Ww2 Total War Essay Sample

Total War in Relation to World War I and II

  • Length: 1446 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
Total War in Relation to World War I and II

[IMAGE]First of all, what is “Total War”? What do we mean by it and
what answer do we expect from this question? Total War is the war that
affects all of society- not just armed forces, and that uses all the
resources available to be able to win it. It’s “the mobilization of
the whole society and its resources for the war effort.”

In most of the countries the first Total War was the First World War.
World War One started a completely new generation of wars. Before 1914
wars only affected the army and had no change on the lives of ordinary
people. At earlier times small professional armies fought the wars,
which means that all the men were especially trained for fighting.
Well, those two wars- World War One and World War Two were different.
Everyone fought them and everyone provided as much help as possible,
it didn’t matter whether the person was skilled or unskilled, old or
young, male or female. In this essay I will also investigate why were
World War One and World War Two called Total Wars. The first thing
that comes to mind is the scale of war. It was tremendous. I am going
to start from speaking about World War One and then later on about
World War Two.

[IMAGE]World War One was a completely new style of wars, the changes
were unbelievable, in fact the historians even see the World War One
as “the dividing line between modern and contemporary history”. The
war didn’t only change the style of fighting, but also the lifestyle
of people and their views on wars. It involved almost the entire
World, and not only the arguing countries were involved, but the
others as well. It involved “the entire population on large scale”. As
I mentioned previously, the scale of war was enormous. There were
about 70 million men fighting from 20 countries. In the beginning
there was no conscription, all the men were volunteers, and in fact

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Total War in Relation to World War I and II." 123HelpMe.com. 10 Mar 2018

LengthColor Rating 
Essay about Total Quality Management (TQM) Doesnt Work - TQM Doesnt Work While I agree that Quality improves organizations, businesses, and individuals, Total Quality Management (TQM) as a system for improvement loses its effectiveness based on the present culture, business methodologies, and globalization of markets. TQM has invaded countless industries and is a favorite “buzz word” of top executives and managers, TQM concepts are rarely fully implemented other than posters, memos, and press releases. While the basic concepts of TQM are inherently internal to each of us, the moniker of TQM continues to be an elusive goal that everyone in business “loves to talk about” but never successfully implements....   [tags: GCSE Business Marketing Coursework]2001 words
(5.7 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Effect of African Americans on World War II Essay - Throughout history, many groups have been segregated at one point or another. These groups included Native Americans, Jews, and many many more. Some groups accepted their fate, while others fought to prove who they really were. Really overall, African-Americans at the time of World War II were one of the most segregated and oppressed groups of all time. However, instead of accepting their fate, they chose to prove who they were and are through fighting and other means, such as demonstrations. African-Americans helped in World War II through the 761st Tank Battalion, the Tuskegee Airmen, and other actions off the frontline....   [tags: segregation and discrimination]
:: 16 Works Cited
1473 words
(4.2 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Overview of The Emergency in India in 1975 Essay examples - Over the past 64 years of the Indian republic, the nation has witnessed many strange events. Ranging from the Legislature vs Judiciary debate of the 1970s to the secessionist movements in the North-east, challenges to the functioning of world’s largest democracy have been myriad. Emergencies form a significant part of it. Apart from the infamous proclamation of National Emergency of 1975, there are also numerous occasions when the misuse of State Emergency has been done. The emergency provisions in our constitution are inherited from its preceding document, the Government of India Act of 1935....   [tags: Total Revolution, 42nd Amendment]
:: 7 Works Cited
2950 words
(8.4 pages)
Good Essays[preview]
Clausewitz and Strategy in The Civil War Essay - Throughout history there have been few military theorists who have influenced military thinking. The military revolution that occurred during the American Civil War changed the face of warfare. The theories of both Antione-Henri Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the two most prominent military theorists of the 19th Century, can be seen in many aspects of the conflict. While Jomini’s tactics played a large role on the battlefield, the strategic concepts of Carl Von Clausewitz best characterize the nature of the Civil War....   [tags: defense, napoleonic tactics]
:: 11 Works Cited
1077 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Total Waste of Time, Total War: Canada Essay - After the declaring war on Germany, Canada was excited to join Britain on the battlefield. As a result, many Canadians ran to sign up for World War I. They were desperate to prove their existence and capabilities as a nation to Britain. By 1918, the Canadian Government Robert Borden had spent over $1.5 billion and more than 600,000 Canadians had joined the war. Thus, the Canadian Government demonstrated the idea of total war by putting strain on the nation’s economy, people and resources in order to achieve Britain’s recognition as a nation....   [tags: countries participating in World War I]740 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay on Chickering's Characteristic of Total War - Roger Chickering, a prominent Historian at Georgetown University in the United States of America, argues that total war is “distinguished by its unprecedented intensity and extent. Theatres of operations span the globe; the scale of battle is practically limitless… Total war requires the mobilization not only of armed forces but also of whole populations. The most crucial determinant of total war is the widespread, indiscriminate, and deliberate inclusion of civilians as legitimate military targets " , moreover Chickering reasons that total war “directs attention to techniques of modern warfare at every level of combat” and that “The wholesale involvement of civilians in war, as active par...   [tags: World War I, French Republic history]1996 words
(5.7 pages)
Term Papers[preview]
Idealism and Realism in International Relations Essay - In regards to the recent events in Ukraine, international relations (IR) have become a popular topic among people again. However, not many truly understand what the term ‘international relations’ entails. Unlike what we usually see in TV dramas, it is more than just people sending representatives to different countries to visit or negotiation about debatable agreements. International relation, sometimes known as ‘world politics’, began after the First World War. This field of academic study concentrates on the, as its name suggests, the politics on the global level with states as the units, relations between states, and maintaining peace in the international system....   [tags: league of nations, ukraine, world politics]
:: 5 Works Cited
1314 words
(3.8 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Economics of the War on Terrorism Essays - The choice to bomb the World Trade Center was more than symbolic. The collapse of the towers coincided with a slowing global economy and was probably intended to cause as much economic as physical harm. The crisis will have deep economic repercussions in a number of areas; while some parts of the economy will be hurt, other sectors may actually benefit, and it is possible that increased defense spending could stimulate the slowing economy in the short run. A global economy requires openness and speed, whereas increased security often entails putting up barriers and walls....   [tags: 9/11 Recession Essays]3092 words
(8.8 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Just War Doctrine And The Gulf Conflict Essay - Just War Doctrine and the Gulf Conflict In evaluating US involvement in the Iraq conflict in terms of the Just War Doctrine - jus ad bellum and jus in bello - it is my opinion that the US adhered to the Doctrine in its entirety. The US acted justly both in its entering into the Gulf conflict (jus ad bellum) and in its conduct while in the conflict (jus in bello). To support this opinion I will individually address the co parts that constitute the Just War Doctrine and show how US participation in the Iraq war abstained from violating the tenets of either co-part....   [tags: essays research papers]1268 words
(3.6 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
American Anticommunism During the Cold War Essay - Subsequent to the conclusion of the treacherous Second World War, America prepared itself for a period of peace. This peacetime was short-lived, as America’s tolerance for communism receded this issue became the forefront for American concern. The United States of America, also referred to as the USA or US, regarded communism as a strategic threat due to its hostility to private property and free markets, policies that many Americans associate directly to political freedom....   [tags: Communism Essays]
:: 11 Works Cited
919 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Total War         World War         World War I         Relation         New Generation         Armed Forces         War Effort         Conscription        

there were quite a lot of people who wanted to join. Men thought that
this war would be like the previous ones and therefore wanted to get
it over with. However they were wrong, everything was different, and
what the war was really about was completely unexpected.

[IMAGE] The government introduced a huge recruitment campaign. It was
also the first time so much propaganda was used. Half a million joined
the army in one month! The government tried as hard as possible to
encourage men to sign up. There were posters, leaflets, exciting
speeches from the politicians etc. The campaign was highly successful.
By 1916 over two million men in Britain had volunteered to join the
army. However as the war went on more terror was revealed about it.
Seeing the truth fewer and fewer people wanted to sign up. The
government had to introduce conscription. All the men between 18 and
40 had to register. It was the first time ever that conscription had
been introduced in Britain. The volunteering system failed. It was the
first time for everything.

In 1914 the British government introduced DORA- the Defense Of the
Realm Act. “ It gave the government unprendented and wide-ranging
powers to control many aspects of people’s daily lives. It allowed it
to seize any land or building it needed, and to take over any
industries which were important to the war effort.”

[IMAGE]In the beginning of the war nobody expected that it would last
for such a long time, more and more men were needed to replace the
dead and injured. The loss of men damaged the industries a lot, as
there was not enough workforce. All the industries were now working
under the government and were producing what was needed for the war.
To keep the production going WOMEN for the first time ever introduced
to the men jobs. It was something like a revolution. There was a new
style of propaganda asking women to work in industries and help to win
the war. New groups were organized like: “the order of the white
feather”, “mother’s union”, “women’s hospital corps”, “women’s police
volunteers”, “woman’s land army” and many more. Women volunteered to
work as nurses, to cook, farm workers etc. By the end of the war half
a million women had replaced men in the office jobs, and almost
800,000 had taken up work in engineering industries. In fact very soon
people realized that with very little training women were as skilled
as men. So as we can see the role of women changed completely during
the war years.

The loss of men damaged the industries a lot, as there was not enough
workforce. All the industries were now working under the government
and were producing what was needed for the war. To keep the production
going WOMEN for the first time ever introduced to the men jobs. It was
something like a revolution. There was a new style of propaganda
asking women to work in industries and help to win the war. New groups
were organized like: “the order of the white feather”, “mother’s
union”, “women’s hospital corps”, “women’s police volunteers”,
“woman’s land army” and many more. Women volunteered to work as
nurses, to cook, farm workers etc. By the end of the war half a
million women had replaced men in the office jobs, and almost 800,000
had taken up work in engineering industries. In fact very soon people
realized that with very little training women were as skilled as men.[IMAGE]
The amount of food became a problem in the countries; there was not
enough of it. As the supplies were running short, the prices kept
rising. Poor people couldn’t afford to buy enough food, while the rich
were buying too much. Soon there were laws made that controlled the
prices of bread. In May 1917 volunteering rationing was introduced,
but it didn’t help much, so in 1918 compulsory food rationing was
introduced. If someone would break the rationing rules he would get

It was also the first time during the war that people were not told
the whole truth, the government was controlling what the public knew.
They were only telling the good news. There was propaganda against
other countries, especially Germany. In cinemas people would be
watching propaganda films. Journalists were not allowed to the front
until 1916 (November). Everything was censored including the letters
which soldiers sent to their relatives.

World War Two wasn’t much difference, except that it brought more
horror and damage. In this war more civilians died than soldiers, they
were “in the front line of attack”. Civilians were bombed, imprisoned,
massacred, taken as slaves and starved to death. The most horrifying
weapon of World War Two was the atomic bomb; it became typical at that
time and brought horrific civilian casualties.

Before 1914 even though some wars involved lots of countries, they
were mainly fought battle by battle. After 1914 World War Two put an
end to this style of fighting. Now wars were fought on many fronts,
all at the same time. In World War Two there was ground war as well as
air war and sea war. The aim of most of the countries was to destroy
the industries of the “enemy”; this was done by killing the workforce,
bombing their houses for example.

In 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, so USA joined the war. Almost
every country was participating: Far East, USA, Europe etc.

There was massive recruitment as more help was needed. The government
introduced forced conscription. All the women were working in
industries in order to keep the production going. In some countries
even children were working, for example making grenades at 15 years
old! Some countries used slaves to increase production, for example
Germany used Russian refugees as slaves, and the same was taking place
in China with Japanese refugees.

[IMAGE]There was a shift in industries, they were adapting to the war
production, for example an industry that was producing kettles or
something of that kind was now making helmets. Some workers in the
country had had to move from one part of the country to another to be
able to work in an industry.

Every single thing in the country was being used. For transport there
were mostly trains (“war by timetable”) and also new technology was
used to get the food faster to the front. For example in Leningrad
during the two years of resistance the food was delivered in the cars
through the frozen lake, as there was no other way.

In World War Two the amount of food was even smaller than in World War
One, therefore compulsory food rationing was introduced as well. In
most of the countries, to be able to save more food, flour was mixed
with sawdust to make bread and the soup was made with glue.

There was also a mass use of propaganda. Even famous people would take
part in it, like actors, singers etc. (e.g. Marlene Dietrich- in
Germany). Cinema was a popular event at that time, and was also used
as propaganda. Just like in World War One, all the letters from the
soldiers were censored and people were only told about good things.
Some soldiers even used to write on bombs with which they would later
on bomb their enemies!

[IMAGE]Science developed even further and allowed a higher mass
destruction. There was a mass use of tanks, which by now were highly
developed. Fire was one of the most common weapons, as it was hard to
put it down, ex. Spitfire – it fired even through a propeller! Even
firebombs were made. By the end of the war Germany produced a V1
plane-, which didn’t even need a pilot to get to a destination! If
Germany would make it in the beginning of the war, it is most certain
that it would win the war. And as I mentioned previously the most
horrific weapon ever was THE ATOMIC BOMB. It was used in Nagasaki and
Hiroshima, the effects were disastrous! In Hiroshima at least 75,000
people died instantly. Tens of thousands more died from radiation
poisons in the years that followed.

[IMAGE]This war mostly concentrated on the civilians because the
government believed that this would lower people’s morale and they
would stop supporting the government in their countries, which would
make it much easier to win the war. The civilians became a target.

[IMAGE]Those two wars saw casualties on an unprecedented scale. In
World War One the best estimate in a global total of 8,500,000 killed
and 57,470,000 injured. However the casualties of World War Two were
much more horrific, altogether about 55 million died, abut 40 million
were the Soviet and about 30 million Chinese. There were lots of
refugees. Some cities and villages were totally destroyed, especially
in Russia. Much much more civilians died than soldiers. This never
happened before.

As we can see from all the above information on both of the wars, we
can definitely say that World War One and World War Two were Total
Wars. Each level of society and almost every country were affected.
They were the first Total Wars as nothing of this kind ever happened
before the effects were horrific and the memories of those wars will
always stay in people’s hearts.

For other uses, see Total war (disambiguation).

Total war is 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-combatant needs. The American-English Dictionary defines total war as "war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded."

In the mid-19th century, scholars identified "total war" as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, to an extent inapplicable in less total conflicts, the differentiation between combatants and non-combatants diminishes and sometimes it even vanishes entirely because opposing sides can consider nearly every human resource, even that of non-combatants, to be a part of the war effort.[1]

Actions that may characterize the post-19th century concept of total war include:

  • Strategic bombing, as during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War (Operations Rolling Thunder and Linebacker II)
  • Blockade and sieging of population centers, as with the Alliedblockade of Germany and the Siege of Leningrad during the First and Second World Wars
  • Scorched earth policy, as with the March to the Sea during the American Civil War and the Japanese "Three Alls Policy" during the Second Sino-Japanese War
  • Commerce raiding, tonnage war, and unrestricted submarine warfare, as with privateering, the German U-Boat campaigns of the First and Second World Wars, and the United States submarine campaign against Japan during World War II
  • Collective punishment, pacification operations, and reprisals against populations deemed hostile, as with the execution and deportation of suspected Communards following the fall of the 1871 Paris Commune or the German reprisal policy targeting resistance movements, insurgents, and Untermenschen such as in France (e.g. Maillé massacre) and Poland during World War II
  • The use of civilians and prisoners of war as forced labor for military operations, as with Japan and Germany's massive use of forced laborers of other nations during World War II (see Slavery in Japan and Forced labor under German rule during World War II)[2]
  • Giving no quarter (i.e. take no prisoners), as with Hitler's Commando Order during World War II.


The phrase can be traced back to the 1935 publication of the World War I memoir of German General Erich Ludendorff, Der totale Krieg ("The total war").[citation needed] Some authors extend the concept back as far as classic work of Carl von Clausewitz, On War, as "absoluter Krieg" (absolute war); however, different authors interpret the relevant passages in diverging ways.[3] Total war also describes the French "guerre à outrance" during the Franco-Prussian War.[4][5][6]

In his letter to his Chief of Staff, Union General Henry Halleck on 24 December 1864 described that the Union was "not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies," defending Sherman's March to the Sea, the operation that inflicted widespread destruction of infrastructure in Georgia.[7]

United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay updated the concept for the nuclear age.[citation needed] 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".[8]

Early history[edit]

During the Middle Ages, destruction under the Mongol Empire in the 13th century effectively exemplified total war. The military forces of Genghis Khan slaughtered whole populations and destroyed any city that resisted:

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, noncombatantworkers, intelligence, transport, money, and provisions.[9]

18th and 19th centuries[edit]

Intertribal warfare[edit]

Author and historian Mark van de Logt wrote: "Although military historians tend to reserve the concept of 'total war' for conflicts between modern industrial nations, the term nevertheless most closely approaches the state of affairs between the Pawnees and the Sioux and Cheyennes. Both sides directed their actions not solely against warrior-combatants but against the people as a whole. Noncombatants were legitimate targets. Indeed, the taking of a scalp of a woman or child was considered honorable because it signified that the scalp taker had dared to enter the very heart of the enemy's territory."[10]

French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars[edit]

The French Revolutionary Wars introduced some of the first concepts of total war, such as mass conscription.[11] The fledgling republic found itself threatened by a powerful coalition of European nations.[citation needed] The only solution, in the eyes of the Jacobin government, was to pour the entire nation's resources into an unprecedented war effort—this was the advent of the levée en masse.[citation needed] The following decree of the National Convention on August 23, 1793 demonstrates the immensity of the French war effort, when the French front line forces grew to some 800,000 with a total of 1.5 million in all services—the first time an army in excess of a million had been mobilized in Western history:

From this moment until such time as its enemies shall have been driven from the soil of the Republic all Frenchmen are in permanent requisition for the services of the armies. The young men shall fight; the married men shall forge arms and transport provisions; the women shall make tents and clothes and shall serve in the hospitals; the children shall turn old lint into linen; the old men shall betake themselves to the public squares in order to arouse the courage of the warriors and preach hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic.

The wars merged into the Napoleonic Wars of the First French Empire from ca. 1803.[citation needed] Over the coming two decades of almost constant warfare it is estimated that somewhere in the vicinity of five million died—probably about half of them civilians—and France alone counted nearly a million (by some sources in excess of a million) deaths.[citation needed]

In the Russian campaign of 1812 the Russians resorted to destroying infrastructure and agriculture in their retreat in order to hamper the French and strip them of adequate supplies.[citation needed] In the campaign of 1813, Allied forces in the German theater alone amounted to nearly one million whilst two years later in the Hundred Days a French decree called for the total mobilization of some 2.5 million men (though at most a fifth of this was managed by the time of the French defeat at Waterloo).[citation needed] During the prolonged Peninsular War from 1808–1814 some 300,000 French troops were kept permanently occupied by, in addition to several hundred thousand Spanish, Portuguese and British regulars, an enormous and sustained guerrilla insurgency—ultimately French deaths would amount to 300,000 in the Peninsular War alone.[citation needed]

Taiping Rebellion[edit]

The Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) was one of the deadliest wars in history.[12][citation needed] About 20 million people died, many due to disease and famine.[13] It followed the secession of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom from the Qing Empire.[14] Almost every citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom was given military training and conscripted into the army to fight against the Imperial forces.[14]

American Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, Union Army General Philip Sheridan's stripping of the Shenandoah Valley, beginning on September 21, 1864 and continuing for two weeks, was considered "total war".[citation needed] Its purpose was to eliminate food and supplies vital to the South's military operations, as well as to strike a blow at Southern civilian morale.[citation needed] Sheridan took the opportunity when he realized opposing forces had become too weak to resist his army.[15]

Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman's 'March to the Sea' in November and December 1864 destroyed the resources required for the South to make war. General Ulysses S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln initially opposed the plan until Sherman convinced them of its necessity.[16]

Scholars taking issue with the notion that Sherman was employing "total war" include Noah Andre Trudeau. Trudeau believes that Sherman's goals and methods do not meet the definition of total war and to suggest as much is to "misread Sherman's intentions and to misunderstand the results of what happened".[17]

20th century[edit]

World War I[edit]

Almost the whole of Europe and the European colonial empires mobilized to wage World War I.[citation needed] Young men were removed from production jobs to serve in military roles, and were replaced on the production line by women.[citation needed] Rationing occurred on the home fronts.[citation needed]Bulgaria went so far as to mobilize a quarter of its population or 800,000 people, a greater share of its population than any other country during the war.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Even the Music Hall was used as propaganda, with propaganda songs aimed at recruitment.[citation needed]

After the failure of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the large British offensive in March 1915, the British Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal John French blamed the lack of progress on insufficient and poor-quality artillery shells.[citation needed] This led to the Shell Crisis of 1915 which brought down both the Liberal government and Premiership of H. H. Asquith.[citation needed] He formed a new coalition government dominated by Liberals and appointed David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions.[citation needed] It was a recognition that the whole economy would have to be geared for war if the Allies were to prevail on the Western Front.[citation needed]

As young men left the farms for the front, domestic food production in Britain and Germany fell.[citation needed] In Britain the response was to import more food, which was done despite the German introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare, and to introduce rationing.[citation needed] The Royal Navy's blockade of German ports prevented Germany from importing food and hastened German capitulation by creating a food crisis in Germany.[citation needed]

World War II[edit]

The Second World War was the quintessential total war of modernity.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Shōwa Japan[edit]

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]

The National Mobilization Law had fifty clauses, which provided for government controls over civilian organizations (including labor unions), nationalization of strategic industries, price controls and rationing, and nationalized the news media.[18] The laws gave the government the authority to use unlimited budgets to subsidize war production, and to compensate manufacturers for losses caused by war-time mobilization. Eighteen of the fifty articles outlined penalties for violators.[citation needed]

To improve its production, Shōwa Japan used millions of slave labourers[19] and pressed more than 18 million people in East Asia into forced labor.[20]

United Kingdom[edit]

Before the onset of the Second World War, the United Kingdom drew on its First World War experience to prepare legislation that would allow immediate mobilization of the economy for war, should future hostilities break out.[citation needed]

Rationing of most goods and services was introduced, not only for consumers but also for manufacturers.[citation needed] This meant that factories manufacturing products that were irrelevant to the war effort had more appropriate tasks imposed.[citation needed] All artificial light was subject to legal blackouts.[citation needed]

"..There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere to be seen. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage."

Winston Churchill on the radio, June 18 ; and House of Commons 20 August 1940:[21]

Not only were men conscripted into the armed forces from the beginning of the war (something which had not happened until the middle of World War I), but women were also conscripted as Land Girls to aid farmers and the Bevin Boys were conscripted to work down the coal mines.[citation needed]

Enormous casualties were expected in bombing raids, so children were evacuated from London and other cities en masse to the countryside for compulsory billeting in households. In the long term this was one of the most profound and longer-lasting social consequences of the whole war for Britain.[citation needed] This is because it mixed up children with the adults of other classes.[citation needed] Not only did the middle and upper classes become familiar with the urban squalor suffered by working class children from the slums, but the children got a chance to see animals and the countryside, often for the first time, and experience rural life.[citation needed]

The use of statistical analysis, by a branch of science which has become known as Operational Research to influence military tactics was a departure from anything previously attempted.[citation needed] It was a very powerful tool but it further dehumanised war particularly when it suggested strategies which were counter intuitive.[citation needed] Examples where statistical analysis directly influenced tactics include the work done by Patrick Blackett's team on the optimum size and speed of convoys and the introduction of bomber streams by the Royal Air Force to counter the night fighter defences of the Kammhuber Line.[citation needed]


In contrast, Germany started the war under the concept of Blitzkrieg. Officially, it did not accept that it was in a total war until Joseph Goebbels' Sportpalast speech of 18 February 1943.

The commitment to the doctrine of the short war was a continuing handicap for the Germans; neither plans nor state of mind were adjusted to the idea of a long war until the failure of the Operation Barbarossa.[citation needed] A major strategical defeat in the Battle of Moscow forced Albert Speer, who was appointed as Germany's armament minister in early 1942, to nationalize German war production and eliminate the worst inefficiencies.[22]

Under Speer's direction a threefold increase in armament production occurred and did not reach its peak until late 1944.[citation needed] To do this during the damage caused by the growing strategic Allied bomber offensive, is an indication of the degree of industrial under-mobilization in the earlier years.[citation needed] It was because the German economy through most of the war was substantially under-mobilized that it was resilient under air attack.[citation needed] Civilian consumption was high during the early years of the war and inventories both in industry and in consumers' possession were high.[citation needed] These helped cushion the economy from the effects of bombing.[citation needed]

Plant and machinery were plentiful and incompletely used, thus it was comparatively easy to substitute unused or partly used machinery for that which was destroyed.[citation needed] Foreign labour, both slave labour and labour from neighbouring countries who joined the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany, was used to augment German industrial labour which was under pressure by conscription into the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces).[citation needed]

Soviet Union[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Only those factories which were useful for war production were moved because of the total war commitment of the Soviet government.[citation needed]

The Eastern Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed the conflict in central and eastern Europe from June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945. It was the largest theatre of war in history in terms of numbers of soldiers, equipment and casualties and was notorious for its unprecedented ferocity, destruction, and immense loss of life (see World War II casualties). The fighting involved millions of German, Hungarian, Romanian and Soviet troops along a broad front hundreds of kilometres long. It was by far the deadliest single theatre of World War II. Scholars now believe that at most 27 million Soviet citizens died during the war, including at least 8.7 million soldiers who fell in battle against Hitler's armies or died in POW camps. Millions of civilians died from starvation, exposure, atrocities, and massacres.[23] The Axis lost over 5 million soldiers in the east as well as many thousands of civilians.[24]

During the Battle of Stalingrad, newly built T-34 tanks were driven—unpainted because of a paint shortage—from the factory floor straight to the front. This came to symbolise the USSR's commitment to the Great Patriotic War and demonstrated the government's total war policy.

United States[edit]

The United States underwent an unprecedented mobilization of national resources for the Second World War.[citation needed] Conditions in the United States were not as strained as they were in the United Kingdom or as desperate as they were in the Soviet Union, but the United States greatly curtailed nearly all non-essential activities in its prosecution of the Second World War and redirected nearly all available national resources to the conflict, including reaching the point of diminishing returns by late 1944, where the U.S. military was unable to find any more males of the correct military age to draft into service.[citation needed]

The strategists of the U.S. military looked abroad at the storms brewing on the horizon in Europe and Asia, and began quietly making contingency plans as early as the mid-1930s; new weapons and weapons platforms were designed, and made ready. Following the outbreak of war in Europe and the ongoing aggression in Asia, efforts were stepped up significantly.[citation needed] The collapse of France and the airborne aggression directed at Great Britain unsettled the Americans, who had close relations with both nations, and a peacetime draft was instituted, along with Lend-Lease programs to aid the British, and covert aid was passed to the Chinese as well.[citation needed]

American public opinion was still opposed to involvement in the problems of Europe and Asia, however.[citation needed] In 1941, the Soviet Union became the latest nation to be invaded, and the U.S. gave her aid as well.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

In late 1941, Japan's Army-dominated government decided to seize by military force the strategic resources of South-East Asia and Indonesia since the Western powers would not give Japan these goods by trade.[citation needed] Planning for this action included surprise attacks on American and British forces in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaya, and the U.S. naval base and warships at Pearl Harbor.[citation needed] In response to these attacks, the U.K. and U.S. declared war on the Empire of Japan the next day.[citation needed]Nazi Germany declared war on the U.S. a few days later, along with Fascist Italy; the U.S. found itself fully involved in a second world war.[citation needed]

"It's a ticklish sort of job making a thing for a thing-ummy-bob
Especially when you don't know what it's for
But it's the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that makes the engines roar.

And it's the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that's going to win the war."

"The Thing-Ummy Bob", A British song made popular in the US by Gracie Fields[25]

As the United States began to gear up for a major war, information and propaganda efforts were set in motion.[citation needed] Civilians (including children) were encouraged to take part in fat, grease, and scrap metal collection drives. Many factories making non-essential goods retooled for war production.[citation needed] Levels of industrial productivity previously unheard of were attained during the war; multi-thousand-ton convoy ships were routinely built in a month-and-a-half, and tanks poured out of the former automobile factories.[citation needed] Within a few years of the U.S. entry into the Second World War, nearly every man fit for service, between 18 and 30, had been conscripted into the military "for the duration" of the conflict, and unprecedented numbers of women took up jobs previously held by them. Strict systems of rationing of consumer staples were introduced to redirect productive capacity to war needs.[citation needed]

Previously untouched sections of the nation mobilized for the war effort.[citation needed] Academics became technocrats; home-makers became bomb-makers (massive numbers of women worked in heavy industry during the war); union leaders and businessmen became commanders in the massive armies of production.[citation needed] The great scientific communities of the United States were mobilized as never before, and mathematicians, doctors, engineers, and chemists turned their minds to the problems ahead of them.[citation needed]

By the war's end a multitude of advances had been made in medicine, physics, engineering, and the other sciences.[citation needed] Even the theoretical physicists, whose theories were not believed to have military applications (at the time), were sent far into the Western deserts to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory on the Manhattan Project that culminated in the Trinity nuclear test and changed the course of history.[citation needed]

In the war, the United States lost 407,316 military personnel, but had managed to avoid the extensive level of damage to civilian and industrial infrastructure that other participants suffered. The U.S. emerged as one of the two superpowers after the war.[26]

Unconditional surrender[edit]

"Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government centre, and a key transportation point to the East. It is now none of these things."

Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, in a memo to the Air Ministry on 29 March 1945:[27]

After the United States entered World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared at Casablanca conference to the other Allies and the press that unconditional surrender was the objective of the war against the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan.[28] Prior to this declaration, the individual regimes of the Axis Powers could have negotiated an armistice similar to that at the end of World War I and then a conditional surrender when they perceived that the war was lost.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[29]

Postwar era[edit]

See also: War by proxy, Coercive diplomacy, and Deterrence theory

Since the end of World War II, no industrial nation has fought such a large, decisive war.[30] This is likely due to the availability of nuclear weapons, whose destructive power and quick deployment render a full mobilization of a country's resources such as in World War II unnecessary. Such weapons are developed and maintained with relatively modest peacetime defense budgets.[citation needed]

By the end of the 1950s, the ideological stand-off of the Cold War between the Western World and the Soviet Union had resulted in thousands of nuclear weapons being aimed by each side at the other.[citation needed] Strategically, the equal balance of destructive power possessed by each side situation came to be known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), considering that a nuclear attack by one superpower would result in nuclear counter-strike by the other.[32] This would result in hundreds of millions of deaths in a world where, in words widely attributed to Nikita Khrushchev, "The living will envy the dead".[33]

During the Cold War, the two superpowers sought to avoid open conflict between their respective forces, as both sides recognized that such a clash could very easily escalate, and quickly involve nuclear weapons.[citation needed] Instead, the superpowers fought each other through their involvement in proxy wars, military buildups, and diplomatic standoffs.[citation needed]

In the case of proxy wars, each superpower supported its respective allies in conflicts with forces aligned with the other superpower, such as in the Vietnam War and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[citation needed]

During the Yugoslav Wars, NATO conducted strikes against the electrical grid in enemy territory using graphite bombs. Some observers considered this to be an act of total war, owing to the fact that powerplants supported by the electrical grid were essential to water purification and thus the strike represented a direct attack on civilian resources. NATO claimed that the objective of their strikes was to disrupt military infrastructure and communications. [34]

See also[edit]

A scene of the Taiping Rebellion
Damage and destruction of civilian buildings in Belgium, 1914
Founding Ceremony of the Hakkō ichiu Monument, promoting the unification of "the 8 corners of the world under one roof."
Three men burying victims of Leningrad's siege, in which about 1 million civilians died.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *