EXAMPLES OF TOTAL WAR (149 BC-1945 AD)
Dr. Stetson Conn
Examples of Total War
Office of the Chief of Military History
Department of the Army
Dr. Stetson Conn
17 October 1968
[Note: This manuscript was prepared on 17 October 1968 by a historian assigned to the Office of the Chief of Military History (now US Army Center of Military History) for reference use by members of the Office of the Chief of Staff, Army. It is typical of the kind of short "staff support" projects routinely carried out by the Center. The original is on file in the Office of the Chief of Military History Collection (OCMH) under file number OCMH-26 which should be cited in footnotes, along with the title. It is reproduced here, including covering correspondence, with only those limited modifications required to adapt to the World Wide Web; spelling, punctuation, and slang usage have not been altered from the original. Where modern explanatory notes were required, they have been inserted as italicized text in square brackets.]
MEMORANDUM FOR: WHITE HOUSE LIAISON OFFICER
SUBJECT: Response to telephonic request from Colonel Bieri, aide to General Taylor
1. Colonel Bieri called OCMH at 1320, 15 October 1968, stating that General Taylor had asked for data on examples of "total" war, total war being defined as war in which the objective was the extermination of the enemy or rendering the enemy incapable of self-defense, i.e., winning by knockout rather than points. He stated that a starting point might be World War II but General Taylor wants something a little more sophisticate; a current example might be Biafra; Korea was a limited war, and World War I ended in unconditional surrender. Colonel Bieri stated that we might have to go back as far as Jenghiz Khan. When queried as to deadline and form of reply, Colonel Bieri said that he would like the information not later than Friday, 18 October and that reply could be by phone if it is not too long and complicated, otherwise in writing.
2. The inclosure lists examples of total war as defined in the telephonic request.
FOR THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORY:
|1 Incl||R. H. WILTAMUTH|
|Tab A - Examples of Total War||Colonel, Infantry|
|Deputy Chief of Military History|
Examples of Total War
1. The Request: Data on examples of "total war," total war being defined as war in which the objective was extermination of the enemy or rendering the enemy incapable of self-defense, i.e., winning by knockout rather than points.
2. Wars of Extermination: Of the two types of total war as defined above, the first, extermination, was characteristic of ancient and medieval times and of modern times outside the direct framework of Western Civilization. Examples:
a. Third Punic War, 149-146 B.C.: The Romans, although already dominant over the Carthagenians, attacked Carthage to destroy it completely. Ninety percent of the population died during the siege, the rest were sold into slavery, and the city totally destroyed.
b. The Mongol Invasions westward under Jenghiz Khan and his sons, 1211-1240's A.D.: Crossing the Himalayas, Jenghiz and 150,000 Mongols defeated Persian Empire forces, destroyed great cities of Bokhara, Samarkand, and Herat (present Uzbek SSR and Afghanistan), and slaughtered their populations as well as defending forces. Continuing similar invasions in subsequent years as far as present Yugoslavia and western Poland.
c. The Albegensian Crusade, 1209-1245, a religious war in southern France contemporaneous with the Mongol invasions, although much smaller in scale, nevertheless involved the bulk of the fighting nobility of all France and achieved its objective of exterminating the Albigensian heretics.
d. In more modern times, in the Haitian War of Independence, 1800-1804, not only the white opposing forces but almost all whites in the population were exterminated. (Actually, far more French troops were struck down by disease than by blacks.)
e. The Taiping Rebellion in China, 1850-1864, a civil war, in which it is claimed 25 million people perished before the Manchu dynasty, with the aid of foreign military adventurers (as "Chinese" Gordon), put down the revolt.
f. The Paraguayan War, 1865-1870, though provoked by Paraguay's dictator Lopez, led to invasion by Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay that literally decimated the Paraguayan population (some 200,000, including 28,000 adult males, surviving out of a prewar population of 1,850,000).
3. "Knockout" Wars: Wars in modern times with the objective, and achievement, of total victory over opposing forces have most commonly been civil wars, including:
a. The English Civil War of 1642-1646, with Cromwell and the Puritans scoring a total military victory over the royalists.
b. The U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865.
c. The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939.
d. The present Nigerian civil war, which may have some character as a war of extermination, as the preceding examples did not.
(Some other knockout wars, small and large):
e. The Mexican War of 1846-1848, a total defeat of the Mexican
armed forces, and it seems fair to say this knockout was the military objective of the United States in order to achieve its territorial aims.
f. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, was provoked by the French, and the Germans had no initial objective of destroying French military power. But continued and rather hopeless French resistance kept the war going until that was the result.
g. The literally crushing defeat of the German forces in 1945 by U.S., British/Canadian, and Soviet forces.
4. Wars of overwhelming military victory, but with no complete knockout of enemy forces before the fighting stopped:
a. The Seven Year's (French and Indian) War, 1754-1763, ending with England everywhere triumphant over France and Spain, and with a nearly dictated peace.
b. World War I: While technically the German Army remained intact at the Armistice, the German nation was crumbling rapidly behind it from starvation and revolution, and the Germans probably could not have fought much longer under any circumstances.
c. The War against Japan in World War II: While the Japanese had the means to resist further when the fighting stopped in 1945, as the Germans did not, Japan could have offered only suicidal resistance.
5. There are also wars very nearly total in character and result, but which do not fit the definition in paragraph 1. Examples: The Thirty Year's War in Germany, 1618-1648, during which the population declined by two-thirds, but which ended in a stand-off peace between the contending powers.
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