Scorched Earth

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

The Russians had certain logistical advantages, von Mellenthin (Panzer Battles) believed:

As is well known the Russians make very limited use of supply columns, and their troops live mainly on the country. Their method is not new; it is essentially similar to that of the Mongols of Genghiz Khan, or the armies of Napoleon. The only means of slowing down armies of this kind is to totally destroy everything that can be used to feed and house them.

I can see where this is going:

In th autumn of 1943 the German Army deliberately adopted this policy, and R.T. Paget remarks very appropriately:

Some five years lat, lawyers were to argue for hours as to the legality of the demolitions and requisitions carried out by the Germans during their retreat, but I am afraid that no law that conflicts with an army’s capacity to survive is ever likely to be effective.

We certainly did not relish the idea of destroying all food supplies and putting a zone of scorched earth between us and the pursuing Russians. But the existence of an entire army groups was at stake, and if we had not adopted such measures, many thousands of troops would never have succeeded in reaching the Dnieper and establishing an effective defense line under cover of the river.

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