilization of national resources for the Second World War; in a mere three years and eight months the previously isolationist country had fully embraced and was fueling a military-industrial complex that it still clings to to this day. Although the United States was not in danger of an existential attack, the national sense after Pearl Harbor was to use all the nation's resources to defeat Germany and Japan. Most non-essential activities were rationed, prohibited or restrained, and most of the fit unmarried young men were drafted. There was little urgency before 1940, when the collapse of France ended the Phoney War and revealed urgent needs. Nevertheless President Franklin Roosevelt moved to first solidify public opinion before acting. In 1940 the first peacetime draft was instituted, along with Lend-Lease programs to aid the British, and covert aid was passed to the Chinese as well.[36]American public opinion was still opposed to involvement in the problems of Europe and Asia, however. In 1941, the Soviet Union became the latest nation to be invaded, and the U.S. gave its aid as well. American ships began defending aid convoys to the Allied nations against submarine attacks, and a total trade embargo against the Empire of Japan was instituted to deny its military the raw materials its factories and military forces required to continue its offensive actions in China.


The unconditional surrender of the major Axis powers caused a legal problem at the post-war Nuremberg Trials, because the trials appeared to be in conflict with Articles 63 and 64 of the Geneva Convention of 1929. Usually if such trials are held, they would be held under the auspices of the defeated power's own legal system as happened with some of the minor Axis powers, for example in the post World War II Romanian People's Tribunals. To circumvent this, the Allies argued that the major war criminals were captured after the end of the war, so they were not prisoners of war and the Geneva Conventions did not cover them. Further, the collapse of the Axis regimes created a legal condition of total defeat (debellatio) so the provisions of the 1907 Hague Convention over military occupation were not applicable.[42]


This finding was confirmed by researchers who looked at the two world wars of the 20th century from a more global perspective. Daniel Marc Segesser was able to prove in his study on Australia and the British Empire in the First World War that, although elements of total war such as the internment of enemy aliens, the centralization of decision-making with regard to the economy or the tightened control of the state over social norms could be identified, other aspects were not present in this war in Australia. Almost no battles took place in this region of the world and the country suffered no war damage except for the loss of a huge number of men who died on the battlefields far away from their home.[50] John Robertson made similar comments in his study on the Second World War:


A new generation of weapons played a significant role in total war By 1914, it was apparent that the next European war would be terrible and destructive in a way never before experienced. Some argued that this had made war impossible, that it would bankrupt the countries that fought it, or that neither the armies nor their societies would stand the strain. Military plans were based not on being properly equipped for a stalemated and attritional war of trenches, for the excellent reason that this was not the kind of war that any country wanted to fight. Instead, each placed its hopes in winning a quick victory by rapid movement, to end the war 'by Christmas'. 041b061a72


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