What factors of World War II caused it to be defined as “total warfare”? 15 April 2013
MISL 1800 Spring 2013
According to the US Army Center of Military History, total war can be 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” (Wiltamuth, “Examples Of Total War 149 BC-1945 AD”). To achieve this objective, nations often initiate complete mobilization of fully available resources and population. As a result, there is less differentiation between combatants and civilians than in other conflicts. The efforts and scope of the Second World War is characterized by similar symptoms of total war such as the high level of national mobilization of resources, the active targeting of civilians, and the unrestricted aims of the belligerents. World War II was defined as total warfare due to the high level of national mobilization of resources. These resources included the population, and the goods and services of both consumers and manufacturers. The armies, navies, and air forces were raised through conscription on a large scale for the duration of the conflict. In addition, rationing of most goods and services was introduced and factories that were manufacturing products that were irrelevant to the war effort had more appropriate tasks imposed. These examples demonstrate how the high level of national mobilization of resources was a factor in causing the Second World War to be defined as “total warfare.” Due to the high level of national mobilization of human resources, both civilians and soldiers alike could be considered to be part of the belligerent effort. As a result, World War II also became defined as total warfare due to the active targeting of civilians. In response to Germany dropping bombs on London, the Royal Air Force shifted its focus toward destroying “the morale of the enemy civil population.” Britain began dropping bombs on cities where...
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