Talk:Scorched earth

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Mexican farmers[edit]

Originally "Mexico has used scorched earth tactics against farmers' land as a policy to make room for bigger farming businesses. "

I think it's supposed to be farms getting burned to prevent big businesses from taking over , this isn't a use of scorched earth tactic as worded.

the tactic was first proposed not by Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov but Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly. where and when? the ref. link doesn't mention it.

Not just that, but it can hardly have been first proposed in modern times if it was in widespread use (as I seem to recall from history books that it WAS) in the ancient world. --Dante Alighieri | Talk 15:24, Jun 24, 2004 (UTC)

Korean war[edit]

I think the UN forces used a scorched earth policy while retreating from the Chinese.


Are there any confirmations on Red Army salting their own land during World War II?

Figuratively, yes. E.g., the Soviets used explosives to destroy Kiev's main commercial mall (Khreshchatyk). But literally, I've never heard of them salting the fields. Michael Z. 2005-04-9 07:27 Z

Salting the earth[edit]

An example of the latter occurred in World War II when the Soviet Red Army salted their own lands as the Nazis forced them to retreat back through it, preventing the Nazis from growing crops on it.

I couldn't find an external reference. Also, this is absurd because:

  1. the area of Russia is immense. salting small patches would be useless.
  2. there was no time, no workforce, no resources to do this. The economy was mobilized for war. bogdan ʤjuʃkə | Talk 19:22, 25 May 2005 (UTC)

I don't think that's supposed to be interpreted literally.PRhyu 13:15, 6 November 2007 (UTC)


A lot of talk here about salting the earth, but what about the Roman salting of Carthage fields? Isn't that the first "scorched earth" event? Just trying to get the discussion going... JoeHenzi 18:40, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

Scorched earth basically always refers to the destruction of resources as a defensive strategy (and it's notable because it's unusual). The Carthaginian fields were salted by the invading Romans, so that doesn't really count as "scorched earth". - Flooey 23:31, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
With some more reading, it does appear that some people use "scorched earth" to indicate any destruction of that sort, so it might count. I've always understood it as only referring to it as a defensive measure (since destroying your enemy's resources is just normal warfare), though. - Flooey 23:37, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
Certainly it does, as a scorched earth event (in modern usage) implies not just complete destruction, but one that leaves the area unuseable by anyone. Certainly used after the advent of the nuclear age, where such weapons have the effect of not only destroying (or scorching) the earth they detonate upon, but also achieve prolonged area-denial through nuclear fallout, effectively "salting the earth". This effect can be seen in salted bombs, where an extra element such as cobalt is added to the weapon, not for the purpose of intensifying the nuclear chain reaction, but rather to insure that the affected region of destruction is seeded with a highly radioactive material with a half-life long enough to effectively deny use of the area to anyone for some time to come. Scorched earth and salting the earth should be considered effectively the same practice, as burning the fields only denies the enemy that year's crops or resources; salting the fields on your way out the door, or as part of a prolonged siege/campaign is simply an extension of the same need to deny resources on a much grander scale. Also, I seriously doubt that the Roman salting of Carthage was far from the "first scorched earth event", though it may be the first major with surviving, well-known historical reference - I have a feeling this practice dates back to Assyria or beyond. Additionally, why must it be a defensive measure? A normal military offensive does not always imply that in the course of conducting war you must completely and utterly destroy anything of value within your area of operation. Offensives (and their wars) are often conducted for the purpose of SECURING such resources from your enemy, in capturing their land and method of production; scorched earth policies are generally carried out as a measure of last resort, or in a tit-for-tat escalating revenge-type conflict, such as Saddam Hussein setting the Kuwaiti oil fields on fire during his retreat from that country, so as to deny anyone else those resources if he couldn't have them himself. Besieged 19:04, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Napoleonic War[edit]

In Napoleon's Invasion of Russia#The March on Moscow:

Several times he attempted to establish a strong defensive position, but each time the French advance was too quick for him to finish preparations and he was forced to retreat once more. This has often mistakenly been used as an example of the scorched earth policy - in reality the Russian retreat was not part of any master plan to lure the French into the depths of Russia where the winter and lack of adequate provisions would combine to destroy them, but rather the result of Russian commanders being denied an opportunity to give battle in favourable circumstances by the speed and strength of the French advance.

Which seems to directly contradict this article:

During the Napoleonic Wars, scorched earth policies were successfully employed in both Spain (see Peninsular War) and Russia (see Napoleon's invasion of Russia).

I suspect that the former is more accurate, but since neither have linked sources I didn't check. Opinion is probably divided anyway.

Could someone willing to do the research find which version is accurate and replace the other (if indeed there is a definite answer)? --benmachine 22:28, 21 October 2005 (UTC)

It seems this is no longer an issue. The article I linked has been moved and sufficiently edited that there is no longer a conflict. --benmachine (talk) 21:20, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

Native American Wars[edit]

Something totally missing here is the scorched earth policy regarding the near extinction of the American Bison (or Buffalo).-- (talk) 02:41, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

Sino-Japanese War[edit]

I reverted a change that removed the sentence on the flooding of the Huang He river during the Sino-Japanese War because I think the sentence is accurate. MSN Encarta, Columbia Encyclopedia, and a number of scholary articles I looked at through all agreed that the Chinese had broken dikes in 1938 to flood the old bed of the river and halt the Japanese advance. I couldn't find anything that was evidence that the flooding wasn't caused by the Chinese. - Flooey 23:52, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

classical dicussion[edit]

Interesting new classical dicussion; appreciate your adding this. As I read it I couldn't help recall that all Gaul is divided into three parts and know I've read about this before, but can't recall which Roman wrote about this. Suggest it would strengthen the contribution if you could add references.

If you've not added references before, you can look at Footnotes' for an explanation of how to generate footnotes using the references tags. Or if you prefer, just put them into the body of the text in parentheses.

Thanks - Williamborg 16:56, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

irish cival war[edit]

during the irish cival war the ira used a scorched earth policy of blowing up bridges and railways and burning military barracks Bouse23 (talk) 15:17, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

:I don't think that is the same.

Norway and Finland[edit]

The mention that Norway was invaded by Allied troops from Finnish territory during the WW2 is false. Finland was never a part of the Allies, nor did the Allies have any right of passing through. After the end of the Continuation War, the peace terms dictated that the Finnish had to drive the Germans away from Lapland. The Nazis deployed the scorched earth tactic and burned most of Lapland and some parts of northern Norway. This section requires a complete rewrite. Lapland war--Elmeri B. Suokirahvi 17:48, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

Good reference provided. I rewrote. Please take a look and rewrite further if warranted.
Thanks for the additional insights! Williamborg 18:28, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
And welcome to Wikipedia. If your first contributions are any indication, you're going to make a real difference in improved quality! Williamborg 18:39, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
The Finns were never "officially" part of the Allies, but then again nations like Turkey, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and others were "officially" part of the allies but never lifted a damn finger to do anything with the war! The Soviets were tied up on mainland East Europe, and thus the Finns, infuriated by the Nazi rape of the Lapland, were allowed to defeat the Germans in Norway to free up Soviets for actions like Bagraton and the Hungarian Campaign. The Finns were "officially" written off as Russians for propaganda reasons (the Finns fighting Hitler willingly would have pretty much shreaded the illusion that Stalin had set up about the Finns being 'Facists in disguise).
I am extremely sorry for you, but as a Finn, and knowing my local history quite well, I must disappoint you. Finland did wage war against the Germans in Lapland until 25th May 1945. At that point a patrol reached the common border pole of Finland, Norway and Sweden, returning to report that it met no enemy. The Finnish troops did not cross the border. Before that, the fighting had been confined for several months to the extreme Western point of Finnish Lapland and the Finnish troops reduced to 600 conscripts. The active part of Lapland war took place in Autumn 1944, when Finnish troops liberated most of Lapland, including all major inhabited places.
Finland was not considered part of Allies because it was actually on the losing side of the war. Fight against the Germans was a requirement imposed in the peace treaty of Moscow in 1944. Sort of probation, also. The Lapland war has never been very popular topic in Finland because it did not affect the majority of population and was considered somewhat unhonorable act towards former brothers-in-arms. If I am however wrong with the mainstream of Finnish historical writers, please provide a link to primary or secondary sources documenting your claim. --MPorciusCato 10:50, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

Citing the Watchtower in an Encyclopedia?![edit]

Clearly, the Watchtower cannot be considered factually reliable or accurate. It is propaganda. Does anybody know of another source for the biblical history?

You can ask Lawrence E. Stager: Harvard University Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Wavelength 04:22, 17 October 2006 (UTC)
It's irrelevant anyway. Here are the quoted texts:
Jeremiah, Chapter 25:
8: Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words,
9: Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
10: Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle.
11: And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
2 Chronicles, Chapter 36:
20: And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:
21: To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.
What these passages describe is clearly a punitive destruction, not a tactical one. Dr. Stager is using the term "scorched earth policy" incorrectly. Fumblebruschi 20:31, 21 November 2006 (UTC)

Moving recent addition to talk[edit]

A recent addition by User:Rrhoad to the article is more suited to the talk page, so I'm moving it here. I have just removed the following passage from the article (my italics to set Rrhoad's words apart):

(I believe that this definition confuses two different tactics and is not correct, at least in modern military usage of the term.

"Scorched Earth" is a tactic used by a retreating army and involves destroying anything that might be useful to the advancing enemy army. The foremost objective of this tactic, particularly before the 20th Century, was to prevent the advancing army from "living off the land," forcing them to carry their provisions and slowing the advance (modern warfare has expanded this practice to include factories, infrastructure, etc). In practical terms, the territory that the retreating army is destroying is under their control (behind their lines), which allows the destruction to be "complete" -- hence, scorched earth. Russia in WWII is an example of this tactic.

The second tactic is the use of a raid to destroy things of value within the enemy's territory. The foremost objective of this tactic is to do as much economic damage as possible to the opponent. The raiding army moves through unprotected or underprotected areas, destroying everything possible that it cannot carry off in its path; there is no intention of holding the area. Sherman's march through the South and The various English armies in the Hundred Years War are examples of this tactic.

The third practice described, punative destruction of a conquered area, is also not strictly scorched earth, since the objective is to punish a country or set an example, not hinder the advance of enemy forces.) -Phoenixrod 05:02, 5 December 2006 (UTC)


I'm pretty sure that this strategy was used in ancient China and Korea. PRhyu 13:15, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

I know for sure that this strategy was used by the Russians against Imperial Germany in World War 1. Might be worth a mention in the article. Guest 13:20 , 16 December 2007 (GMT) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

This isn't really a tactic it is an operational method or a strategy[edit]

Scorched earth is intended either to deny the enemy supply or strategic resources. In the former case it is an operational method. In the latter case it is a strategy. However, it is more often, technically erroneously, referred to as a tactic. As a matter of fact I googled the phrase "scorched earth strategy" and it gave 14100 hits while "scorched earth tactics" gave 33 000. Thus there is a common misunderstanding that this is a tactic. One of the most important duties/functions of encyclopediae is to correct such widespread misunderstandings.


I disagree. I believe "tactic" is the correct word here. "Tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution." (Quoted from this encyclopedia's own article on the word "Tactic (method)".) So burning crops and blowing up bridges, for example, would be an actual means used to gain a strategic objective over one's enemy. (By the way, I find it interesting that you conclude that the fact that the use of the word "tactic" in this context has more than twice as many references than "strategy" is evidence of widespread misunderstanding, rather than evidence that "tactic" is in fact the correct word.) Captain Quirk (talk) 00:00, 7 September 2010 (UTC)
There are pretty much an impressive number of common misunderstandings and quite a few of these have more believers than the truth of the matter. Most people believe that chameleons change colour for the purpose of camouflage and that dogs are colour-blind. Neither of which is true. That a lot of people think one thing does not mean it is so. That most people can't tell the difference between strategy and tactics is a well-established fact. Just look at computer game reviews made by people who are not especially interested in military matters. You will find strategic games called tactical and vice versa all the time.
Using your definition, all execution, even the use of strategic weapons, would be tactics. However, the decision to limit fighting and force the enemy to march through a wasteland with no resources available to him, is definitely an operational or strategic decision, part of an overall campaign plan.

Origin of the Term[edit]

This article discusses numerous historical events which employ the scorched earth tactic, but there is no explanation for the origin of the term itself. I think that would be a useful addition if someone knows it --Blair Mitchelmore (talk) 03:43, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Scorched Earth in the Philippines[edit]

the part on the Philippines, does not serve to enlighten one about scorched earth, but rather has vague references to atrocities, and specifics on the response to allegations of atrocities. It comes up as irrelevant. Does killing people count as scorched earth or something else. I believe there is a distinction between destroying property and killing people. (talk) 23:44, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. It goes into too much detail to serve as an example in a larger article such as this, and worse, it isn't even about the use of a scorched earth strategy! (talk) 05:49, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Yea, I agree. It's interesting, but it detracts from THIS article. It should be moved to some Philippines related article, with only specific scorched earth examples retained here. -(IP Commenter) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:15, 14 January 2009 (UTC)
I've removed most of the material about the Phillipines, because it was not about scorched earth tactics, but about atrocities commited against civilians, which is not the same thing. I'm looking for an article to move the material into. Ed Fitzgerald t / c 19:56, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
The material is already in the article on the Philippine-American War, verbatim. Ed Fitzgerald t / c 20:01, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

Sherman's March[edit]

this is probably the most well known examples, yet it barely gets attention here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:52, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Sri Lankan Civil War[edit]

This section is POV. References are not given or the cited references do not describe the fact being conveyed. The word "Singala" is also incorrect. It should be spelled [Sinhala]. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:52, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

I removed this section since it contained two dead links and no content worthy of even calling a stub. If someone can add more material and stable reference material, I'd be happy to let it remain.-- (talk) 02:38, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

Boer war[edit]

This edit (by a single-edit editor) introduced a lot of material about the Boer war which is poorly edited, obviously highly POV, and poorly sourced. Since that edit, this material has largely been kept, though copyedited for style. That is a poor practice, which disguises poor content. All the material about the Boer War needs to be revisited by someone competent, so I've tagged the section. I've also removed the claim about salting fields, which is apparently based on a recent movie, Tracker. See this discussion for more.

The claim that Kitchener invented the term 'scorched earth' is also incorrect. OED says it appeared in 1937, though of course the strategy is much much older than that (and much older than the Boer War). So I removed that claim from the lead. --Macrakis (talk) 17:55, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Also... when "someone competent" reworks the Boer section, please remove the paragraph about concentration camps. That info belongs elsewhere, as it has nothing whatsoever to do with scorched earth. --Molly-in-md (talk) 21:46, 7 July 2013 (UTC)

It's a candy, AND a breathmint??[edit]

I'm struggling to understand how the same term can describe a tactic used by invading conquerors like Sherman to aid their victory AND a tactic used by withdrawing or defending forces such as Robert the Bruce to slow an invader's victory. Are we sure that all of the various events cited in this article have been described in reliable secondary sources as 'scorched earth', specifically? Otherwise, it's just WP:OR, isn't it? Myself, I think of scorched earth as a purely industrial technique, largely pioneered by Sherman, but I'm no historian, merely an autodidactic iconoclast. Eaglizard (talk) 18:37, 15 February 2015 (UTC)